“Well, that was lucky, wasn’t it?”
“Mmmmmmmm.” I’m not giving my full attention to my Campaign Manager. Something is bothering me about the rally. As our car eases through the rush hour congestion, I try to shake off an odd feeling.
“I genuinely don’t believe it. The woman who inspired you to get into this race comes out to your first big event. To support you.” I turn and see the glint in her eye as she practically cackles. “And she’d be so good in front of a camera. She’d really show what you’re all about. Underscore some of that wonderful people-rousing that you’re showing to be so good at.”
She’s not wrong. I was on fire today. I had worried that my lying would make this much harder. The fact I couldn’t clearly say what I want to do or stand for. In some cases, the ease with which I give a dishonest answer is always going to serve me well in this race. But, of course, there is some level of accountability. If I tell lies all the way to city hall, then when I try to do anything I want to, people are going to notice. I am trying to do something good here, and I would like to get elected on the back of that if I can.
So far, though, my questioning skills have carried the crowd where I want them. It seems that all you need to do with these people, my people, is throw them a remark that outlines what they do or do not want with a question mark at the end. It grabs them. Whips them up. Somehow, they like me to challenge them. It gets them involved and makes them agree or disagree whichever way I want them to. It worked well in the office and again this afternoon. I know that not every speaking event is going to be this easy. Soon I am going to have to face my opponents in a debate. Right now, it’s getting me support, growing my cause.
Yet something about this afternoon still bothers me. I think it was who I saw. “Do you have her number?” Kinnesberg drags my attention away from my thoughts. She’s dividing her attention between me and her tablet. I shake my head, and when I don’t vocalise my answer, she glances up. I twist my head back and forth. She looks slightly relieved and gives a casual shrug. “That’s fine. We can send one of the interns down to her charity shop to speak with her.”
It was awkward. The meeting between her and Amelia. The girl who had inadvertently put me on this course and the woman trying to make my dream into a reality. Kinnesberg’s hackles went up as soon as the redhead approached me. I felt like I was introducing my wife to my mistress. It’s not something I’ve ever done, although I once attended an event where three of the women I was sleeping with were present. That was a night to spin a web of lies, if ever there was one.
Amelia was so sweet when she called to me and jogged over. She remembered me, and that was the reason she’d come. She wanted to say hi and see how the suit she had sold me worked out. Immediately, I was on my guard. If ever there was a chink in my armour, it was Amelia. She had spoken with me on my first day in the city before I chose this course. She clocked that I wasn’t from around here—her words, not mine. I’ve put in a lot of effort to establish myself as a citizen, but she could easily blow that. All it would have taken was a simple slip of her tongue or some reference to our conversation that day. Kinnesberg is smart. So far, I’ve managed to keep up the pretence. She doesn’t suspect I bought my way here, that my whole backstory is a trick. I know exactly what she would do if she did, and I can’t afford to lose her. That second chance I offered her is really paying off for me. “I‘m surprised that one shopping trip would convince you to try to turn this city around.”
Kinnesberg flashes me a quick wink over her pad. I’m certain she doesn’t know I’ve been dishonest. She can’t suspect.
“I guess I’d thought about it before that day,” I lie, trying to add a little more history to myself. “Didn’t you hear how that poor girl told me she felt?” She pauses, mid-type. Did I go too far? It wouldn’t be the first time. I’m not in perfect form yet.
“You know the whole question thing is fun with the public, but you can take a break with me.”
“Really?” I grin, and she sighs good-naturedly.
“Your numbers are starting to track up, by the way. You should be pleased.”
I’m not. My mind returns to my concerns about the event. Amelia is a potential problem. She has something on me, and that’s not a situation I want to be in. I’m the dirt digger, the blackmailer. I don’t like people having something over me. The question with Amelia is should I deal with her now or leave it until later? This is where I can tell my powers aren’t at full strength. I should be able to see the interplay of everything. I believe she doesn’t pose a threat to me, but I don’t feel one hundred percent confident. I can’t quite size her up. Will she support me all the way or bring out some claws as time goes on?
Yet, she’s not the most concerning face I saw in the crowd this afternoon. There was another person that disturbed me. It was the way he looked at me throughout the rally. No reaction, just a cold, hard stare. He was somehow familiar. Mid-fifties, salt and pepper hair, staring blue eyes. There was a hint of something there. He practically glared at me all the way through my speech. Why? I’m not sure. Who is he? I wish I could place him.
Unlike Amelia, he didn’t come up to me afterwards. I tried to spot him as the gathering dispersed, wanting to see what he was up to after my speech. But he had disappeared from sight. Perhaps he was a spy? Someone from the opposition sent to put me off, unnerve me. He didn’t, and he did. I rack my mind, but I can’t remember if I’ve met him before. I’m certain I haven’t come across him in my time here. And what’s the likelihood that someone from England would have turned up in the same city I was standing for election? Could he have something to do with the other gods?
Maybe I’m just being paranoid. Surely there are weirdos at all these types of events. He probably does it to everyone. I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about. I doubt I’ll see him again.
I spot the guy at my next three public appearances. Again, just looking at me, unblinking. Still, his face rings bells, but I don’t know where from. He’s always gone before I finish, and I can try to speak to him. I continue to be concerned by him, but Kinnesberg reassures me there’s nothing to worry about. She says it’s not unusual, and to be fair, I have plenty more to worry about. The head-to-head with my opponents is fast approaching, and I’m going to need a miracle if I can lie my way through that.