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Observation Three

Changing Hearts

by Michael E. Lloyd


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Chapter 18: Behind Closed Doors

part 2 of 2

Z and DF went straight back down to the Bottom, and Auberon Blasdale returned disappointed to his own familiar world, with no photographs to send home to his masters.

‘I suppose,’ said Raymond to the silent trio of Representatives left behind, ‘we could not seriously have expected much more. Does anyone have anything else to say on the subject of the summit talks themselves?’

They all shook their heads.

‘Very well. Now, Mr Veight, I suspect you have something else to report ...’

‘Yes. I have agreed with Mr Carough that the four of us shall meet privately with him, in his office in the Capitol Building, during the very first recess in House business today. And I have arranged a full-week visitor’s pass for you, Mr Graves, as you requested. You will, I regret, need to stand ready for us outside that office until the recess is called.’

‘I have long learnt the art of patience, sir.’

They all walked off to take the subway train linking Rayburn House to the Capitol, still in plenty of time for the start of the morning session.

* * *

‘... and therefore, sir,’ concluded Kristy Toresito at the end of the brief lunchtime meeting, ‘I have signed this declaration acknowledging my culpability in the affair I have just described. With Mr Veight and Mrs Pruston as my formal “supporters” I now lay myself before the judgement of the House.’

John Carough took the proffered photocopy, looked at the Congresswoman over the top of his spectacles, and sighed deeply.

‘Why, oh why ...?’

‘I’d prefer to answer that in the appropriate forum, sir.’

‘Indeed. Well, this must be dealt with urgently, but the House has a packed week ahead of it, of course. So, I shall convene an in camera hearing for eight-thirty tomorrow morning, in this office. And I shall earmark a provisional slot for a Member’s Special Statement on Thursday. Now, let us all get back to the nation’s business.’

* * *

‘Well, this is an unnaturally early start to the day. I thank you all for being on time.

‘Ms Toresito, we who are hearing this case have read your voluntary declaration very carefully. Do you still stand fully by it?’

‘I do.’

‘Very well. Mr Veight, please proceed with your statement of support.’

‘Thank you, sir,’ nodded the one-time prosecution attorney.

‘Kristy Toresito began her professional career as the actress Kristy Clear. Her only goal, in those halcyon days, was to give boundless happiness to others.

‘Later, she was born again into the proud vocation of politician, and she has, since then, served her people and her country with utter devotion.’

Carla was there in the background, of course, and Quo was listening in and thinking to herself: I’m very pleased you didn’t say ‘selflessness’ ...

‘She is now in her sixty-seventh year, and a lifetime of public service is taking its heavy toll on every front.

‘Married and highly respected for many years, but then separated long ago from her husband in most unfortunate circumstances, she has for decades strived alone, lacking the solid domestic support enjoyed by most of us in our so-challenging work ...’

Quo was pondering: But it did give her complete freedom to play her many little games, did it not ...?

‘... as she pursued countless worthy causes in addition to her regular responsibilities as a busy Congresswoman.

‘But uniquely, in the sorry case of the Brighter Vale mistake, she has allowed a totally understandable concern for her personal financial security, in the solitary twilight of her life, to colour her otherwise impeccable judgement.’

Quo was interpreting: You mean she did not like the idea of getting old, and discovered a neat way to fix that and make a lot of money at the same time ...

‘Surprisingly, you know, she only heard about those lutetium findings in California by pure chance — an incautious revelation of the discovery by a visiting friend who was working for a far-away exploration company ...’

‘Congressman Veight, one moment, please. Are you suggesting that Ms Toresito’s involvement in this unfortunate affair came about solely due to another person’s simple, careless slip of the tongue, rather than as a result of any premeditated malicious intent?’

‘That is precisely as I understand it, sir. Unfortunate indeed. But she did then make some discreet enquiries, and took the opportunity to examine the full details of that company’s application for a basic REE mining licence.’

‘An opportunity afforded only by her privileged position in the legislative system, Mr Veight ...’

‘Perhaps, madam. And she then engaged the contract execution services of a distant cousin working in the legal profession.’

‘Do we know this person’s name?’

‘We believe that question is not germane, madam ... there is no indication whatsoever of complicity, nor insight into the more dubious aspects of this case, nor any unlawful activity on his part.

‘Ms Toresito then recruited venture capitalists and her own management team under a surrogate name, without revealing any of the possible malpractices involved, and purchased the mining rights in the name of an otherwise inactive Chief Executive. She then “retired” to the background under a further pseudonym.

‘Brighter Vale has been in full operation for nearly five years. It has taken on only some five new clients per year. Its shares have never been “publicly” traded ... it is essentially a private syndicate. But the services of a registered stockbroker were used to add a further degree of “trust and security” to the image presented to the company’s clients.’

‘Mr Veight, you do seem to be providing us with a great deal of damning additional evidence, despite your apparent role as the Congresswoman’s supporter ...’

‘Sir, my client ... that is to say, Ms Toresito wishes this hearing to have a full picture of all the relevant facts, so that it may make a complete and final judgement.

‘Shareholder investments over the past three years have been carefully managed by the company’s financiers, and the most recent are now earning a very high rate of interest ...’

Quo was wondering: What happened to the rest of those investments? “Heavy” start-up costs, no doubt.

‘... and the price of those shares has been rising all the time, owing to the huge potential demand. The fund is therefore now very large.

‘But the company has been fully dissolved in recent days, and that fund is presently being further augmented through the extremely generous donations of several sympathetic, anonymous benefactors ...’

Quo was smiling to herself: What a nice way to describe the Don! But I trust you are not going to mention the actual nature of our own donations ...

‘... and after bountiful compensation has been paid to all the clients, the remaining capital, including any profit from sale of assets, will soon be repaid to the shareholders, in direct proportion to their actual dollar investments.

‘That concludes my opening statement.’

‘Thank you, Mr Veight. Now, Ms Toresito, do you wish to say anything further in your defence?’

‘Yes, I do.

‘Madam, gentlemen, I agree there were minor technical flaws in the information provided to my unsuspecting lawyer in the preparation of the purchase contract, and I accept that we then proceeded with the unlicensed production and sale of small quantities of a substance intended for human consumption.

‘I admit to a fraudulent use of alter egos and associated strong encouragements, and I recognise that we took advantage of a number of vulnerable, elderly people.’

Quo was feeling acute disappointment at the memory of the female who had acted as “The Man” ...

‘And I acknowledge that I failed to declare certain interests, including some legitimate ones, to the House, and betrayed the trust of yourselves and my constituents, and presented a poor example when I should have acted always as a role model.

‘For all of this, I apologise.’

Lawrence Veight jumped right back in.

‘As you have seen and now heard, my client admits several not insignificant errors of judgement, and seeks your clemency. On her behalf, despite our many political differences, I fully support that plea.

‘And I wish to remind this hearing that other past leaders of this nation have sought instead to deny their wrongdoing to the bitter end, even in the face of damning evidence. This is demonstrably not the case with the Congresswoman.

‘Mrs Pruston would now like to say a few words ...’

The Chairman nodded his assent.

‘Few words are necessary, sir. I have known Kristy Toresito for many decades. She is a fine, caring woman and representative of her people. She has made one big mistake, and she should of course pay an appropriate price. But as Mr Graves will soon suggest, I feel she has already gone a long way towards meeting that debt.

‘I cannot easily forgive my dear friend for what she has done. But I shall try. I ask you and your honourable colleagues to try and do the same.’

Veight was back on his feet at once.

‘Thank you for that, Jennifer.

‘Finally, sir, ex-Consul Raymond Martin Graves, presently relieved of his senior position in NATO and involved once again in a very special international assignment, needs to provide you with some crucial additional information ...’

‘Welcome to the Capitol, Mr Graves. Your reputation precedes you, of course.’

‘Thank you, Mr Chairman.

‘In the context of my present assignment, I speak today on behalf of several other parties, but I regret that none of them can be named, for reasons of National Security.

‘We acknowledge Ms Toresito’s essential guilt on grounds of criminality, and immorality, and broken trust. She has been, in this affair, a clear friend of Untruth, and we too believe she should pay a suitable penalty.

‘But we also believe that such penalty should be alleviated by the fact that she has, over recent weeks, been performing a heavily classified and potentially dangerous role in the service of the U.S. government. Her uncomplaining and very effective execution of that responsibility should, in our view, be considered as a substantial example of high-level community service, already delivered, and we ask you to offset that fine contribution significantly against whatever admonishments you may now be considering.’

And Raymond handed over the original of Kristy’s signed declaration.

‘We thank you, Mr Graves. Yes, we are well aware of your mysterious meeting yesterday with senior officials from the State Department and elsewhere. But of course we have no knowledge of the subject of those talks, and we fully appreciate that it would be quite inappropriate to enquire further.’

John Carough conferred briefly with his two colleagues, then turned back and smiled first at Jennifer.

‘Mrs Pruston, your role in this affair has been exemplary, and you will of course carry no stigma for your involvement.

‘Mr Veight, you have been placed in an even more invidious position, and to all appearances you have acted in a brave and loyal way. We thank you for your well-conducted support for Ms Toresito throughout. Your role, as well as Mrs Pruston’s, will remain known only to ourselves, but you both have this House’s unsung gratitude and deep respect.

‘Ms Toresito, we shall now retire to consider an appropriate level of censure. You will make a pre-agreed Member’s Special Statement in the House at eleven-fifteen tomorrow morning, and we shall then announce our decision.

‘This private hearing is closed.’

Proceed to Chapter 19 ...

Copyright © 2008 by Michael E. Lloyd

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