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Chapter Twenty-Eight

Governor Mike Feuer was a tall, lanky man in his early sixties, with piercing eyes that burned with compassion and fierce truth. Republicans often compared him to Abraham Lincoln without a beard. Democrats called him The Fuhrer.

'I understand completely. And of course I'm upset, too,' he was saying into a secure phone in the back of his bulletproof black limousine as he rode through downtown.

'Governor, have you seen it already yet?' Lelia Ehrhart's voice came over a line that could not be tapped or picked up by cell phones, scanners or CB radios.

'No.'

'You must be able to.'

He sighed, glancing at his watch. Governor Feuer had ten meetings scheduled today. He was supposed to call at least six legislators who were fighting hard for and against House and Senate bills flowing through a typically turgid General Assembly.

He was supposed to be prepped for an interview with USA Today, sign a proclamation, meet with his cabinet, be briefed by the House Finance Subcommittee and hold two press conferences. It was his mother's eighty-sixth birthday and he had yet to get around to sending flowers. His back was acting up again.

'If you could just have time to take to drive through and see it for yourself in person, Governor,' said Ehrhart. 'I think you'll be shocking, and if you aren't taking a look today, it's a risk because it has eventually to be removed at some point to be restored. It won't do any good at the most if you are looking later, because by then it will be original again.'

'Then the damage must not be too extensive,' he replied reasonably as plainclothes Executive Protection Unit state police officers rode in unmarked Chevrolet Caprices in front of his limousine and behind it.

'It's the action of it that matters, Governor,' she went on in her unique accent.

Governor Feuer imagined her on the floor as a child, laboring over building blocks that she could not quite get in the right order.

The vile deliberation of it,' she was saying.

'Frankly, I'm more concerned with" 'Please take a minutes. And I wasn't intentioned to interrupt.'

She did mean to, but the governor let it pass because he was a secure, fair man. He believed in second chances. Lelia Ehrhart was entitled to one more this day before he hung up on her.

'Of course, the cemetery's closed and won't be opening to the public this minutes,' Ehrhart said. 'But I'll make sure it's unlocked isn't hooked for you to get in.'

The governor pressed the intercom button.

'Jed?'

'Yes, sir,' Jed replied from the other side of the glass partition, his attentive eyes in the rearview mirror.

'We need to swing over to Hollywood Cemetery.' Governor Feuer glanced at his watch again. 'We'll have to make it quick.'

'Whatever you say, sir.'

'Lelia,' the governor said into the phone. 'Consider it done.'

'Oh, you're so wonderful!'

'I'm not, really,' he replied wearily as he thought of his mother's birthday again.

Lelia Ehrhart returned the portable phone to its charger inside her completely equipped gym on the third floor of her brick mansion behind wrought-iron gates on West Gary Street. Her brow was damp, her arms quivering from working latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, trapezius, triceps, deltoids and pectoralis on the incline, chest and shoulder presses, and the lat pulldown, and the low row, just before the governor had returned her phone call.

'When now?' she cheerfully asked her trainer, Lonnie Fort.

'Seated row,' he said.

'No most rowing. I simply can never.' She sipped Evian and dabbed her face with a towel. 'I think we've got to all those muscles, Lonnie. I really don't like working it out this early, anyway. My entire system's in the state of shock. It's like getting out of bed and jumping on the Arctic Ocean. And I'm not a little bit penguin,' she said in a cute voice. 'Nothing cold-natured with me.'

'I'm sorry we had to meet so early, Mrs. Ehrhart.'

'Not your fault, not in the smallest. I forgot you had a damn dental appointed.'

Lonnie studied the circuit Ehrhart was supposed to complete this morning, recording the number of reps and their weights.

'Thanks for fitting me on,' she said. 'But it wasn't very nice that Bull to scheduled you at the same time of nine A.M. in the morning when we always do this. Of course, he has so much people working for him. He probably knew nothing to remember about it since others always do for him so he doesn't.'

'I'm sure you're right, Mrs. Ehrhart.'

The son of a bitch. She thought of her wealthy dentist husband with all his radio ads and strip mall offices and sycophantic employees. He'd had affairs with three dental hygienists that she knew of, and although the number most likely far exceeded that, what difference did it make? Lelia Ehrhart would never forgive him for the first one.

'So tell to me, Lonnie, will Bull go to crown all your teeths like he does all everybody else's?' Ehrhart asked her trainer, who was so beautifully constructed she wanted to trace her fingers and tongue over every inch of him.

'He says he can give me a Hollywood smile,' Lonnie answered.

'Ha! He says this always to everyone.'

'I don't know. His hygienists sure have pretty smiles. They told me he crowned all their teeth.'

Just the word hygienist pierced Ehrhart like a foil.

'But I don't know,' Lonnie said again.

'Don't do it! No!' Ehrhart told him. 'One time it's done there's no to undone it and it's permanently. Bull's grinded up all the teeths in the city, Lonnie.'

'Well, he's sure made a good living,' said Lonnie.

He attached the short extension cable to the lower pulley of the Trotter MG2100 total fitness machine. He attached the revolving straight bar, his sculpted muscles sliding and bunching beneath smooth, tan skin.

'You'll end up with at the end with all this little nibs, looking like a man-eating cannibals. You'll get TMJ and lisps when you talk and end up with several roots canals,' the dentist's wife warned him. 'Your teeths are so beauty!'

'I have this space between my two front ones.' He showed her.

'They're perfect! Some peoples think space is really sexual.'

'You're kidding?' He looked at his teeth in one of the many wall-size mirrors.

'Oh no, I'm never.'

She looked intensely at his mouth and was enraged that she'd ever let her husband talk her into crowning all her teeth. She felt ruined. The crowns weren't as natural as the teeth he'd ground away, and she got frequent headaches and had pressure and temperature sensitivity in three molars. Lelia Ehrhart envied natural teeth, even if they weren't perfect. She envied beautiful bodies. She was obsessed with both and would never have either.

'Arm curls.' Lonnie got back to business, holding the bar in both hands to demonstrate.

'My arms are shaken,' she complained with a flirty porcelain smile. 'You need to show me another again one more time. I never can get these one right. I always feel them behind my back and I know that's not supposedly to be.'

He moved the pin to one hundred and fifty pounds and demonstrated, his biceps bunching like huge swells in an ocean, a gathered energy capable of great force, a slope for her to climb and conquer.

'Lift just with your arms,' he said. 'Don't lean back. You use your back, you're cheating.'

He lowered the weight to twenty pounds. Ehrhart took the bar and held it shoulder-width apart with an underhand grip, palms facing up, elbows close to her sides, just as she had been taught. She eyed her form in mirrors, not sure her blue Nike tights had been a good choice. The red stripes emphasized her wide hips. When all was said and done, black was always best for lower body, bright colors for upper, such as the chartreuse sports bra she had on today.

'Twenty reps,' Lonnie told her.

She was energized by her conversation with Governor Fuhrer. How many people could ask to speak to the governor of Virginia and have him on the phone twenty-two minutes later? Not many, she told herself as she strained. Not many at all, and this time it had nothing to do with her husband's power and contributions.

'All of us have our complexions,' she said to Lonnie as she struggled for breath. 'Our insecure hidden secret places that others can't see. Even I do. I've lost counting.' She huffed.

'Sixteen.'

'Seventeen, eighteen. Goodness, you're wearing me in!'

'What complexes could you possibly have? How many women your age work out like you do and have their own gym? Not to mention a house like this.'

The comment seared Ehrhart's ego and self-worth. She wanted him to say that no other woman on earth looked like her, that age and a wealthy husband had nothing to do with it. She wanted to hear him say she was divine, her face so beautiful it turned all mortals to stone, her body fatal to those who dared look at it. She wanted Lonnie to taste blood when his eyes wandered over her. She wanted him possessive, obsessive, jealous. She wanted him to feel a raging lust that kept him up all night.

'I supposedly my most big complexion is worrying I don't have enough times for my husband,' she lied. Tilling his endlessly needs, which are unsatisfying. I suppose I worry anxiously my rule in state government carries with it such huge responsibles I often neglected family and many, many friends and don't have times for them. I worry anxiously about getting over muscled. I didn't want to be over developing.'

Lonnie looked her up and down.

'Oh, you shouldn't worry about that,' he reassured her. 'You don't have the kind of body that will get overbuilt, Mrs. Ehrhart.'

'I suppose I'm much the soft, female typed,' she decided.

'Next time we'll measure your body fat again.'

'And then the children,' she went on with her complexes, which were multiplying the more Lonnie talked. 'Last night I was too busy and spend much too little times with thems individually, either one, because of my commission meeting I had to call to order and make it earlier. And I barely had times for that. And why?' She gave him a coquettish smile. 'To be here with you an hour earlier than before the usual.'

'I admire your dedication,' Lonnie said, glancing at his watch and setting the clipboard on a weight bench. 'That's what it takes. No pain, no gain.'

'Don't crowns your teeths!' she told him with feeling. 'And don't you dare tell Bull I lost away his business.' She winked at Lonnie. 'When next?'

'Abs,' Lonnie said. 'And then we're almost done.'

'I can't tell if I see any progression.' She placed her hands on her abdomen and looked in the mirror. 'All that misery for a thing more. I hate abs so much more intensively than others.'

He studied her rectus abdominus and lliopsoas, sweat staining his gray MetRex tank top and buffing his skin.

'Why bother it?' she went on.

'You forget where you were when you started,' he said. 'You don't see how much you've improved because you look at yourself every day. Your abs are definitely better, Mrs. Ehrhart." 'I am very doubting. You look.'

She took his reluctant hands and placed them on her abdomen.

'Well?'

He had no response.

'Maybe when you get to be my older age at this stage of life, it's hopeless and can't be changed. Nature is just won't collaborating and do what you want it to do.'

Lonnie didn't move. She slid his hands up a little.

'You're in great shape,' he exaggerated.

'Bull's out crowning every tooths in North of America,' Ehrhart answered, sliding his hands up more. 'You know why he nicked his name Bull? It's not because of the general he thinks he's relations with, Lonnie.'

'I thought maybe it had to do with the stock market.'

'The reason is because of..

'I've really got to go, Mrs. Ehrhart.'

She pressed his large, strong hands against her, finally cupping them over her very small breasts.

'What's the oldest older woman you once ever had before?' she whispered.

'I guess my eighth-grade teacher,' he said.

'What was that have been?'

'When I was in the eighth grade.'

'My, you must have been bigger for your age then.'

'Mrs. Ehrhart, I've gotta go so I'm not late for my appointment. Your husband's really hard to schedule. Well, I guess I wouldn't get in at all if it wasn't for you.'

Lelia Ehrhart removed his hands. She angrily grabbed a towel and wrapped it around her neck.

'So what's the next place where we go from here?' she demanded as all her phobias and insecurities roared at her.

'You haven't done squats,' he said.


Chapter Twenty-Seven | Southern Cross | Chapter Twenty-Nine