Art Pact 220 - Voter Strategy

"Vote early, vote often," he says with a sly grin. The others laugh, and I manage to rustle up a half-smile, the least I can do to avoid looking like a humourless ass. I can tell that McReedy isn't fooled, but he would have seen through anything more demonstrative anyway. My half-smile is for the benefit of the rest of the goons. And as long as they're fooled, he won't say anything. That's the unwritten rule here - I can think what I like, I can even tell him what I want, but make him look a fool in front of the others is a serious offence.

"Now, the question is: how do we do that? The sad fact of the matter is that the so-called authorities don't know that we know better than them what's good for this town. They're going to insist on ID cards shown, voter registration forms, all that good old-fashioned bureaucracy that keeps the fat cats in city hall in hookers and blow."

Another sincere laugh from the crowd, and an insincere one from me. But now I'm genuinely interested. I'd assumed that McReedy's plan was going to be much the same as his predecessor's - that is to say, leaning on the voters until the got in line. But he doesn't seem to be in that kind of mood. He seems too pleased with himself, and if there's one thing I know about McReedy, it's that violent though he can be, he sees it as an inelegant solution to problems. He likes to think of himself as a cut above, as some kind of refined villain rather than just a common thug. And that means that he'll only resort to physical force with a sort of resigned distaste, as though it were below him. If he's this cheerful, it means something else.

  • Which is good, because my position is precarious. I cannot get involved in violence against civilians, and any refusal might blow my cover. 
  • Which is bad, because for all I like to disparage him, McReedy is smart, and a plan that he's this pleased with is likely to be harder to stop.

"Now, that means there's going to be one man one vote. Oh"--he chuckles--"not forgetting the skirts, they got them the vote now too, I guess." The table laughs. This time I can barely force out a smile, but I slap the table, aping the goon next to me (whose name I still don't know - Solomon? Something like that?), who is hammering on the maple in front of him like it's the funniest thing he's ever heard. Is that really the case, I wonder suddenly? Perhaps everyone here is like me, forcing themselves into a united front to keep McReedy happy, while inwardly cringing. I'd been thinking myself superior to all the others, when in fact perhaps they were just better actors than me. For a moment I consider the possibility that McReedy is the only person who's straight here, that in a colossal mix-up every other one of his lieutenants is also undercover. It's an amusing thought, and I let it lift up the corners of my mouth slightly so as to better fit in, but I know that it's just a fantasy. There are strict protocols to prevent this sort of thing, I would have been informed if there were anyone else working the case. No, I am here on my own and I am superior to all these other thugs. I've never seen the guy next to me do anything, but the guy next to him is Frazer, and him I've seen beat up a shopkeeper who had the temerity to look at him a little odd when we were collecting protection money. A bad minute, standing by the counter trying to suppress my instincts to wade in, drag Frazer off his feeble victim. But that would have meant awkward questions, and an enemy in the company, so I stood there and watched, counting each blow and calculating how long before I called a halt - the longer I let it go on the better for my cover, but the more chance of the poor shopkeeper sustaining a serious injury. In the end it was a simple patrol car that gave me the out - some knuckle-dragger from the motor pool rushing around with his siren on so that I could pull Frazer away with the excuse that we had to get out of here in case the cops were coming for us.

I look up and discover with some surprise that while I've been pondering the question of whether I'm alone and ruminating on that horrible incident with Frazer, McReedy has brought someone else into the conference room - someone that I don't recognise, but who looks nothing like McReedy's normal crop of heavies. He's a slight man - younger than thirty, I would have guessed, but with his teenage years long behind him, so let's say twenty-nine (this is pretty much the whole process I go through to guess ages, but I don't let juries in on quite the extent of the hand-waving that goes on). He's wearing steel-rimmed glasses, a plaid shirt and trousers that are clearly the bottom half of a suit, and he's carrying a bundle of papers under one arm. His face is sort of nondescript, the kind of guy you'd have difficulty picking out of a line-up because your brain just gets bored of looking at him almost instantly.

"Gentlemen - and Steven," McReedy says (cue another laugh), "meet the future of directed democracy. This fine specimen of a poindexter is my special advisor on electoral matters, and for the next two months you are going to be doing everything he says - unless he says something stupid, in which case you double-check with me." McReedy slaps the young man on the back, so hard that his glasses slide down his nose making him look like a disapproving librarian. "Go on, Nelson, give them the spiel."

The young man - Nelson - clears his through nervously.


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