If He Loses
If He Loses
a novel in 22 episodes
by David Vigoda
Copyright © 2020 by David Vigoda
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
This novel is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events; to real people, living or dead; or to real locales are intended only to give the fiction a setting in historic reality. Other names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and their resemblance, if any, to real life counterparts is entirely coincidental.
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Navigation: At the bottom of this episode is a link to the next one. You can go to any episode by scrolling to the top of the page and clicking the “If He Loses” tab.
* * *
“You’re not going up the tree today, and that’s it,” said Eric.
“I’m okay,” said Bob quickly, too quickly.
“Like heck you are. I’m more sore than ever, and I’m not an old man like you.”
Bob let Eric go up the tree, while he took care of everything on the ground. Over lunch he confessed that he was troubled by what he had done.
“Fight for liberty, you mean?”
“I’m not sure anymore that that’s what I did.”
“I am,” said Eric. “That’s what I did.”
“Things were pretty raw at the house yesterday. Even my son is on my case, if you can believe it.”
“They’ll get over it.”
Bob didn’t reply.
When he came down for supper, he asked where Chip was. Jillian said he was out. “He’s missing supper? We don’t do that in this family.”
“You did, day before yesterday.”
“Because you told me to.”
Hearing his voice rise, she said nothing. He sat, she served, and they ate in silence, until she asked how his day was.
“Not too sore?”
“Not too sore.”
“Anything you’d like to know about my day? Mine was fine too.”
He put down his fork and spoke gently. “I guess this is what they call an elephant in the room. I didn’t want to bring it up yesterday, but...” Jillian tensed, trying to look relaxed. “I need to know what’s going on with this guy Richard.”
After a pause, she said, “I thought I answered that.”
“Did you tell me everything?”
“I think I did.”
He searched for the right words. “Jill... I know I’ve let things slip. I haven’t been there, like I should have been. I decided to do better, and I think I did better. I tried for sure.”
“Some of it’s me too. I’ve been pretty... That’s why I went to that retreat.”
Bob chose his words carefully. “And so... Maybe you were needy. And maybe you met someone who was needy—I think you described him that way. And maybe one thing led to another...”
“That’s not what happened.”
“Okay. Maybe you could tell me what happened.”
She told him everything, except for one part.
“Jill, I know this isn’t easy. You have to know it’s not easy for me either. I need to know... Were you intimate with him?” He tried to look at her, but turned away.
She tried to look at him, but turned away. “When we said goodbye, we kissed.”
“That was it, one kiss?” She nodded. He took a deep breath. “Did you go to bed with him?”
Jillian immediately made a face to bat away the question. “What kind of question is that?”
“I need to know.” He controlled his voice. “Obviously I’ll be upset if you did. But I promise I won’t fly off the handle. We’ll deal with it, we’ll get through it. We’ll go see the minister. Look, I’m no stranger to temptation myself. I can forgive it.”
“Then why do you need to ask?”
He stared at her. “I guess I have my answer then.”
“No, you don’t have your answer.”
“Then you didn’t go to bed with him.”
“Of course not.”
“You and Richard did not have sex.”
“Then why do I think you did?”
“That’s on you, then. We weren’t intimate. We didn’t have sex. I didn’t fuck him.”
“Then why does he show up at the luncheonette? If he was a friend, you would have invited him to dinner, introduced him to me. Right? And why were you all red in the face?”
“Because it was so embarrassing. Like I said.”
“It was more than embarrassing, Jill.”
They were both gulping air, trying to think. Jillian broke the silence. “Let me ask you a question. Just for the sake of discussion. If I had gone to bed with him—and I’m not saying I did—but if I had gone to bed with him, what difference would it make?”
“What difference would it make?”
“Yeah. I mean it’s pretty obvious our marriage is in trouble. This family is in trouble. Right? I know it, you know it.”
Bob felt that he could react either way, become reasonable, admit the obvious, seek a solution—or he could react as he did. “And this is all my fault!”
“Well, some of it is, mister!”
“So you fucked some guy and it’s my fault!”
“It’s my fault you can’t stand yourself, after that stunt you pulled? Don’t try to put your shame on me!”
* * *
“Let’s celebrate, dude!” cried Dirk. “Because we are in the big fucking time now! Right?”
“Hell yeah! What do you want to do?” replied Chip.
“What do I want to do?”
“Where do you want to go, you dumb ass.”
“You don’t sound so... This is what we wanted, right?” Chip nodded, and Dirk kept his eye on him for as long as he could, before turning back to the road. He watched it for a while, and his eyes were facing straight ahead when he asked if Chip was having second thoughts.
He snorted. “Don’t go mental on me, okay? In a few days, we’re gonna be famous.” Then he asked again, “What do you want to do?”
Dirk drove to a large mall in Terre Haute and they started cruising, ogling girls and rating them.
They became especially rowdy. Several objects of affection told them to go fuck themselves, and they narrowly avoided a fight with some boys.
They were disturbing the peace in a store when a manager began to follow them. When he asked them to leave, they did, but not before Chip scattered a merchandise display across the floor and vilified the manager for interfering with his rights.
The manager called security. When he arrived, he was given a description of the boys’ activities and a description of the boys. He looked for them in the vicinity, and when he didn’t find them he alerted his colleagues. A few minutes later, Chip discovered a security guard walking behind them. He elbowed Dirk and pointed backwards with his head. Dirk stopped to look. The guard stopped.
“You got a problem?” asked Chip.
“Not at the moment,” he replied.
“Fuck him,” said Dirk, loudly enough to be overheard. “Let’s hunt some ass.”
When they started harassing some girls, the guard approached to say, “All right, gentlemen, it’s time for you to leave.”
“We’re not leaving,” said Chip.
“Yeah,” he replied, “you are.”
“Fuck you, asshole,” he shouted and started running. Dirk immediately followed. When they passed a kiosk displaying glass figurines, Chip swerved to knock it over. The guard immediately went to his phone while he continued pursuit.
When the boys had evaded him and were catching their breath, Dirk asked, “What is wrong with you?”
“Nothing. What’s wrong with you?”
“You’re weird today. Weirder than usual, I mean.” Chip shrugged as Dirk scrutinized him. “You’re scared. That’s it, you’re scared.”
“If anyone’s scared, it’s you, asshole.”
They continued walking, but the fun seemed to be over. Neither spoke.
Suddenly they were confronted by three security guards. One said it was up to them what happened next, but if they were smart, they would proceed quietly down the concourse. When they didn’t move, he put a hand on Chip’s shoulder to direct him. He responded with a punch to the face.
The boys tried to run again, but this time were wrestled to the floor and handcuffed. Then they were pulled up, separated, and searched by two of the guards, while the third used his phone.
They were escorted to an exit, where four uniformed police conducted them to separate cruisers.
* * *
“Yeah, this is Chief Simpson of the Terre Haute Police. I need to speak with the special agent in charge.” When a man came to the phone and identified himself, the chief of police said, “I’ve got a 16-year old male Caucasian, name of Jeffrey Ingram, aka Chip Ingram, who claims—and, believe me, I know how this sounds, but the kid swears he’s telling the truth and can prove it—that there is going to be an attempt to assassinate the president-elect of the United States. Claims he’s one of the shooters.”
There was only a slight pause, and a controlled voice asked, “You say you’re holding him?”
“I’ve got him on assault, destruction of private property, resisting... Got out of hand at the mall. Obviously this other thing... Is the kid blowing smoke up my ass, or...”
“By any chance, have you got an associate of his?” He said to hold them both and he’d be right over.
“You’re saying this is real?”
“We’ll be right there.”
Two agents appeared. One was Agent Rivera, who had interrogated Kaylee.
“Parents have been called?”
“On their way.” Agent Rivera nodded. “No priors on the Ingram kid,” continued the police chief. “The other one, we found an unexpunged record of driving without a license. Age fifteen, if you can believe it, and alcohol found in the car. Nice middle-class family, go figure.” He reflected briefly. “But of course this other thing, I mean that’s a whole other...” Rivera nodded again. “We’ll talk to the security guard and the property owner, see if anyone wants to press charges... Then it’s up to the DA.”
“You do what you do,” agreed Rivera. He glanced at the other agent, who remained silent. “We’ll do what we do.”
There was an awkward silence until the two boys arrived, handcuffed, accompanied by two officers. The chief nodded. “After we talk to the parents here, we give them your number?”
“Sounds like a plan. Appreciate the call, chief.”
“You have yourselves a nice day.”
The agents took custody of their prisoners and escorted them out. As soon as they were out of sight, one of the officers asked the chief if he had learned anything. He replied with a face that said, “Are you kidding?”
At the FBI office, Chip and Dirk were immediately locked in separate interrogation rooms.
As soon as Agent Rivera entered the room, Chip confessed everything. He said he could not go through with the assassination and had to quit, even though he was convinced they would try to kill him.
“What makes you think that?”
“Let me show you some websites, you’ll see what I mean.”
“What changed your mind?” After trying to discover the answer, he finally just shook his head.
Bob and Jillian were so shocked, so confused, and so scared, they seemed almost calm. After learning what their son had been involved in, then that he had voluntarily surrendered, then that he was seeking protective custody until the other suspects were apprehended, all they could ask was, “Will you?”
“Will we what?”
“That will be up to the judge when he’s arraigned.”
“But you could.” It was more a plea than a question.
“We’re not going to let anything happen to your son, Mr. and Mrs. Ingram.”
They wanted to know when they could see him.
“You can see him now.”
They were escorted to the interrogation room, where the door was opened. They entered and it was locked behind them. Chip was standing in the opposite corner and didn’t move. They didn’t move. Everyone sobbed uncontrollably.
* * *
Outside, Jillian said they should call Kaylee.
They met at Roy’s apartment. “I feel safer here,” she explained.
They told her about Chip. She confessed she had known for a while and had gone to the FBI herself a few days earlier.
“What? You knew and didn’t...?” Bob put his hands to his head, as though he were in physical pain.
Jillian said, “Kaylee, why? What were you thinking?”
She started sobbing. “I was so scared. I didn’t want to get Chip in trouble.”
“But he was already in trouble!” shouted Bob. “Deep trouble.”
“I hoped it would pass. That it wouldn’t happen, or he would get out somehow.”
“But why didn’t you tell us?” pleaded Jillian.
“Because I knew if I did, you would have to intervene.”
“Of course we would have...! That’s the point! Kaylee, dear God!”
“I’m so sorry.” She sobbed uncontrollably.
Roy, who had politely left the room, chose this moment to return. “Mr. and Mrs. Ingram, I can’t imagine how difficult this must be—but if I could just say one thing in defense of your daughter... It turned out she was right, didn’t it?”
“What do you mean?”
“Chip got out in time. That says something about him too, by the way. He’s out now. He’s safe.”
Kaylee added that Roy had urged her—several times—to tell them what she knew. Going to the FBI was his second suggestion.
* * *
“Big shocker, Shawna, the Democratic House accepted Florida’s Democratic Electoral College slate, while the Republican Senate accepted the Republican slate.”
“Except I believe in the Senate it was close.”
“Another big shocker! 50 Republicans voted Republican, while 50 Democrats voted Democratic. The Republican vice president, of course, broke the tie for the Republicans.”
“So the deadlock continues.”
“The deadlock continues—though some seem to prefer the word ‘logjam.’”
“So, Hamid, the question everyone must be asking themselves now is, ‘How do we break this logjam?’”
“Shawna, your guess is as good as mine.”
“Exactly. Now what? I can tell you what the lawyers are arguing. Lawyers for the president are pointing out that the procedural rules explicitly state that an executive certificate of ascertainment decides between competing slates. Remember, the governor of Florida put the state seal on the Republican slate. The argument is, case over, the Republican slate should be admitted.”
“Humor me, Hamid, I’m guessing it’s not case over for the Democrats.”
“The president-elect’s lawyers argue that the governor acted ‘improperly’—legalese for ‘illegally.’ They offer two remedies. Either ignore it, or the governor should be ‘directed’—that is, ordered—to remove the state seal from the Republican slate and apply it to the Democratic one.”
“They have a second argument. They note that a number of these rules of procedure are what they call ‘rule-making provisions of law,’ and could properly—there’s that word ‘properly’ again—be superseded by an act of Congress—or even one chamber acting unilaterally.”
“But of course a Republican Senate has no incentive to do that.”
“Shawna, an appeal to the courts seems to be the only way forward.”
“But, Hamid, with 13 days till inauguration...”
“Clearly, any case would have to go directly to the Supreme Court, and it would have to rule ‘expeditiously.’”
* * *
There were endless interviews and commentaries and ‘op-eds’ and social media posts from politicians, journalists, legal experts, campaign consultants, ‘ordinary’ people... Everyone had an opinion—though not everyone had facts—yet everyone agreed: There were large risks for both parties, difficult to estimate.
“Everyone knows what should happen, no one knows what will happen. The nation is split over what to fear.”
The president-elect’s supporters feared that a Republican-dominated court would issue a Republican-favorable decision—and then immediately declare, as it had done in the 2000 decision, which effectively elected the Republican candidate, that the case should never be cited as precedent in any future case.
The president’s supporters feared that the court would be compelled by the facts and the law over two centuries to rule against an Electoral College slate that contradicted the popular vote. Had not a majority of justices already signaled their concern about the Florida court’s decision, which upheld the law that made the Republican slate possible?
“The nation chokes on glib and inaccurate statements, while inauguration looms. What will the parties do? They will poll their Congressional caucuses tomorrow.”
* * *
They were halfway home from seeing Chip and Kaylee before either spoke. Bob said quietly, “In the morning we’ll have to find a lawyer, and I have no idea how to do that.”
“I’ll make some calls,” said Jillian. “Maybe you can too.”
“Can’t be just anyone. This is no DUI.”
“I know that, Bob.”
“I’m just saying.”
“You’re always just saying.”
“Can we not...?”
They fell silent again. Then Jillian asked if she could make a suggestion. Bob didn’t respond. “Maybe we could not talk about Chip? He needs a lawyer, we’ll get him one. Right now, I don’t know about you, but I can’t wrap my mind around this thing. And Kaylee knowing and not...?”
She nodded. “Okay. And can we agree...? After last night, I don’t know what else I can say about Richard that will satisfy you. Also, it’s over, so I’m not sure I see the point of... So, do you think we could...?”
“Forget about it? No, Jillian. I can’t just let it go.”
“Even if it wrecks our marriage?”
“Our marriage is wrecked already. I want to fix it.”
He looked at her for so long that she had to remind him to watch the road. She had seen his eyes well up with tears.
“I do too,” she whispered, her voice cracking.
When they got home and poured themselves a drink and collapsed onto the couch, she quietly asked permission to bring up an issue she thought they could resolve without... whatever. Bob waited. She said she was talking about the president. “I never would have believed that a president—any president—could affect our marriage, but this one has.”
“Well, correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem to think he’s a great president, who’s doing all the things that need to be done, and he’s doing a great job.”
“I’m confused and I’m conflicted. I don’t know if he’s doing the right thing, say about immigration or international trade or treaties, but I’ve got real doubts, Bob, serious doubts. I’ve tried to talk to you about this.”
“Did you vote for him?”
“You know I did. But I don’t know if I did the right thing.”
“You would vote for a Democrat?”
“Maybe I should have stayed home.”
“That’s as good as a vote for a Democrat.”
“Maybe, but you know what? I’m not sure this president deserved my vote.” She hesitated only briefly before adding, “You want to know what I told Mary Beth? I told her that he would not be welcome in my house. I don’t want him near me, I don’t want him near Kaylee.”
“What do you mean, ‘oh that?’ That’s the kind of person he is. And if that’s the case, how am I supposed to believe he’s doing the right thing anywhere? I sure don’t believe he’s a God-fearing man. Does he confess his sins? Has he accepted Jesus as his savior? Don’t make me laugh. Honestly, I think he’s an atheist. An atheist who’s using us.”
“Let me ask you something. You think he really won the election? That he’s behaving honorably when he tries to get the results overturned?”
“Yes I do.”
Jillian gulped. “Let me put it this way. He lost in Florida. He lost. He claimed he won, took it to the Supreme Court, and they disagreed. They said, ‘You lost.’ So what does he do? He says, ‘I don’t care, because I have a Republican legislature to write a new law—after the election—and I have a Republican governor to sign it, and I have a Republican state Supreme Court to uphold it. So I don’t care that I lost the popular vote, I’m going to get electors appointed who will vote for me.’ Does that sound like God’s man?”
“No, but I want to make a point.”
“Wait a minute, you can’t say ‘no’ and then walk away.”
“I want to make a point. We somehow always manage to forget that our elections offer only two choices. If I believe that abortion is murder, then I have no alternative but to vote Republican, even if the Republican on offer is someone I don’t like. And if I think uncontrolled immigration is harmful, same thing. And the same thing with a secular agenda that leaves no place for religious convictions or observance. And so on, right down the list. No, he doesn’t sound like God’s man, but he’s all I’ve got. He’s all you’ve got.”
“I can’t accept that. And you shouldn’t either.”
“I shouldn’t accept the one person who’s doing all the things I support, because he’s an imperfect vessel for the Lord’s work?”
“‘Imperfect vessel?’ Are you serious?”
“Maybe he’s playing hardball with the election, but you know what, I can live with that.”
* * *
After her parents left, Kaylee found comfort in Roy’s embrace.
Later, when he was walking her back to her dormitory, she confessed that she didn’t feel as relieved as she’d imagined she would. “He’s still in a lot of trouble, right?”
Roy guardedly replied that Chip had two big facts on his side: He had surrendered before anything had actually happened, and he was a minor.
“But he could be charged as an adult, didn’t you say that?”
“Yeah, he’s not out of the woods, but what would they charge him with? Conspiracy, for sure. Owning a rifle, even a semi-auto AR, obviously that’s not a crime. Target practicing isn’t a crime. Posting hate messages... I don’t see how that becomes illegal. Even incitement to violence... I mean, people have accused the president of inciting violence with some of his wild statements.”
She smiled. “So you think he’s...?”
He shrugged. “Don’t we all? Love him or hate him, he is what he is.”
“Which is it for you?”
He thought briefly. “Neither, frankly. I support a lot of what he does. I oppose a fair amount, too, especially his behavior. What about you?”
“Me too. I’m glad to hear you say that.”
“Anyway, Chip... Conspiracy to commit a terrorist act, that’s not trivial. But again, he surrendered, he gave a full statement, of his own free will.”
“By the way, how do you know all this?”
He shrugged and laughed. “I guess I’ve always had an interest in law enforcement. There were guys like Chip in my high school too. I even thought of a career in law enforcement.”
“Why didn’t you?”
“I don’t know.” They continued in a pleasant silence, holding hands. Suddenly he said, “I really like you a lot, Kaylee.”
After embracing, she said she wasn’t sure her parents had processed how much danger Chip had been in. “They’re focused on his arrest. They haven’t seen the websites. They don’t know about the rifle.”
Roy nodded. “They need to get him a really good lawyer. I hate to think what that’ll cost.”
“Oh, gee, I didn’t think of that. You know what, I’m gonna get a job. I could work and still, you know... What?”
“Do you have any idea what a really good lawyer could cost?”
“I don’t care. I want to help.”
“Like I said, Kaylee, I really like you a lot.”
She squeezed his hand and they continued in silence, until she asked if she had ever mentioned going to Joanne’s shrine. He shook his head. “It was in front of the campaign office. I was so confused then. I had voted for the president, but even then had doubts. My first election. She obviously worked for the other side. I actually felt weird being there. But she was my best friend. I think I kind of loved her.”
She looked at him and he nodded.
“Anyway, I just felt this urge to be there. So I’m standing there, fighting back tears, and then, as I’m about to leave, someone hands me a candle. It was moving, it felt powerful somehow, just holding this little flame. Then someone started singing, ‘America, the Beautiful.’ People joined in. I joined in. I was bashful at first, but then I thought, ‘Why are you bashful?’ We were all singing. The words, suddenly they were so beautiful. Am I being silly?”
Roy shook his head and whispered, “I feel so good when I’m with you.”
“Then we started singing, ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus.’ How many times have I sung that, in church or Bible camp? It was like I was singing it for the first time.”