What have I done? For weeks I have campaigned to be mayor. I said everything everyone wanted to hear. And for what? The second I walk into the office, I am harangued by people with problems. As soon as I have fixed one issue, seven more spring up. But you know what? I think I love it.
Okay, it does feel like I spent ages bidding to buy a house only having seen it through its letterbox. Now I’m inside with the deeds, and I can see the rising damp, the mould, and the structural problems. There may be an unrelenting list of underlying concerns to deal with, but I’m nothing if not a planner. I tricked a whole city into voting me into office, and my powers are at full strength. Once again, I’m able to foresee actions, reactions, and counters. I can now see a clear path to achieving my aims. I have plenty set out for this town, including dealing with all the people I made promises to, including the righteous and the less-than-honest. I can do everything I want, and maybe a little more. I’m not afraid of a little hard graft, even if it is exhausting.
I haven’t properly rested since that night before the election. My powers had brought me to the pinnacle of success, and then the Goddess of Victory’s gift clinched it. I finally relaxed and slept like one of the babies I had been photographed kissing. I haven’t had more than five hours of sleep any night since. If I thought campaigning was tiring, this is another level, and it’s a hard one. But it feels so worth it. I can make a difference in people’s lives. I know my deceased lover would be proud of that. I need to deal with all the impending doom that my staff brings me each and every day. I have to because the buck stops with me and me alone.
I shift and stare out into the quiet office space beyond my own. Talking of being alone, Kinnesberg has picked a lousy time to be away from the office. She tells me she’s doing essential negotiations and investigations into matters that may, at some point, concern me. Supposedly, it’s all about keeping my work schedule organized, but I would rather have her by my side. She’s left me with capable support. My Press Secretary, Personal Assistant, and Operations Manager all do as they are told with minimal fuss, even taking the lead and handling things for me, but it’s just not the same as having my beautiful woman by my side. Or in my bed.
We’ve been spending most evenings at my place, but we don’t talk about work. We instigated that policy early on in our relationship. We can go over business as we travel, but once we’re behind closed doors, it’s just us together, wrapped tightly against each other’s bodies. It’s amazing. Even if I am a little worried, I’m falling for her.
I sigh deeply as I stare at more requisition orders. I’m certain these should have been dealt with already. I sneak a glance at my watch as if I’m some minimum wage worker chained to his desk from nine to five. It’s almost eleven. Is it going to make any difference if I sit here dealing with these now or at seven in the morning when I return? I’m always the first in, with the exception of my PA, who seems intent on being here to have coffee ready for me. I still haven’t had the heart to tell her that I prefer tea to start the day. I know I’m making major decisions left, right, and centre, but there’s something about that one little moment that I can’t quite overcome. She presents the steaming cup to me with such enthusiasm. I guess I am a changed god, different from who I used to be. I am working on a few more levels now.
I rub my brow, but it doesn’t ease the dull pain spreading across my mind. I sigh, then give in and grab my jacket. Tonight’s going to be an early one. Kinnesberg has blown me off anyway, so I can go home and maybe enjoy one of my records with a whiskey. Or two. I’ll probably plot some more, but at least I’ll be in my own place, listening to good music.
I travel down in the lift, once more reassuring myself that I’ll take the stairs tomorrow. It takes a few attempts to swipe out of the building’s exit—another item on my list of things to fix—and step into the chilly evening.
I’m a little unsettled to come face to face with Jade Jones. She’s a fan, especially after I gave her the exclusive interview following my success, but she doesn’t look like she’s here to heap more praise on me.
“Working a little late, aren’t you?” I grin with my final scraps of energy. I catch a glimpse of her staff lanyard underneath her overcoat.
“You could say that.” Her tone was flat and professional. “But I think you will be, too, when I show you what I have here,” she says presenting a manila folder.
“Have a look.” She looks almost sad as she pushes the wallet at my chest. I slowly open the cardboard folder and scan the financial figures before me.
“You do know I have a whole army of accountants to tell me how much money I’ve spent, right?” I demand, unimpressed by the spreadsheets.
“Have any of them told you that you are six million dollars light already?”
“What?” I demand, cocking my eyebrow at her.
“You have already paid out way more than you’d budgeted for two quarters. Seems a little suspect, especially when you consider most of that money has gone into the same account.”
“Where did you get these?”
“I’d like your official comment, please.”
I meet her steady gaze. I can see that she’s conflicted, but ultimately thinking about the accolades that come with this sort of story.
“When are you thinking of running this?”
She looks away from me.
“Look, Darnell, it doesn’t give me any glee to be doing this, but this looks like an enormous scandal. I’ve got to be on top of it. I’ll give you forty-eight hours, then I’m reporting, with or without your comment. Trust me. I think you’ll want to respond.”
She turns and stalks away without so much as a glance over her shoulder. I glance down at the figures in my hand. There’s someone I need to talk to, and I need to do it right now.