The Babysitterby Diana Diamond
How far will one man and his wife go to protect their privileged lives? Gordon Acton is a well heeled Congressional candidate and hopes to attract votes by hiring a young minority woman as a babysitter for their children during their summer on Cape Cod. Theresa Santiago is wise beyond her years as well as alluringly attractive. But is she the answer to the Actons'… See more details below
How far will one man and his wife go to protect their privileged lives? Gordon Acton is a well heeled Congressional candidate and hopes to attract votes by hiring a young minority woman as a babysitter for their children during their summer on Cape Cod. Theresa Santiago is wise beyond her years as well as alluringly attractive. But is she the answer to the Actons' domestic woes and political aspirations, or a threat to everything they hold dear? After a drunken tryst with Theresa, Gordon finds himself scrambling protect his reputation. And his wife Ellie is accused her of plaigiarism on her dissertation and worse. Blackmailed and desperate, the Actons work out a deadly plan which backfires horribly in a conclusion as shocking as it is gripping.
"Vivid...[with] thoughtful exposition and careful plotting."Publishers Weekly
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By Diana Diamond
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2001 Diana Diamond
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"Gordie! Gordie! Gordie!" The shout took on the increasing tempo of a locomotive cheer. "Gordie! Gordie! Gordie!"
Gordon Acton looked at Henry Browning, who was standing at the edge of the stage wing, where he could glance out at the crowd. He gestured with a nod of his head that asked, "Now?" Browning responded with a gesture, shaking his head, "No!" Ellie Acton looked from one man to the other and then out to the stage, where balloons and streamers were landing. "What are you waiting for?" she hissed to her husband. He responded with a nod to Henry. "He says not yet."
There was a roar when the locomotive reached full speed. Then the hand clapping started. "We want Gordon! We want Gordon!"
"Okay, now," Henry said.
Gordon reached for Ellie's hand.
"No! Just you!" Henry snapped.
Gordon looked uneasily at Ellie.
"She comes later," Browning instructed. "When you thank your wife, the crowd will start screaming for Ellie." He took her hand away from Gordon's. "That's when you go on."
Gordon hesitated, then buttoned his suit jacket and strode out under the stage lights. The roar was deafening. He waved into the glare and pointed knowingly at no one in particular. He fielded a balloon and threw it back to the crowd. Then he mounted the podium, examined the cluster of microphones, and raised his hands to still the applause. The screaming kicked up a few decibels, and then the high school cheerleaders started into another locomotive. "Gordie! Gordie! Gordie!" He waved vainly for order, then gestured his defeat and submitted humbly to their worship.
The frenzy lasted for several minutes, loud enough to drown out a local television reporter's interview with the revered senator from Rhode Island. "This is certainly a popular victory," she shouted, and then she and the senator nodded in unison.
Meanwhile, Gordon had stepped down from the podium and was moving along the footlights, reaching down to hands that were reaching up. "Thanks for your help. Couldn't have done it without you. It's your victory, too." He delivered platitudes to faces that were lost in the lights. But when he mounted the podium again, the uproar quieted dramatically. Now there were individual voices. "Congressman Gordon Acton!" came from one side of the gymnasium. "President Gordon Acton!" came a response from the other side. Then laughter, which Gordon joined.
"My good friends," he tried.
He still couldn't be heard.
"My good friends ..." Now the screamers in the crowd were demanding quiet. The noise settled to a background murmur.
"I don't deserve to have so many good friends," Gordon shouted. The remark started the whole riot rumbling again. Gordon raised his hands and this time the gesture restored a bit of order.
"And I don't deserve a wife like Ellie!"
"Ellie! Ellie! Ellie!" A new locomotive was starting.
In the wing, Henry told Ellie, "That's your cue."
"Just walk out to him?"
"Yeah!" But instantly, "No, wait!"
Henry plucked a rose from one of the floral displays. "Carry this with you. Give it to him when he takes your hand."
"Oh, Jesus," she moaned in disgust. She walked onto the stage without the flower, heard her name being screamed, and squinted into the lights. Just smile, Ellie reminded herself. Get to Gordon and hang on to him.
Gordon stepped down, took her hand, and helped her up ahead of him.
"Gordon! Ellie!" This new chant brought fresh enthusiasm.
She still couldn't make out a single face. She smiled and waved, pretending she was finding old friends. Then suddenly Gordon flung their joined hands into the air as if announcing a new champion. She felt her bra pull up over the bottom of her breast and tried to ease her hand down. But Gordon sent it even higher in another victory salute. Eventually, he gave up being his own cheerleader and waved the crowd to near quiet. Finally, half an hour after he had arrived at the high school where the district's Republican leaders had gathered an army of supporters, Gordon was able to launch into his prepared speech.
Thank Chris Kirby, he remembered from Henry's outline, so he rendered homage to the Cadillac dealer who had challenged him in the primary for the vacated Republican seat. A clean campaign, and an intelligent debate, were the first positive attributes he had assigned to Chris in the past two months. He invited his defeated opponent and all his followers to join with him in a fight for good government.
Cut taxes, curb government spending, improve education, fight crime, and give the elderly the dignity they deserve were the other points that Henry had wanted him to mention. "No details," Browning had advised. "Just a little something for everyone."
Then the battle cry. The fight wasn't over; it was just beginning. November was only five months away, right at the other end of summer. There was hardly enough time to present the issues to the voters, nor to answer the lies and distortions that were already emanating from the Democratic camp. It would take their greatest efforts to carry this nomination on to victory, and give proper representation to the district in the United States Congress.
"Can I count on you?" Gordon shouted.
Another ten minutes of screaming and confetti showers answered his question. And then it was over. The hired security officers led him and Ellie through the crowd. They slapped greetings to hundreds of offered hands, thanked dozens of well-wishers, but never broke stride in their march to the double fire doors at the end of the room. Then they raced to the waiting limousine like a bride and groom fleeing the church. The car eased out of the glare of the school lights, and headed toward the peace of their Newport home.
As soon as they were in the dark, Ellie began twisting, trying to reach her right hand into the sleeve cut under her left arm. "Did you notice?" she asked.
"I hope no one else did."
"No one else did what?"
"What are you talking about?"
"About you lifting my bra halfway over my head."
He looked at where her hand was fishing. "I did?"
"When you pulled my hand up over my head, I came right out of my bra cup."
Gordon laughed, a snicker growing into a howl.
"You won't think it's so funny when you see publicity shots of your three-breasted wife. I tried to hide it by folding my arms. Then I looked down and saw that my bra cup was on top of my arm and my breast was underneath. I must have looked like a cow."
"You looked great."
She found the elastic band and was able to pull it down into position. "I'm no good at this. I hate politics," she said, while rearranging her breasts.
"What are you talking about? You're a natural."
"A natural what? What has three breasts?"
"Nobody noticed," Gordon said, drawing her close.
She relaxed into his shoulder. "If Henry Browning says one word ..."CHAPTER 2
The children were awake first, and they charged into their parents' bedroom just as the sun was finding the spaces between the shutter slats. Timothy dove into their bed, as he did whenever they were home, and began wrestling with his father. Gordon feigned terror at the five-year-old's attack, and cowered from the pillow that the boy was wielding. Molly, who was nine, stood patiently waiting her turn. She was too sophisticated to simply jump under her parents' blanket, she was beginning to suspect that their bed was a private place. Still, she wanted the hugs and kisses that went with their homecoming. Gordon surrendered to his children's energy and followed them down to the kitchen where they made a project out of breakfast. A half hour later he sneaked back upstairs to bring Ellie her morning coffee.
The bedroom opened onto a porch that was built over the east wing, vulnerable to the salt spray that blasted off the rocks and soaked the air, and facing into the sunrise. In all the world, this was Ellie's favorite place and she resented every moment of absence. "Politics," she lamented into the steam that was rising from her coffee mug. Gordon's candidacy was dragging her out of her life, far from her children, and away from her work. She had anticipated the intrusions of noblesse oblige when she had married into the Acton family, but she had never imagined just how wrenching those intrusions would be.
"Why?" she had asked Gordon when he told her he was thinking of filling the vacancy in Congress.
"Just something I should do."
"Why should you do it? Don't you have a choice?"
"I guess it's something I want to do. Other things take care of themselves. This is something that I can affect. It's a place where I can make a statement."
Ellie hadn't discouraged him. She had put aside her academic career so she could be with him at important events. She had surrendered her kitchen to the housekeeper. Most galling, she had turned her children over to babysitters during the days, and rushed home late many nights only to find them already in bed.
"Politics," she whispered again.
But there had also been benefits, most importantly the revived energy of their marriage. It was hard to do anything important for Gordon, who was used to having things done for him. The Actons didn't even have to clip their own coupons. But with her background in special education, she had become a symbol of Gordon's promises for better schools. He had publicly deferred to her views and openly admired her determination to send her own children to the public schools. There was even a hint of her becoming the state's educational czar.
She had also lent a sense of history. Ellie was Ellie Williams, a direct descendant of Roger Williams. Her roots in the state reached back to times when it wasn't even a state, or even a colony. While the Actons had been building ships on the Narragansett since the Civil War, the Williams had been fighting for religious tolerance in the area since 1650. It was who they were more than what Gordon stood for that had crushed the hopes of the state's largest Cadillac dealer.
And, there was her obvious class. Here was a woman of means married to a man of even greater means. She could do whatever touched her fancy. What she had chosen to do was involve herself in solving the problems of failing schools and, more important, failing children. Even if a voter couldn't identify with a rich kid whose family had made a fortune selling lifeboats to the navy in World War II, it was easy to admire his charming wife. Ellie felt important again.
Gordon stepped quietly onto the open porch and slipped into one of the Adirondack chairs, setting his own coffee on the arm. "They're fed, dressed, and hypnotized by television," he announced.
"Something educational?" Ellie asked.
"Wile E. Coyote," Gordon laughed. "It's okay as long as the voters don't find out."
They shared the sunrise and the smell of salt air.
"Gordon, yesterday Henry was talking about seeing me during the summer. You're not going to need me during the summer, are you?"
"I always need you, spring, summer, winter, and fall." He began humming the song from Camelot.
"I mean for the campaign."
"Not as much. The primary was the real contest. The last time the district went Democratic was during the Great Depression."
"Then I can plan on having my summer."
"The way we discussed. Out on the Cape where I can finish my damn thesis."
He nodded again.
"With a nanny, so I won't be constantly interrupted?"
"Right," Gordon said. "Away from politics. Away from Henry Browning. Except for an occasional appearance now and then. And I'll be out there every weekend. Maybe even some days during the week."
She leaned back and sighed with pleasure.
"I've even arranged for your nanny," he said.
Ellie sat bolt upright.
"Contingent on your approval, of course," he rushed to add.
"You're arranging for my mother's helper."
"Not really. That's your call."
"I was thinking of Trish Mapleton. She watched the kids a lot last summer and Molly really liked her."
Gordon nodded. "Then Trish Mapleton it is."
Ellie stared at him for a moment. "What is it, Gordon? What is it that you're not telling me?"
He tried to look innocent of any possible deception. "Nothing. Nothing at all. It's just that there's this girl ... a nineteen-year-old in junior college ... the class valedictorian when she graduated from high school. I thought I'd arrange to have you interview her."
"Do I know her?"
"I don't think so. Her name is Theresa. Theresa Santiago. She's from Tiverton. Very blue collar."
"I know Tiverton," Ellie fired back. She looked suspiciously at her husband.
"She's kind of an overachiever. Worked to help out her family while she was winning all sorts of academic honors. Now she's trying to earn money for college," Gordon said to fill in what was becoming a heavy silence.
"This is Henry's idea," Ellie concluded.
"No, it's my idea. Henry just pointed out the opportunity. It made enough sense to me that I thought I'd run it by you. And it looks like I have your answer." He pushed himself up from the Adirondack chair. "It just seemed that with your interest in education this might appeal to you." He picked up his coffee mug and started back into their bedroom.
"Santiago," Ellie said slowly. "Is she Portuguese?"
"No," Gordon said, turning back from the door.
"She's Hispanic. Her family came from Santo Domingo."
"And Henry wants the voters to see you stirring the melting pot. Or tossing the salad, or whatever the politically correct metaphor is."
Gordon brisded, and set his mug back on the arm of the chair. "I told you this was my idea. And there's nothing racial about it. It's just simple logic. The state-line area is a Democratic stronghold. The people over there don't care much for the blue bloods on Ocean Drive."
"Because we're all Wasps, and they're all immigrants. And that sounds racial to me."
"Okay, call it racial if you like but that's not my term. I call it smart politics. If we can break the Democrats' hold on the area, we can turn this election into a landslide. It would be great if some of those people reached across to us, and I think one way of getting that to happen would be for us to reach over to them. This girl is a neighborhood icon. She's the poster child for the schools you're hoping to build. It just seemed to me that the two of you together would be a knockout."
Ellie made no attempt to hide her anger. "So, instead of working on my thesis, I'm supposed to entertain the poster child as well as mind my own two children. And show up at every photo opportunity with my Latina companion. God, but this whole thing stinks. It smells just like Henry Browning."
"I said it was my idea. And I have no intention of you entertaining Miss Santiago. I expect that she's going to watch our kids so that you can get your thesis done."
Ellie turned away in a pout. "I'll bet ..."
Gordon got aggressive. "That was my thought. Based, in part, on the fact that you weren't all that happy with Trish Mapleton last summer."
"Trish was fine —"
He cut her off. "Didn't you catch her under a blanket with a lifeguard when she was supposed to be watching the kids?"
"That was just one incident."
"And weren't you upset at what Molly might be thinking with all that action happening ten feet from where she was building a sand castle?"
"Well, maybe Trish Mapleton isn't the perfect choice," Ellie conceded. "But I think it should be one of the girls who vacations on the Cape."
"Blond hair, blue eyes, and great teeth," Gordon said sarcastically.
Ellie rejoined the battle. "That's not what I mean. But as long as you bring it up, what kind of an experience do you think a minority kid will have with a summer on the Cape? You think she'll get to spend her free time at the yacht club with the rest of the kids? You think she'll be invited to the clambake?"
"Ellie, I wasn't planning on adopting her. I was thinking about giving her a job, where she could make some money for college, learn from you, and enjoy the beach in the bargain. I was figuring that she would be watching our kids so that you and I could go to the clambake."
"And pick up another thousand votes in the process," she added.
"And pick up another thousand votes in the process," Gordon agreed. "Is that so bad? If an idea works for me, and works for you and the kids, why do you think it had to come from Henry Browning?"
Excerpted from The Babysitter by Diana Diamond. Copyright © 2001 Diana Diamond. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Diana Diamond is the pseudonym of a bestselling mystery and thriller writer, author of The Trophy Wife and The Good Sister.
Diana Diamond is the pseudonym of a critically acclaimed mystery and thriller writer. She is also the author of The Trophy Wife, The Babysitter, The Good Sister, The Daughter-In-Law, The First Wife, and The Stepmother.
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