Kalinda Sharma stood perfectly still in the doorway of Eli’s office, hand on one hip, staring straight at him with a thunderous expression. As one of his staff approached from the outer campaign office, sheaf of paper in hand, and mouth already forming a stupid question, Kalinda spun around and blocked her path.
With that, she slammed the door so hard he winced and strode towards him until she was standing far too close.
“You put a tracker on me?”
“Yep,” he bit back, with an exaggerated snap of the head and passable attempt at flippancy. “You go to a quilting class? Seriously, I’m interested - what went wrong in your life that- “
“Don’t have your idiots follow me. They’re not good at it.”
With that she made to leave, and he hurriedly started to speak in more placating tones, “Look, I needed to talk to you – if you don’t want to be followed by my inept yet enthusiastic minions, could you consider answering your cell? Just sometimes? Say, one time in five?”
The trace of curiosity in her expression emboldened Eli to plough on with renewed animation. “I had to take that tracker off Maddie Hayward’s judo coach to provoke you into meeting me. One more day, the coach would have flipped and my pet moron would have ended up with broken bones. Now I have to keep paying his incompetent ass.”
He thought he saw the tension in her body give in just a little, as she dropped into a chair, leant back and crossed her legs.
“I’m sorry about that,” she deadpanned. “What do you need, Eli? You remember I don’t work for you?”
He leant back against the desk and sighed. “It’s not work, it’s… I’m sorry. There’s a thing. It came up this morning, and I think it may blow up on us. I need to ask you something-” As Kalinda looked ready to interrupt, he held up one hand and continued with renewed emphasis.
“It’s not just the campaign. It’ll hurt Alicia, Kalinda. I know you don’t want that to happen, even if you don’t care if Peter and I both go to hell. Now, I need to talk to her and I need to talk to the candidate, and I need to do both of those things about twenty minutes ago, but I sent a tracker on you to get you here because if I can ask you a question first – it’s impolite, I’m sorry, but that is the feral herd of journalistic hyenas we’re playing with here – then I won’t have to ask Alicia, and I will know what I am dealing with, and I will be able to help her.”
She looked at him evenly for a moment, then gave a humorless smile. “He doesn’t have a birthmark. Now go convince Illinois.”