Spiro was late getting into the office, which was unlike him. But it was not everyday that Frank breezed through Washington and hosted one of his irresistible private parties. Who knew who would be there or what would happen?
There were some beautiful young women there, to be sure, and that was what the jackals in the press would concentrate on, if they got wind of it. But there were also congressmen, actors, lobbyists, artists, and television stars. Spiro wasn’t one to get star struck, but for goodness sake, Columbo was there. And The Fonz!
Fran breezed into his office, after allowing him time to remove his jacket and put it on the coat tree, settle in his chair, and admire the clean, polished bare surface of his mahogany desk. He ran a tight ship, desk-wise. Everything seen to and disposed of by end-of-day. Or at least, put into an appropriate folder and tucked into a drawer.
“Golf,” said Spiro, leaning back and putting his hands behind his head.
“Two-twelve,” said Fran, flipping through the pages of his diary. “A foursome including Mr Sinatra, Mr Lebowitz, and Mr Spalding.”
“Have a seat, dear,” said Spiro. Fran eased into one of the small leather chairs in front of his desk. “What about this morning?”
“Well, you are clear until 9:45, then a meeting/photo op with that Boy Scout troop, 15 minutes set aside. Then, ironically, nothing until 10:30, meeting in Haldeman’s office, required attendance… then you speak over lunch at the Water Carrier convention: topic Freedom of the Press Ha Ha, and then… cocktails, golf, more cocktails, then dinner….” She smiled. Spiro believed Fran was too thin to be truly sexy, too old to be truly pretty, but she had a mischievous way about her which, combined with her blind obedience, Spiro found immensely charming. And she was smart, usually.
“What about the Maryland mayors?” asked Spiro. “I thought that was today.”
“Oh drat,” said Fran. “I forgot. “That should have been half an hour ago.”
“Call them now, and tell them I was called away by The President. Urgent, confidential consultation. Reschedule, tonight is ok, but tomorrow morning better. …Now, Fran.”
“Send Felix in.”
Spiro went to the cabinet and got out the box that contained the chess board and all the pieces, beautiful black and white marble. He set it up on his desk.
Felix popped his head in the door. “Everything ok, Mr Vice President?”
“Of course, no security problems when you boys are around. Feel like getting whomped at chess? It is good training for you, you know, protecting the king and queen. I’ll let you play white this time.”
“White? Ok, Mr Vice President.”
“Only until 9:30 though,” said Spiro.
“Check,” said Felix. He chuckled to himself. He made his moves almost as quickly as if it were blitz chess. It was the Vice President who mulled and stalled, humming, moving pieces around without taking his hand off them, before finally settling on where to set the piece. And then erupting in a fury if Felix promptly took his man.
“What happens if the pawn gets to the other end, again?” Spiro asked.
“They become another queen.”
“See Felix? That’s where hard work can take you. A pawn to a queen.”
“Yes, Mr Vice President.”