First Lady

First Lady by Michael Malone Read Free Book Online

Book: First Lady by Michael Malone Read Free Book Online
Authors: Michael Malone
suspected he’d never gotten over her, even during his short marriage to somebody else and his short engagement to Briggs Cadmean’s daughter.
    I’m certain that Lee and Cuddy started seeing each other again after he became police chief and that they were seriously involved during Andy Brookside’s first gubernatorial campaign. I suspect that Cuddy asked Lee to leave Andy and marry him. Cuddy Mangum is not a man who has affairs. I think the relationship was ended by the assassination attempt that sent both Cuddy and Andy to the hospital and almost sent Andy to the morgue. The affair was over, I mean, not the feelings. Cuddy is also not a man who stops loving someone he has loved as long as Lee. Alice and I used to speculate about what had happened. I had never asked him. But I’m a good detective and I notice things.
    â€œI’m here to see your mayor.” Brookside smiled in his easy confidential way.
    Cuddy nodded. “Well, Carl’s in a real bad mood about this strike. I hope you came with a box of cigars.”
    Cigar-addicted Carl Yarborough, Hillston’s first African-American mayor, was Cuddy’ partner in what Newsweek had called “the booming, bustling, fresh and flourishing New South.” It hadn’t been so fresh this morning when Carl had arrived at the Cadmean Building to find trash bags piled in front of his office by Hillston’s mostly African-American sanitation workers, who had also left a large sign accusing the mayor (unfairly) of contemptible indifference to his racial brothers in the matter of a 6 percent raise. After the protestors had returned to their picket line, I’d seen Carl in the men’s room puffing away in a blue smoky funk.
    Andy Brookside winked at the press. “With my family connections, I guess I could lay my hands on a few cheroots for Carl.” The young reporters laughed with him at the fact that he’d married into tobacco billions. Andy started for the stairs, and then he turned, dropping like a flirtatious handkerchief the possibility that he might have something interesting to say to the press tomorrow, why didn’t they swing by the Capitol to hear it? His teeth and eyes and shirtfront sparkled as he waved good-bye.
    But Shelly Bloom, a young woman at the Sun, scooted up the stairs and blocked him: Was Brookside changing lieutenant governors in his upcoming campaign for reelection? Is that why he was here to see Carl Yarborough? Because Shelly had heard rumors….
    Someone handed Andy a cell phone; he took the call and gestured to Bubba Percy to handle Shelly. Randolph Prewitt Percy—Bubba to us all—a reporter himself before he quit to become the governor’s press secretary, quickly elbowed a path through the crowd and pulled Shelly away from the governor. “Shelly,” he said, “I’ve heard rumors that you’re got Eric Clapton’s name tattooed in a heart on your fanny, and it’s Hewitt here who’s spreading those rumors.” Bubba threw his arm around a disheveled grungy old-timer from KWWB-FM, who collapsed in an embarrassed coughing fit.
    Shelly patted Hewitt’s back. “Percy, don’t you think it’s time for you to join the grown ups?”
    â€œNot yet,” Bubba said and made as if to kiss her. “First I want to give you a hickey.” As the press snickered, he moved among them, a smart, conceited man, large and pretty, with peachy freckled skin and just on the good side of pudge. “Hi, boys and girls. Who started this little press conference here in the lobby?” He slid next to Cuddy and slapped his back. “Captain Hog! You announcing you finally caught that Guess Who Killer? About time.” Bubba checked his wavy auburn hair in the glass display behind him. “Here you and Mayor Yarborough turn Hillston into Paradiseville, get us profiled on 20/20 .” He turned to Cuddy, grinned knowingly. “And then all of a

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