ExcerptChapter One Allison could feel her heart pounding. Her lungs burned as she fought forair. The treadmill's digital display told her she was passing the two-milemark. She punched the speed button to slow the pace and catch her breath.Perspiration soaked her, pasting the nylon sweat pants and extra-large T-shirtto her trim forty-eight-year-old body. It was her favorite T-shirt, whitewith bright red and blue lettering.
It read, "Leahy for President--A New Millennium."
After nearly four years as the United States attorney general, Allison wasjust fifteen days away from the historic date on which voters would decidewhether the nation's "top cop" would become its first woman president.The race was wide-open and without an incumbent, as her boss--DemocraticPresident Charlie Sires--was at the end of his second and final four-yearterm. Allison was his second-term attorney general, part of the president'sshake-up of his own cabinet upon reelection in 1996. Eight months ago, Allisondidn't consider herself a serious presidential contender. But when the Republicansnominated Lincoln Howe, the nation's most beloved black man, the polls madeit clear that the only Democrat who could beat him was a charismatic whitewoman.
Ironically, thirty minutes of walking in place on the treadmill had actuallyput Allison thirty miles closer to her afternoon rally in Philadelphia.She was on the last leg of a two-day bus tour through Pennsylvania, a criticalswing state with twenty-four electoral college votes. Her campaign bus hadlogged nearly ten thousand miles in the past six months. Now more than ever,it was showing the signs of a well-oiled political machine in the homestretch--whichto the average organized human being looked remarkably like utter chaos.A dozen noisy staffers were busy at the fax machines and computer terminals.A scattered collection of bulging archive boxes blocked the bathroom entrance,as if strategically placed to trip up anyone desperate enough to use theon-board facilities. Thousands of campaign buttons, leaflets, and bumperstickers cluttered the rear storage area. Four small color television setswere suspended from the ceiling, each blaring a different broadcast forsimultaneous multi-network viewing. One set was electronically "padlocked,"permanently tuned to CNN's virtually continuous coverage of Campaign 2000.
"That's about enough self-flagellation for one day," said Allison,groaning. She hit the stop button and stepped down from the treadmill.
Walking had been her chief source of exercise since the beginning of theNew Hampshire Democratic primary in January. Whatever the town, she'd walkup and down Main Street, and people would join in and walk along with her.It provided great photo ops early in the primary, but after she won theDemocratic nomination in August the crowds grew so large that she neededa parade permit. In the last week, time constraints and cold Appalachianrains had forced her to confine her walking to the treadmill during bus-ridedebriefings from her campaign strategist, David Wilcox.
"What else, David?" she said as she leaned over and stretchedher calf muscles.
Wilcox was a tall and wiry fifty-one-year-old graduate of the Woodrow WilsonSchool of Public Affairs at Princeton. He had shone as a young White HouseFellow under President Carter, but a bitter loss in a personal bid for Congressin 1982 convinced him he'd rather not be a candidate. In high school hewas voted most likely to become a game show host, and he'd finally foundhis niche as a political strategist. Over seventeen years his list of satisfiedclients included nine United States senators, seven congressmen, and fivegovernors, and he'd masterminded Allison's upset victory over a sittingvice president in the Democratic primaries. In the last few weeks, however,he'd grown concerned about the growing influence of outside consultants,so he'd decided to glue himself to Allison's side for the bus tour. At themoment, he was reviewing his checklist, seemingly oblivious to Allison'ssweaty exercise attire or to the blurred Pennsylvania countryside in thewindow behind her.
"The drug problem has reared its ugly head." He had an ominousvoice for a thin man, part of an overall seriousness that was more suitablefor a White House state dinner than the frenetic campaign trail. "Ithink our distinguished opposition is turning desperate. They're finallytrying to make something out of your treatment for depression, back in '92."
"That was eight years ago. Politically speaking, it's ancient history."
"They're saying you took Prozac."
"I told you I was in counseling."
"Are you splitting hairs on me?"
She flashed a sobering look. "My four-month-old daughter was takenright out of her crib, right from my own house. Yes, I was depressed. Iwas in group counseling. Eight of us. Parents who'd lost children. No, Ididn't take Prozac. But if you ask the other members of my support group,they'll probably say I needed it. So don't expect me to apologize for havingreached out for a little support. And don't sit there and act like thisis news to you, either. I laid out all the skeletons the day I hired you."
He grimaced, thinking it through. "I just wish we could put the wholeepisode in more of a context."
Her look became a glare. "I won't make Emily's abduction part of thiscampaign, if that's what you mean."
"Allison, we can't just say you were depressed and leave it at that.We need a positive spin."
"Okay," she said sarcastically, "how about this? Depressionis a good thing. It's what stimulates ideas. Every invention, every accomplishmentstems from depression, not euphoria. Nobody ever said, 'Life's swell, let'sinvent fire.' It was the malcontent in the back of the cave who finallystood up and said, 'Hey, I'm freezing my ass off in here!' You want somethingto get done in Washington? By all means, elect the clinically depressed."
He was deadpan. "Please don't repeat that publicly. Or I'll be verydepressed."
THE ABDUCTION: HarperCollins Publishers: May 2001 Behind the Writing of the Novel: Copyright 2000 James Grippando