One of the problems with running for office? Just about everything that happens to you becomes fodder for public discourse, no matter how trivial and inconsequential. Adam came to Navy Pier expecting a breakfast/pep rally, where he would speak to a large group of supporters and look good for the cameras.
These things were ultimately inconsequential -- the people who attended these get-togethers were likely already supporters -- but it did make for nice video and softball articles that had the potential to make undecided voters a little more likely to jump on board. Adam figured there were more important ways to be using his time in the waning weeks of the campaign, but if his advisors said he needed to attend a breakfast like this, he'd put on his best blazer and do the whole smiling/hand-shaking/kissing-babies thing.
He should've known things would get bad when he saw the familiar face in the front row. Eugene Mauk, a reporter with the Tribune, had been a thorn in the side of Adam and his campaign, taking every opportunity to undercut the campaign's message; it wouldn't surprise Adam if Eugene was secretly on the opponent Fred Rabini's payroll.
A massive conflict of interest, but since when were people upstanding and sincere anymore?
The question was clear as day, even above the din of early-morning chatter.
"Can you comment on reports that you staged the break-in at your house a couple weeks ago?"
Adam's upper lip twitched; he had to work to keep from snarling at the reporter. Such outward hostility would get him nowhere in the campaign, so he took a deep breath and straightened his blazer. Glancing at Spencer sitting to his left, Adam shook his head and gripping the podium.
"Unequivocally, 100 percent, completely false," he said slowly. "Insinuating that we're somehow behind this, when my wife and I are enduring such a trying time in our lives, is as insulting as one can get. May God have mercy on the soul of the person who started that vicious, horrible myth."
Eugene smirked, scratching his white goatee with the end of his pen. "But in the two weeks since it happened, no news has broken. Unless you count firing your maid."
Adam shrugged. "You might want to take that question to the police. I can't comment on that."
Onlookers were rolling their eyes and shaking their heads. Of all forums to begin such a probing line of questioning ... if Adam didn't already think reporters were soulless ghouls with no sense of right and wrong, this proved it. To Adam's chagrin, Nicole's fertility problems were public knowledge. But that turned out to be a good thing, as his supporters had galvanized to help her, donating to her care as well as the campaign.
Even Rabini's campaign decided that was off-limits. A pleasant surprise.
Eugene's gaze narrowed. "Are you sure this isn't some stunt? Polls are showing you're not quite a teddy bear."
"People don't need a teddy bear leading them," Adam fired back, leaning forward against his podium. "They need a mayor. They need someone who's willing to do whatever it takes to protect them from everything that threatens them, and to ensure they can live their lives in peace."
Eugene shrugged. "Would the Fellowship have anything to do with this?"
A collective gasp erupted from the crowd. Adam felt his heart skip a beat. He gripped the podium so hard, his knuckles turned white and his palms began to sweat.
"Are you sure? There are a lot of rumors out there that you're connected with them."
"Maybe you should send the people spreading these rumors my way. No comment."
Eugene chuckled. "You do realize 'no comment' is essentially telling me the rumor's true."
Spencer nodded at a security guard to the right of the stage, who proceeded to descend upon the crowd and approach Eugene. Adam's gaze narrowed again. "I said it before, I'll say it again ... no comment."
The crowd applauded as the security guard escorted Eugene from the premises. As that happened, Spencer approached the podium and Adam cupped his hand over the mic. "I can check to see if Rabini started the Fellowship rumor," Adam's aide whispered.
"You do that," Adam answered. "We can't afford to have that go public. These people find out I'm affiliated with the Fellowship, my campaign is done."
Spencer nodded and returned to his seat as Adam cleared his throat and addressed the crowd once more. "Sorry about that, everyone," he quipped with a broad grin. "And people wonder why newspapers are dying."