For the greater good

Snow in October? It's all part of the plan.

Felder watched from the doorway as the Senator scribbled. The Montblanc was a blur in the puddle of light from the faux-antique desklamp.

Eventually, Felder cleared his throat.

"Ah, come in, my boy, come in." The Senator's pearly caps appeared like scythe in the moonlight, the top half of his face obscured in shadow. "Take a seat. Care for something from the bar?"

"No, sir, thank you, sir." Felder used about a quarter-inch of the chair's cushion, took in the landscape atop a plateau of mahogany that probably weighed more than his car.

The Senator rose, shot his cuffs and crossed to the matching sidebar to pour two fingers of bourbon from the leaded-glass decanter. "Late hours, Page, Page ..."

"Felder, sir."

"Yes. Page Felder. Late hours indeed. Sure you won't have a belt? I find it warms me on a cold night, and tonight is about to get much, much colder." He chuckled. "Am I right about that, Page Felder?"

"Yes, sir. I just heard from the team at Blue Mountain. The satellites are in position. Operation Indian Winter is a go."

"Marvelous! Just marvelous." The Senator returned to his chair, caught Felder eyeballing the papers on his desk, and pointedly turned them facedown. "Thank you for the update, Page. Your service and discretion in this matter will not pass unrewarded."

The clock ticked.

"Was there something else, son?"

"Well, sir, it's just, I mean, I... "

"Come on, boy! We are men, at men's toil. Speak plainly, now."

Felder took a deep breath.

"With all due respect, sir, I'm just not sure this is the right thing to do."

"No?" The Senator arched one luxurious silver eyebrow.

"I mean, a blizzard in October, sir?"

The Senator sighed and tossed back the last of the bourbon, then returned to the sideboard, filling his glass and another.

"I understand your trepidation, Page Felder, I really do." He handed a glass to Felder, who knew better than to refuse, and reclined against the front edge of his desk. "But you know what they say about desperate times. We've got to do something, and do it now. If history reveals us to be madmen or fools, so be it. You can have your doubts, son, but hear me on this — tonight, here, in this office, I tell you I am doing what I think is right for America."

"We can't afford to wait around for Black Friday, no sir. We are kick-starting the holiday spending season tonight, Page Felder. That's what America needs, whether they know it or not. And nothing gets the masses ready for the holidays like a winter wonderland — even if it is a bit early."

Felder raised his glass, found it empty, saw nowhere to set it on the desk that wouldn't seem like heresy and cupped it in his hands.

"Are we even sure the American public has the money to spend on an extended holiday season?"

The Senator swept his hand at the floor-to-ceiling window.

"Look out there, my boy. What do you see? Traffic, even at this time of night. What do you hear? Louts getting liquored up to the sound of live music. Oh, they've got the money all right, and if they don't, we've got the banks standing by to offer some downright philanthropic interest rates for the end of the year, as well as all our nation's major retailers lined up to slash prices for the brand-new pre-Thanksgiving shopping rush."

The Senator snatched the heavy tumbler from Felder's hand and made another trip to the sideboard. When he came back, he had only his own drink; Felder took the cue, standing.

"Well, all right, sir. And thank you for the reassurance."

"Of course! That's what I'm here for, Page Fender. To see that you, and the rest of the American people, are reassured. If you have any more doubts, my boy, just remember where we are, you and I, and who put us here. The American people entrusted me... and I. Am. Entrusting. You. Are we clear?"

"Yes, sir."

"Very good. Now why don't you head on home? And be careful — the roads are apt to get a little slippery before long. But, Page Fester?"

"Yes, sir?"

"Don't let that keep you from heading out tomorrow for a little bargain hunting, all right?"

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