Barbara Mandel did not show up. The television crew were on the courthouse steps and the feature writers from the newspapers were in the lobby and everyone was waiting on Thursday for the former wife to testify about her former husband and maybe in the progress come face to face with the "other woman, "but she did not show. And so you did not have to take sides.
This was going to be about her. This was going to be about the times I spent with her, and I got to like her and how she could stand with you, joke with you, poke you in the ribs with her elbows and her mischievous eyes until she had you dizzy, not knowing what to believe - not knowing when she was kidding and then she wasn't. She knew you were a reporter and that you were hungry for information and she liked to toy with you - telling you things that were true and things that waren't true and laughing at each. She did that one night in the lounge of an Annapolis hotel she had just spoken to a chapter of the laughters of the Ameican Revolution. By her own estimate, she had been a smash. She laughed at that.
She was dressed in an evening gown, very formal, and she came into the bar of the Annapolis Hilton and she asked me to order her a drink. The place was full of legislators and she mingled among them. She knew them by their first names and their nicknames and also, if you are to believe the stories, how much walking around money they received at the last election. She bantered with them and joked with them and knew, of course, that they knew. Everyone knew. The legislature knew and the state house workers knew and the press knew and the world knew. She did a lot of laughing and then she went up the hill to the mansion.
It must have been tough. It must have been awful. It must have been terrible that time Mandel was involved in an auto accident and everyone knew he had been. You could hear it all over the State house the next day. It was a sunny sparkling day and a gubernatorial aide, a woman, parted the curtains in her office, pointed at the mansion across the street and said, "I wonder what's going on there today." It must have been awful.
So on Thursday we were all waiting for Barbara Mandel to show up, but she didn't. And neither did Jeanne Mandel. So we drifted into the courtroom and took seats as the trial progressed. There was this woman on the stand and she was explaining how she handled long-term rentals fro a resort in the Florida keys. She was telling how Mandel and Jeanne Mandel had come down for a stay and how one person had picked up this bill and another person had picked up that bill and how everything was supposed to be kept hush-hush and finally how a Florida banker had come into her office, looked both ways, and peeled off more than a thousand in cash. It was like the movies and it wa sthe rental agent laugh.
Before that, others had testified how the governor needed money for tha and how he didn't have the money for anything. They told how he had to borrow to divorce his wife and even the rental agent on stand said that Marvin Mandel, the governor of the state of Maryland, still owed his Florida resort somethink like $1,800. When you added it all up and put it down on ledger paper like an accountant might do, one side would show hundreds of thousands of dollars in debts or maybe illegal obligations (detpending on how something like "loss of political power" in brac-you look at it) and underneath that you would put kets to indicate a deficit situation. On the other side, under assets, you would put the name of Jeanne Blackistone Mandel. A person who met her about the time Mandel did, said she was the most beautiful woman he's ever seen.
This was the ledger book in my head as the trial ended for the day and this is what I was thinking. I was thinking that there are people who'll tell you that they know Marvin Mandel - that he is canny, smart, unfeeling, sharp. They use all these words that more or less mean cold and then they will tell you that the man risked everything for a woman. They will tell you too that the man is guilty of the charges against him and that he has always been blind to ethical considerations.
There are few men who could stare that ledger in the face and do what Mandel did. There are few men who could do that. You hear them sit in judgment on him and then you watch them cheat on their wives and spend money on their girl friends and pretend there's no such thing as love. They will live and let live rather than risk the fortune of their lifetime. They live by a code that says there is money in this world and love in this world but only one of them gets you into the subway - only one of them balances the books.
This is what I was thinking as the trial ended and Mandel got up to leave. He went first into the witness room and then out the other side where there was a long hallway. There was glass on one side and white wall on the other and from the lobby you could see him coming. You could see the press waiting outside the building and you could see the governor walking toward the lobby slowly - oddly, differently. It was the walk of an old man or a sick man. It was not the walk of Marvin Mandel.
He kept coming down the long hallway down to the lobby wher e he stopped and shook hands with a reporter.What you wanted to do was go up tohim and ask something like, "Was it worth it all?" But you didn't and he kept walking. He got into his car and you cold see the car drive off and what you have to say is that regardless of what the jury finds, you know he's guilty of one thing.
Of all things, he's a romantic.