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The Cover Up (Episode 1)
1 Elise Just a few hours ago, Elise had been waiting eagerly for her husband, Oliver, to get home from his trip to Europe. Now, not so much. She sat on the edge of the canopy bed, twisting the long, red strands of her hair nervously around the fingers of her left hand. In her right hand, she clutched a pregnancy test. Slowly, she opened her closed fingers, hesitated, and then took a quick peek at the results window on the small, white device. Yes, the pink line was still there. She was definitely pregnant. The problem was, Oliver — her husband — was not the father. Now, Elise wished she could go back and undo it all. Undo her husband winning the office of lieutenant-governor of Virginia. Undo the entire special election campaign. Undo having to play the role of a politician’s supportive wife when all she really wanted to do was continue her job teaching pediatrics at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. Undo the parties, the traveling, the events, and the fundraisers. And, especially undo the one night she had spent alone with the governor — at his request, in her husband’s absence. Elise quickly cut off that line of reasoning. No, she couldn’t think like that now. Nothing she did could change the past. She straightened her back, swallowed hard, and reached for the telephone that sat on the cherry wood nightstand. She paused, held the phone in her hand, and then sighed as she dialed the number. “This is Timothy,” a rich, persuasive voice said. Virginia Governor Timothy Tedesco’s voice had a way of making you feel like he was both your grandfather and your general; it made you want to love him and obey him. Elise remembered the first time that voice had been directed to her personally. It all came flooding her memory so fast that she nearly forgot she was holding the phone. “Hello?” Gov. Tedesco asked. “Y-yes, this is Elise. Elise Mason.” “Elise.” The governor sounded both amused and pleased to be hearing from her. “What can I do for you?” “I’m pregnant,” Elise said flatly. There was a beat of silence on the other end of the line, before Gov. Tedesco spoke. “Well,” he said. “There is nothing we can do about that now, is there?” “The baby is yours,” Elise said, mentally kicking herself for not having thought out what she was going to say before calling. She hated sounding weak. “There’s no way of proving that.” The governor’s tone had dropped, and he seemed to be moving now — likely moving away from people who could overhear him talking. “You’re not going to deny what we did, are you, Timothy?” Fear crept into Elise’s mind, and tears stung her eyes. “No, not at all. But you cannot mention it to anybody — I mean nobody.” The governor was talking in his normal tone now, and Elise guessed he was alone in his office. “I’m not even thinking about doing that,” Elise said. “I have a more pressing concern.” “And that might be?” “Oliver is coming home tonight.” Elise felt sick just thinking about meeting her husband at the door, faking a smile, fixing him a meal, listening to him talk about his European trade tour — all while she was hiding this secret betrayal. Her stomach churned. “Ah…” The governor seemed deep in thought. “Didn’t he come home before he left for Europe?” “No,” said Elise. “I haven’t seen his face for two weeks — thanks to you.” “No thanks to me,” Gov. Tedesco said. “I insisted that he go home for a day or two before he leave for Europe.” “He didn’t,” Elise said again. “Well, there’s nothing I can do about that now. He has to come home sometime. I can’t keep sending him on trips to hide our…relationship. Besides, the Senate is back in session this week. He is expected to be there,” Gov. Tedesco said. Elise sighed, understanding exactly what the governor meant. If Oliver had come home, they would have made love, and her pregnancy would be a lot easier to hide. She could just pretend the baby was his. She curled her toes in the thick carpet as she lay back on the bed. “What am I going to do?” she murmured to herself. “You can terminate the pregnancy.” Elise sat up as a mocking laugh caught in her throat. “Spoken like a true politician,” she said. “Part of your campaign platform was that you would defend the state’s restrictions on abortion against ‘bloodthirsty liberals’ and you said you supported overturning Roe v. Wade.” “As if I needed to be reminded,” Gov. Tedesco chuckled. “I wouldn’t do that anyway,” Elise said. She glanced at the clock on the night stand. It read 9:42 pm. Oliver would arrive at the airport in about thirty minutes. He’d go through customs, pick up his car, and drive home. She estimated she had about an hour before his key turned in the lock of their Charlottesville residence. “I need to know what to do,” she said. There was another beat of silence on the end of the phone. “Don’t worry,” Gov. Tedesco said, his voice suddenly sounding low and husky. “I’ll take care of it.” He hung up. 2 Oliver The plane carrying Lieutenant-Governor Oliver Mason and the Virginia trade mission delegation to the European Union arrived at the Richmond International Airport. As they waited to disembark, Oliver huddled with the members of the delegation to compare notes. When the Senate began its new session in the morning, he wanted to be able to present a package of trade proposals for the chamber’s consideration. His eleven-day tour of European nations on behalf of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership had opened his eyes to new opportunities for companies in the state to increase international sales and aid the state’s economy. Oliver, who was in his early forties, bald, and vertically challenged, unbuckled his seatbelt and leaned over the pull-down table where he and his team were drafting summaries of their meetings to issue to various government departments in the morning. He twirled a pen between his fingers. The lieutenant-governor, who was also a retired four-star general, knew that Gov. Tedesco would be pleased to hear that Brussels had shown an interest in working with the governor’s military defense company, Tedesco Industries. (Tedesco Industries was one of the “big three” American defense contractors — in the same orbit as Raytheon and Lockheed Martin.) He made a special note to personally brief the governor on that development. Gazing out the window, Oliver’s thoughts turned to personal affairs. After the sudden resignation of the previous lieutenant-governor, he had thrown his name into the hat as an Independent at the request of the governor who quickly announced his support for him. He had won the special election in a landslide after a whirlwind period of campaigning, and he was already planning to run for governor in two years. Despite that success, he was already beginning to feel the toll his new role in politics could have on his marriage. He loved his wife, Elise, and he wished he had taken the governor’s advice and gone home for at least a day to rest before taking off for Europe — and that was after speaking at several conferences and making a series of media appearances after his swearing-in. But he told himself he would make up for it. He only wished he could persuade Elise to move to Richmond. That would make things a lot easier because he wouldn’t have to commute from Charlottesville. But she had remained firm in her refusal to leave their hometown. Oliver yawned and stretched. He grabbed his laptop and his travel bag from the overhead storage and disembarked, saying goodnight to his team. Several other travelers recognized him and congratulated him on his recent election victory. A fresh, cool breeze whipped up as he left the terminal and headed across the street to the north parking garage. The cloudy sky cleared and the stars twinkled against the nighttime canopy. A small plane circled the airport and slowly came in for a landing. Whistling as he walked, Oliver fished around in his pockets before coming up with his keys. The Commonwealth’s Division of Capitol Police had been pressuring him to accept a driver and at least one security officer to be with him at all times. Maybe he would take them up on that offer later, but he would drive himself home tonight. He had to press the unlock button and listen for the honk of his car’s horn several times before he located his black Buick Verano tucked away in the corner on the second floor of the parking garage. He tossed his suitcase, laptop, and travel bag into the back seat, took off his jacket and loosened his tie. As soon as he turned the key in the ignition, his favorite talk radio station, WRVA 1140, blasted through the vehicle. He turned the volume down slightly and listened absent-mindedly as he navigated onto 295 West and headed towards Charlottesville. He didn’t notice the dark vehicle that had pulled out of the airport and stayed behind him the whole time. A few miles outside of Richmond, as Oliver approached an overpass, he was surprised to suddenly see bright lights behind him. They came out of nowhere, he thought drowsily, as he put his blinkers on and switched to the outside lane. The car behind him accelerated and drifted into his lane. Oliver looked in the rearview mirror. That guy must be sleeping, he thought, honking his horn loudly and swerving back to the inside lane. The mystery vehicle sped up again, switching lanes, and this time tapping the bumper of Oliver’s car. Oliver slammed the horn again. Is he deliberately trying to push me off the road? he thought as he switched back to the outside lane. Suddenly, up ahead a new set of lights appeared — a car going the wrong way. What on earth? Oliver panicked as he tried to avoid being hit from behind. He swerved hard to the right as his car zoomed toward the overpass, the side of his vehicle squealing loudly as the metal scraped the guardrails. The oncoming vehicle accelerated. Oliver was blinded by the bright headlights. He realized in horror that two maniacs were trying to drive him off the road. Shielding his eyes with one hand, he squinted ahead and wrenched the steering wheel hard to the left in a desperate attempt to avoid being crushed between the two vehicles. He felt his car jolt forward and fishtail as the first vehicle bumped him from behind. Then he felt the pressure on the right side of his car vanish. Oh, no. There was a gap in the guardrail. He slammed his foot on the gas pedal and tried to gain traction, but to no avail. Oliver’s car flipped upright as it slipped off the bridge, and the last thing he saw was the dark sky and the white stars. 3 Elise Elise had fallen asleep waiting for her husband to return home. The phone had been ringing for nearly ten minutes before it woke her up. She sat up quickly and looked at the red letters on the clock. 1:56 a.m. Why isn’t he home yet? She caught her reflection in the mirror in the door of the walk-in closet. Her face was streaked with tear stains. The phone rang again. “Hello?” “Elise, honey…” her mother’s voice cracked on the other end of the receiver. “Mom! What’s wrong?” Elise asked in alarm. Tucking the phone between her ear and shoulder, she stripped off her teal-colored night robe and grabbed a pair of jeans and sneakers from the closet. “You, you haven’t heard?” her mother asked. “Haven’t heard what?” Elise asked. There was silence on the other end. “Mom?” “Oh, dear. Turn on the TV, Elise,” her mother said. “I’ll be there in a minute.” Elise snatched the remote off the nightstand and pressed the power button. Flipping to the local news station, her eyes grew wide and her stomach churned as she read the headline: “REPORT: LT-GOV. FOUND DEAD UNDER OVERPASS.” Elise dropped the phone onto the bed and covered her mouth with her hand as she began to sob. Her trembling fingers found the volume button on the remote and she turned up the television. “Unconfirmed reports say the newly-elected lieutenant-governor, Oliver Wendell Mason, has been found dead under an overpass just outside of Richmond,” the reporter was saying. “Mason was returning from a trade mission to Europe. We presume he left the airport and was on his way home when he apparently lost control of his vehicle and drove off the highway. A convenience store owner said he heard the crash and immediately called police.” The reporter’s image was sized down into the corner of the television screen, and silent footage from Oliver’s campaign appearances and victory speech played. “We are still awaiting official confirmation of this report. Police have scheduled a news conference for ten a.m.” “Elise…, Elise…” Her mother’s voice called faintly from the receiver. But Elise didn’t hear her mother. She didn’t hear the reporter anymore either. All she could hear was Timothy Tedesco’s last words to her: I’ll take care of it. I’ll take care of it.