The Marine Who Cried Wolf
Thomas Calabrese ….. The morning skies were clear and the breeze was gentle as the sun slowly lifted its head over the horizon and stretched its crimson rays over the landscape and gradually illuminated the beach and ocean on this picture perfect postcard Southern California summer morning in Oceanside, California. Surfers were already out on their boards as the waves ranged from five to eight feet at various breaks along the coast. Barrett Fairbanks usually ran in the loosest part of the sand because it increased the difficulty of his three mile run and he always sprinted the last two hundred yards up the hill to his place of employment. Barrett entered through the back door, worked out in the company fitness center for thirty minutes, showered and dressed in shorts, t-shirt and flip flops before heading to his office.
The Bureau of Misinformation as it was nicknamed or B.O.M for short, as it was sometimes called by those who had the occasion to use its services was actually, International Creative Representation. The main office resembled more of a resort than a place of business and was located in the Oceanside Harbor area. It had been a small bed and breakfast inn that had gone bankrupt and Barrett purchased it from the bank and invested over three million to renovate the structure to create a relaxed and tranquil ambiance.
Barrett Fairbanks also owned a large home in the Morro Hills area of North Oceanside, drove expensive vehicles and always went first class whenever he traveled throughout the world.
Very few clients ever visited the building, but that did not stop the company from doing a thriving business because customers who wanted B.O.M. to handle their requests were willing to pay exorbitantly for results and confidentiality. The staff of this organization was a unique team whose various talents seemed more suited to Hollywood and its creative endeavors than American politics and business.
Barrett Fairbanks graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in communications and public policy then joined the Marines where he was assigned to the Public Affairs Office. His duty stations included the Pentagon, Camp Lejeune and Camp Pendleton for a total of ten years. After leaving the Marines, Barrett worked for the Navy Installations Command in San Diego for eight years before deciding to start his own business. By this time, Barrett had learned the intricacies of politics and government bureaucracy and saw a niche that he could fill in a tumultuous time of class warfare, social media and fake news and earn a fortune for his efforts in opposition research.
There was a problem though, Barrett was not happy and had not been content with his life for some time now. He had all the material possessions that a man could want and what he didn’t own, he had access to from appreciative clients. For years, Barrett rationalized his behavior by convincing himself that if he didn’t do this job, that somebody else would. That philosophy worked in the beginning, but not so much anymore.
B.O.M could destroy a person’s reputation beyond repair or enhance and embellish it to the point that they seemed larger than life. In politics where hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake over the six years of a senator’s elected term or billions of dollars during a four year presidency, paying Barrett and his team ten or fifteen million did not seem like much to either political party or a candidate’s supporters. When times got serious, it was time to call in a B.O.M. strike.
Barrett Fairbanks team consisted of; Carl Gooden, Allison Kajon, Dale Marr, Samuel Marcos, Julia Pendleton and Vincent Harbison. It wasn’t long ago that internet billionaire; Richard Sabato decided to run as an independent in the California Senate election against incumbent Democratic Maxine Harris and Republican challenger, Benjamin Dierker. Richard Sabato was funding his entire campaign and was not beholding to anyone and his platform was based on sound economic principles and reasonable environmental regulations. He was far more qualified than either of his established opponents and both political parties were willing to spend whatever was necessary to stop this interloper. Republicans and Democrats were throwing money at Barrett and his team like it was confetti at a New Year’s parade.
Every part of Richard Sabato’s life was investigated and dissected and if that wasn’t enough, B.O.M used the seven degrees of separation rule to connect Sabato with individuals whose business dealings could be called into question.
B.O.M. used the broadest of brushes to paint this aspiring public servant in an unflattering light, using attacks that were nothing more than innuendos and fabricated sources that were identified as anonymous. Richard Sabato lost the election, but the real losers were the people of California who would continue to be governed by incompetent and self- serving bureaucrats whose political agenda was in direct conflict with the welfare of its citizens. Businesses were leaving in record numbers for states with lower tax rates, unemployment was rising and unfunded liabilities were skyrocketing. Barrett never got over the guilt for his involvement and when Dana Hunter decided to enter the race for the recently vacated 39th Congressional district, Barrett experienced a serious crisis of conscience.
When Barrett’s company was hired to discredit Dana Hunter, a former Marine Corps pilot, his team began their customary in depth research into her life. Dana Hunter grew up in Kearney, Nebraska, the oldest of five children. Her father was a corn farmer and her mother was homemaker. Dana worked on the farm before and after school, while becoming a star athlete. She was also class president and graduated high school with a 4.00 GPA. Dana received a scholarship from Creighton University where she had a double major in mechanical engineering and business while working part time at a woman’s resource center and doing volunteer work at a local animal sanctuary. She joined the Marine Corps after graduation and was accepted for flight training and became an A-10 Warthog pilot. She served four deployments and distinguished herself in combat. During her entire time in the military, Dana had a large allotment deducted from her military salary to help her family. After her discharge, Dana got a job with the United States Forestry Service as a pilot, often flying low into raging wildfires to drop water or flame retardants.
Allison Kajon entered Barrett’s office with a large folder, “Dana Hunter is one hell of a woman.”
“Is that your subjective or objective opinion?” Barrett asked.
“Both,” Allison replied.
“Care to elaborate?” Barrett asked.
“Carl, come in here.”
Carl Gooden entered the office, “What’s up?”
“Tell Barrett about Dana Hunter,” Allison said.
Carl Gooden and Dale Marr were forensic investigators, nothing was beyond their skills of deductive and innovative research, “The last time I was at Comic.Com, I saw Dana Hunter doing interviews as Wonder Woman,” Carl smiled.
“The last thing I wanted to hear,” Barrett grumbled, “Staff meeting…everybody in the conference room in one hour.”
Barrett stood at the head of the table and searched for the right words, “I haven’t been happy for a while so I’m done.”
“Done with what?” Julia Pendleton asked.
“With this business,” Barrett replied, “I’m not the same person I was when I started this company. I don’t want to make a living destroying good people’s lives anymore. You are loyal employees and good friends so I’ll find a fair and equitable way to transition the company over to your leadership.”
“You’re the face of this organization; they hire you, not us. We’re behind the scenes, you are marketing and advertising and we are research and production,” Julia replied.
“Then it is time to expand your job skills,” Barrett said as he walked out the conference room.
Thirty minutes later, Barrett was sitting in his office when his entire staff entered and stood silently before him, “What?” he asked.
Dale Marr was the first to speak, “Whenever we do a background check on our objective, it is standard policy to do one on the client as well. We always do this to see if there is anything that could affect us in the future. It’s just our standard policy and good business.”
“Yeah I know, what’s your point?”
“The Congressional seat that Dana Hunter is running for has vital importance to both parties. Right now they are equally divided and her vote would tip the scales of power to one party or the other. After what you just said about destroying good people, do you want us to follow through on the Dana Hunter contract?”
Carl Gooden interjected before Barrett could answer, “The untimely demise of Congressman Barney Reed has put his party in severe jeopardy. He was involved in numerous shady business transactions that made him a rich man and funded a lot of campaigns from the bribes and kickbacks.”
Dale continued, “If Dana Hunter gets his seat, many of those illegal contracts will become public knowledge.”
“What you also mean that if somebody like Hunter wins, they won’t be able to buy her off,” Barrett surmised.
“Not this woman…she’ll burn it down before she sells out,” Allison beamed.
Dana Hunter was thirty six years old, attractive, strong and patriotic, but if you had told her a couple years ago that she would be running for political office, she would have told you that you were several rounds short of a full magazine.
She was approached by a women’s political action group after a story about her working a major fire in the Cleveland National Forest appeared in the San Diego Union Tribune. Dana did not hesitate to turn them down, but when it was later brought up that she would be in a position to help our military on a variety of issues if she won, she reluctantly agreed.
Dana knew the odds were against her, but she vowed to give the campaign her one hundred per cent effort and let the chips fall where they may. She had a mid- sized home in the Vista hills that she shared with her three rescue dogs and younger brother, Tucker who worked at UPS and helped take care of the house and pets when Dana was flying. She turned her garage into her campaign headquarters and the women from the political action group operated their grassroots campaign out of it. They were tireless and determined to pull off an ultimate political upset, working all day and well into the night to achieve the seemingly impossible.
Barrett didn’t know what compelled him to meet Dana Hunter, but he did not resist the impulse so when he arrived at her home, he immediately walked into the garage and waited patiently until a woman finished her campaign call to a registered voter, “Are you here to volunteer? We can use the help,” The woman smiled.
“Possibly,” Barrett replied, “Could I meet the candidate first?”
“Dana! Somebody is here to see you.”
Dana walked out from the kitchen, wearing a t-shirt and jeans and flashing a friendly smile, “I was preparing sandwiches for the staff, may I get you something? I just made some sweet tea.”
“Nothing to eat, but a glass of sweet tea sounds good,” Barrett replied.
Barrett and Dana went outside to the backyard, “You don’t have a problem with dogs, do you?”
“None at all,” Barrett replied, “In fact, nothing like being around people to make you appreciate dogs.”
They sat down at the picnic table while the dogs played nearby, “About the only quiet place around here anymore,” Dana said, “You know my name, what’s yours?”
“Fairbanks, Barrett Fairbanks.”
“Ummmm,” Dana responded without emotion.
“That is one of the more interesting responses that I have gotten when I’ve introduced myself.”
“I hope you weren’t expecting a round of applause?” Dana said, “You should be grateful that is all you got, I usually react a little more forcefully when I come face to face with my enemies.”
“Spoken like a true Marine,” Barrett commented.
“Enough small talk, what’s on your mind, Fairbanks?”
“I want to help you with your campaign.”
“When I decided to do this, I did some research and the name Barrett Fairbanks came up as part of the axis of evil. Is this a scouting patrol before you launch your attack?”
“I’m serious about helping you,” Barrett said, “that may be hard to believe, but it’s true.”
“Trust is earned, not given.”
Barrett got up from the picnic table, finished his tea and petted one of the dogs, “You leave me no choice then.”
“Goodbye Mr. Fairbanks.”
“Not goodbye, I’ll be back after I’ve earned your trust,”
Dana didn’t know if she was being played, but this man intrigued her. When Barrett got back to his office, he ordered his staff to begin working immediately at getting every positive aspect of Dana Hunter’s life out for public consumption. It was only three days later when Rance Clayton, a powerful lobbyist, political operative and co-conspirator with deceased Congressman Barney Reed called Barrett and demanded a meeting at his private suite at the Hilton, San Diego Bayfront. When Barrett arrived, he was scanned for weapons, recording devices and his cellphone, watch and even his ring were taken from him. He was escorted by two burly private security officers who had the demeanor of former military personnel to a private room. They closed the door after Barrett entered.
“What the hell is going on?” Rance Clayton demanded, “I’m starting to see too many stories about Hunter…you wouldn’t have anything to do with that, would you?”
“Here’s your retainer,” Barrett set a cashier’s check for a quarter of a million dollars on the desk, “I don’t have a good feeling about this, so I’m bowing out.”
“Too late, we had a deal and I’m holding you to it.”
“There are other companies that you can use besides mine,” Barrett suggested, “How about Unity GPS?”
“Too late to switch,” Rance Clayton smiled maliciously, “I would prefer that Dana Hunter be defeated in a somewhat fair election, but if she was killed in an armed robbery, had a fatal accident, like drowning in the ocean, a hit and run or even if there was a gas leak at her house, those would be much more unfortunate incidents than a lost election, don’t you agree?”
“I think I know what you’re saying,” Barrett replied, “but I’m not sure.”
“What the hell, since this is just between you and me, I’ll make it crystal clear; if Dana Hunter wins, she dies and you’ll join her in the everlasting campaign,” Rance Clayton was brimming with arrogance and impatience, “Go do your job!”
“No way to misunderstand that,” Barrett left without further discussion.
When Barrett got back to Oceanside, his staff was waiting for him and he immediately lied down on the couch in his office. Samuel Marcos put on high powered magnifying glasses, like the kind that precision watchmakers use and took a small Q-tip and gently touched the sclera (white part of the eye) and removed a microscopic optic camera then took a pair of tweezers and removed a transmitting device from Barrett’s ear.
“It made it through the scan with no problems,” Barrett added, “Please tell me you got it.”
“Every word,” Sam responded.
“Keep it safe,” Barrett responded, “Things get more dangerous from this point, so we all need to stay on the same page.”
The election was six weeks away and Dana Hunter was seven points down and things were not looking good. Whenever she read a negative story about herself, she assumed that Barrett Fairbanks was behind it. Dana knew it was how the game was played, but she couldn’t help, but take the lies and insults personally.
Barrett Fairbanks was a clever strategist, a grand chessmaster when it came to staying three moves ahead of his opponent in the playing field, often called the swamp. He had to keep Rance Clayton convinced that he was still working to destroy Dana Hunter while making sure he didn’t do irreparable damage to her campaign. It was a fine line to walk with no room for error.
International Creative Management was monitoring every poll, news media outlet and internet site with meticulous attention. It was one week before the election and Dana Hunter was now nine points behind and was given only two chances of winning by political pundits; slim and none.
Barrett Fairbanks called his staff into the conference room, “The time has come, let’s do this!”
The misleading stories that ICM had been putting out during the course of the campaign were discredited one by one and four days before the election, Dana Hunter had closed the gap with the front runner to five points.
The first part of the plan was the defensive and now it was time to go with a full blown offensive media blitz. It was two days to the election and Dana was now within three points, well within the margin of error.
Rance Clayton angrily came to the conclusion that he had been double-crossed. He was livid and swore revenge against Barrett, “I want Fairbanks’s head!”
Barrett made an educated assessment on what Rance Clayton was thinking after the last poll numbers were released so he called an associate just to be on the safe side, “Lee, I need around the clock security until further notice. I’ll text the list of people that I want protected. One more thing, put your best men on this because you’ll be coming up against former military,” When he hung up the phone, he called out to his staff, “Time to drop the BOMB!”
The recording of Barrett’s meeting with Rance Clayton was released in the evening and by the morning, every newspaper and news show in the country was running the bombastic headline; Political Operative Threatens To Kill War Hero!
The story went viral and the incriminating recording was continuously played on that last day before the election. Rance Clayton went into hiding, one step ahead of the FBI agents who had a warrant for his arrest. He used his connections with a Mexican cartel to escape to Bolivia, but he had to take care of something first.
The special election was expected to draw about thirty per cent of registered voters, but on that Tuesday morning, lines were already long with angry and determined Americans even before the polls opened and they stayed that way until they closed. Both established candidates conceded by eight pm, happy to distance themselves from an ever expanding conspiracy. Dana Hunter vote total exceeded both of her opponents combined and it was a decisive victory by any account.
The victory celebration was jubilant, and the street in front of Dana Hunter’s Vista Hills house was filled with patriotic supporters and well-wishers. Dana didn’t know why she looked to her left, but when she did, she saw Barrett Fairbanks leaning against utility pole so she walked over to greet him.
“Congratulations, Congresswoman Hunter.”
“Thanks to you,” Dana replied.
“From the perspective of the thousands of people who voted for you and the post-election analysis, the consensus is that the best person won,” Barrett shrugged.
While these former Marines made small talk in the festive environment, Rance Clayton watched from the shadows. The rage inside him had distorted his thought processes to the point that the only thing that mattered to him was the ultimate demise of these two individuals. He pulled the automatic pistol from his waistband and walked in great anticipation toward his prey with the weapon at his side, his index finger nibbling at the trigger. Just as Rance Clayton was ready to raise his weapon and enact his revenge, two men came up behind him. One man placed a small revolver to Rance’s temple and shot him, killing him instantly. Both men caught Clayton before he fell to the ground and nodded as they passed Barrett and Dana, “One man commented, “Too much celebrating.”
Dana hit the ground running with her congressional duties, thanks to a meeting that Barrett set up with Richard Sabato, who agreed to be her senior advisor. Barrett changed the focus of his organization to supporting worthy candidates instead of merely destroying them. He was feeling good about his life for a change and most of that had to do with one person.
The sound of artillery practice could be heard booming from inside Camp Pendleton, “Firing early today,” Barrett commented as he caught his breath after their morning run along the beach.
Dana smiled, “That is just one of the sounds of freedom.”
Barrett wiped the perspiration from his eyes and looked at the beautiful woman before him and majestic sun over her left shoulder. He didn’t know what the future held in store for him, but he was sure of at least one thing; The Marine Who Cried Wolf, had been officially relieved of duty.