The campaign planned its strategy. It would be a dirty fight. Divine Fury. Chapter 14

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Chapter 14

AS CONFERENCE ROOMS go, the Bunker was downscale.  It had the basics: erasable whiteboards; comfortable chairs; computer-compatible projector.  But the table was cheap – chipped woodgrain veneer over particle board.  And the windows looked out on the blue-walled cubicles that surrounded the room and not the views of the bay, bridges and golden hills enjoyed by San Francisco’s legal and business elite.  It was mainly the non-view that gave the room its  nickname.

However, the Bunker’s location at the USF Medical Center – with easy access to the bay Bridge – and the hospital’s parking garage made it convenient, particularly for those pressed for time and commuting in from Berkeley, San Jose, Palo Alto and other suburbs.

So, Harry Blount, who had the dual roles of Harper’s campaign manager and his live-in lover of a dozen years, had commandeered the Bunker for the campaign’s occasional use thanks to his clout as the medical center’s planning director.  Since the beginning of the year, it had served as the campaign’s weekly war room, where Harper, Blount and other key advisors gathered to decide how to get Harper into the governor’s mansion.

“All right,” began Blount.  “Let’s talk about opponents.  Is there any way George Chapman can lose?”

“Almost impossible,” said  Salvatore Watkins, the campaign’s media manager.  “He’s got the money.  He’s got the endorsements.  Name recognition.”

“Plus, his competition is going nowhere,” said Harper.  “Smythe is the only other one with any money and that’s only because he’s got his own.  Chapman is painting him as a filthy rich high-tech guy who gets fired and needs something to do.  Instead of taking up golf, he runs for governor. “

“And, then there are Smythe’s wives.  How many?” said Blount.  “Three and counting? His flirtation with Zen Buddhism and the admission that he experimented with psychedelics in college.  That might be okay up here, even for Republicans.  But down South?  No way.  He’s toast.”

“All right,” said Harper.  “Chapman it is. And his themes as usual will be…what?  Family values?  Christianity?  Cut government spending?  Demonize the environmentalists, the unions…anyone with a Ph.D?”

“Let’s face it,” said Blount.  “That’s just going to be the background music.  The main chorus will be, ‘Don’t vote for a gay man.’  Homophobia is the elephant in the room.  And don’t expect Chapman to pull any punches.”

“He’ll run on fear,” Blount added.  “What’s next? Do you want your sons and daughters to be gay?  Do you want homosexual perverts teaching your second graders?  It would probably be easier to elect a black man president.”

As he and the others in the room spoke, Blount typed furiously on his IBM Thinkpad.  He was a legendary note taker and de facto secretary of every meeting he attended.  Everyone knew they would receive a summary of this meeting in their email an hour after it ended, complete with additional thoughts that occurred to Blount in the intervening time.  The words that flowed from his keyboard – including the 100-plus emails he sent out each day – formed a virtual diary of his day.

Unknown to Blount, each of his keystrokes was being recorded by a hidden program inside the Thinkpad.  At least once an hour, the program created a file recording those keystrokes and sent it from the laptop through the invisible data tunnel that bore through the Medical Center’s firewall.  Its destination was a server located in the Singapore office of an unsuspecting accounting firm.  There it sat waiting to be downloaded by anyone who knew its exact digital address and a set of three passwords.

Chapters of the serial are published Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

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