“We’re almost late for the rally in Winslow,” The Man Who commented.

“A band will be playing, Dad.”

Again the governor tried to see the world through the steamy bus window. “But it’s cold out there.”

The buses pulled back onto the highway and were gathering speed.

On the campaign bus a small-screened television set had been swung out behind the driver, high up. It faced the back of the bus. A commercial was running for feminine sanitary devices.

“My apologies, ma’am,” the presidential candidate said to the congressperson, “for the bad taste displayed by my television set. Not a thing I can do about it.” They were sitting next to each other on an upholstered bench at the side of the bus. “Not a damned thing.”

Fletch stepped over the governor’s feet. He stood near Walsh. “What is it?” He hung on to a luggage rack.

The television newsperson came on and mentioned the news leads: “Coming up: Senator Upton’s advance man killed in automobile accident in Pennsylvania; aftermath of a hockey riot, numbers injured and arrested; presidential candidate Caxton Wheeler hands out money to schoolchildren on the campaign trail.”

“Jeez!” Fletch turned toward the back of the bus. Arms akimbo, Flash Grasselli stood against the stateroom’s closed door. “Would you believe this?”

“Sure,” Walsh said. “It’s true.”

“At least I’m not the number-one news lead,” the governor said. “Guess they don’t think too badly of bribing schoolchildren.”

“‘Bribing schoolchildren,’” echoed Fletch.

Phil Nolting said, “That’s what they’re gonna make out of it.”

A commercial was running for “Sweet Wheat, the breakfast cereal that makes kiddies yell for more.”

“Yell with the toothache,” Paul Dobson said. “They’re yelling because it makes their teeth hurt!”

“Make ’em hypertensive with sugar at breakfast,” Phil Nolting intoned, as if quoting, “then slap ’em down at school.”

Except for Barry Hines, who was talking quietly on the telephone, those aboard the campaign bus suffered silently as a few more details were given of Victor Robbins’s death, film was run; of the hockey riot, film was run. Then: “This morning at Conroy Regional School Governor Caxton Wheeler, while on his campaign for the presidency, handed out coins to the primary school students.” Film was run. The Man Who, surrounded by excited children, was doing some trickery with his hands. Then the camera zoomed in to show in close-up the governor’s hand pressing a coin into the hand of a child. “Some received dimes, others quarters, others half dollars. And some got none at all….”

“Did one run all the way home?” Phil Nolting asked.

“Must have,” Paul Dobson said. “Somebody must have told on us.”

On screen the newsperson was sitting with an extremely thin, hawknosed, nervous-looking woman. “Here in our studio with us is the distinguished pediatric psychiatrist, Dr. Dorothea Dolkart, author of Stop Resenting Your Child and Face Up to Bed-wetting.”

“Jeez,” said Paul Dobson. “How can these experts get to the television studios so fast? It’s only been an hour. Don’t they have other jobs?”

“Doctor Dolkart, you’ve just seen here on our studio monitor presidential candidate Caxton Wheeler handing out coins to some of the pupils at Conroy School. Can you assess for us the effect this would have upon the pupils?”

“Extremely damaging. Traumatic. First, there is the point that here we have an adult who is making himself popular, or trying to, by the device of handing out money.”

“Setting somewhat the wrong standard, you think?”

“An absolutely materialistic standard.”

“In fact, he’s teaching the children you can buy friendships.”

“And this happened in a school setting, where children are used to learning things. With authority, if you understand me.”

“Yes. The effect upon the children who didn’t receive any money …?”

“Disastrous. Very few people in this country have greater prestige in the eyes of children—in the eyes of any of us—than a presidential candidate. Maybe the President himself, a few football players, what have you. Meeting, even seeing, a man who might become the most powerful leader on earth, is one of the most memorable experiences of our lives. For those who did not receive any coin at all from Governor Wheeler, the implied rejection is severe. These children this morning were scarred for life and, I might add, totally unnecessarily.”

On the campaign bus The Man Who said, “Oh, my God.”

“And the children who did receive the coins? Do they feel better about things?”

“No. If anything, they feel worse. Because completely arbitrarily they were singled out for this special attention, this gift, from a grownup of the greatest prestige. It would have been one thing if the candidate had handed out coins to children who had won the honor through some sort of an academic or athletic contest. As it is, the children who actually got the coins from the governor have been burdened with terrible guilt feelings because they received something which they know they didn’t deserve, while their schoolmates got nothing at all….”

“I guess James would have stopped me from doing that.” The Man Who hung his head in his hands. “He would have known how it would look to the press. What they could make of it. Handing out money to kids. Gee. I guess ol’ James is laughing up his sleeve at this moment, wherever he is.”

Fletch said to Walsh, “I’m beginning to suspect I have a short career as a press representative.”

“It’s an impossible job,” Walsh said.

The television was offering the usual variety of weather reports.

“Well.” The governor put his hand on the hand of the grandmotherly congressperson. “Guess I just wrecked the life of every school-child in your district.” He smiled at her. “Do you agree?”

She lifted her hand from under his on the divan. “Yes, Caxton. It was totally irresponsible of you. Damned insensitive.”

He looked at her a moment to see if she was serious. She was. He stood up and wandered to the back of the bus where Walsh and Fletch were standing.

“Sorry,” Fletch said to him. “I thought it looked nice. Was nice.”

“Got to be aware of how things look to the press,” Walsh said. “Every damned little thing. What they can make of it.”

“How do we pick up from here?” Fletch asked the governor. “Make a statement …?”

The governor smiled. “Naw. Let them hang themselves on their own silliness. Psychiatrists be damned. I don’t think the American people are apt to consider an older man handing out coins to little kids as Beelzebub.” He beckoned Flash forward with his finger and called Barry Hines. When they came, he said, “Listen, guys. In Winslow I don’t want that old bitch on the platform with me.”

“The congressperson?” Barry asked in surprise.

They were speaking softly.

“Body-block her. Trip her. Hide her purse. Slow her down. I don’t care what you do. Just keep her off the platform.”

“This is her district, Dad.”

“I don’t care. She’s lookin’ to speak against me, anyway. Let’s not give what she has to say against me the prestige of pictures of her standin’ with me.”

“Okay,” Flash said.

“We’ll show the old bitch exactly how sensitive I am.”

The governor opened the door to the stateroom. “Come here, Fletch.”

“Yes, sir?”

“Close the door.”

Fletch did so. “Again, I’m sorry about that. I never dreamed the press—”

“I’m not about to chew you out.”

“You’re not?”

“‘Course not. Who was the first one to say ‘If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen’?”

“Uh—Fred Fenton?”

“Who was he?”

“Cooked for Henry the Eighth.” The governor gave him a weird look. “Buried under the chapel at the Tower of London. Forgot to take the poultry lacers out of roast falcons.”

The governor chuckled. “You’re making that up.”

“Sure I am.”

“Got anything for me?”

“Anything …?”

“You’ve been on the press bus most of the morning.”

“Oh. Yeah. Lansing Sayer says Upton’s team is going to hit you with some evidence of welfare fraud in your state. As soon as you climb back over thirty percent in the popularity polls.”

“That so? Good for them. That’s smart. There’s welfare fraud in every state. Also housebreaking and vandalism. I’ll get Barry on that. Have his people put together my record on stopping welfare abuse. Also, let’s see: the amount of welfare fraud in other states. I’ll make an issue of it myself as soon as I get near thirty percent in the polls.”

“Amazing how things become campaign issues.”

“Anything else?”

“Andrew Esty wants an exclusive interview with you.”

“The Daily Gospel guy?”

“Yeah. He’s trying to develop something. If people are allowed to pray together in federal prisons, why not in public schools?”

“Wow. ‘Take Prayers out of Prisons.’”

“I think he means ‘Put Prayer back in Schools.’”

“No foolin’.”

The bus was going slowly, obviously in traffic. It was stopping and starting, probably at red lights.

“What do we do for him?” Fletch asked.

“Pray for him,” the governor said. “Anything else?”

“Found out more about the woman murdered last night. An intelligent, apparently unattached, lonely woman.”

“How do you know she was intelligent?”

“She was a reader. From her reading.”

“Political reading?”


The bus was inching forward. A band could be heard playing.

“Very quickly I’m going to get tired of that topic.” The governor leaned over and looked through the steamy window. Instinctively he waved at the crowd outside with the flat of his hand. Fletch was sure no one outside could see the candidate through the windows. “Someday I’d love to have a Klezmer band playing for me,” the governor said. “I love Klezmer bands.”

The bus stopped.

“Walk out with me.” The governor took Fletch’s arm in his fist. “Stay between me and that congressbitch. Paddle her backward. Got me? Give it to her in the ribs, if you have to.”


“And tell Lansing Sayer he can have an exclusive interview with me anytime he wants it.”

“Yes, sir.”

When Fletch opened the stateroom door, their ears were assaulted by the band’s playing “Camptown Races.”

“‘Jacob, make the horse go faster and faster,’” the candidate said. “‘If it ever stops, we won’t be able to sell it.’”