A True Representative (Part 6)

While her luxury apartment was quite large and filled with all sorts of folks who had been working in professional politics for time out of mind, Henry found himself thinking that the whole thing felt somehow staged, out of place. The polls would be closing in another half an hour, but the mood was already celebratory; initial figures from early voting and precinct reports had him a solid ten points ahead of Craig Lewiston, and the talking heads on CNN were already dubbing it “The most lopsided upset in modern political history”.

                Sasha’s apartment was a sprawling place that took up two entire floors of the prestigious Howard Betting Tower, one of Amelia City’s priciest places to live. It hardly qualified as a ‘tower’, insofar as Henry was concerned, being only eight stories high. With only four residents at any one time, however, it was extremely exclusive, which didn’t seem to much matter at the moment; there were more people in the building right then than had likely ever been there before.

                Henry was fairly surprised when he had arrived an hour earlier to find that so many ordinary, everyday-looking people had apparently been working on behalf of his campaign. He had never really had much contact with most of them, giving polite nods and thanking everybody for their hard work when he drew near unfamiliar faces. They all said effectively the same thing, that they were happy to help steer the politics of the day in a direction that might actually help everyday folks like themselves.

                “Amelia deserves something different than everybody else gets,” one staffer remarked, which struck Henry as incredibly close to a sentiment Ms. Kowen had expressed early on in the running. Of course, she had associated this with some real whack-a-dos who had represented Amelia in the past, as it turned out, but Henry had opted at this point to believe that she was merely being artistically tongue-in-cheek.

                “Henry,” Jago said smoothly as he slid up beside the councilor in the vast apartment’s kitchen, where Henry was fetching himself a glass of ginger ale. “There’s a call for you,” said the slick fellow, holding out an old-fashioned flip cellular phone in one of his gloved hands.

                “Who is it,” Henry asked, setting his glass aside on a slate black countertop. Jago gave him a thin smile, eyes in their ever-half-lidded position.

                “I do believe it is the good Representative Lewiston, sir,” Jago replied. Henry took the phone tentatively, once more noticing the air of intense heat that seemed to constantly radiate off of this man. Jago turned on his heel and strode away, taking his warmth with him back toward the massive and Spartanly decorated living room area.

                “This is Townsend,” Henry said, putting the phone to his ear.

                “Henry,” said Craig Lewiston on the other end of the line, sounding positively drained. “Look, I know there’s a good ten minutes or so left until the polls close, and it might not be considered good form to do this, but you know what this call is about,” said Lewiston evenly.

                “You think it’s over?”

                “I know it is, Henry,” Lewiston replied. “Every exit poll we’ve got so far is showing you coming out of this at least seven or eight points ahead of me, and I don’t think things are going to shift that much by the end of the night. Even up in North Perry, the numbers look like they favor you.”

                “You were born and raised there, though,” Henry said, somewhat incredulous that Lewiston would lose his hometown in the race.

                “Doesn’t matter. Henry, at midnight, I’ll call you again, on your campaign manager’s number, just to make it nice and official, and let the networks get their end of day headline, but you know what this call is really about,” Lewiston said with a sigh. “Just do yourself and everyone you care about a favor, as well as everyone in D.C.”

                “What’s that, Craig?”

                “Don’t bring any of those people in your inner circle to Washington, Henry,” Lewiston said, a thread of nervousness working through his tone. “I’m deadly serious about that.” Lewiston disconnected then, and Henry was left wondering just what the Congressman knew about Sasha Kowen and her cadre of ‘patrons’.

                He might find out when he saw Lewiston again.

**

From CNN.com

“Amelia County Declares Independence; From the 2 Major Parties”

By Sally Shelis

                Amelia City, Iowa- In what has become referred to my many as a referendum political season on the first half of the Biden-Harris Administration, the voters of Amelia County in southwestern Iowa have made a declaration with their ballots that they aren’t interested in partaking of the usual partisan bickering that has defined the political space since the inauguration of President Donald Trump in January of 2017. They have chosen by the widest known margin in the mid-term elections to send an Independent to Congress on their behalf, rather than keep GOP incumbent Craig Lewiston or install local socialite Mary Williamson of the Democratic Party.

                Henry Townsend, the Amelia County District Attorney, is perhaps best known regionally as one of the most astringently honest people to ever get involved in politics on the national level. Boasting one of the highest conviction ratios among metropolitan DA’s of comparable size across the country, Townsend has on two prior occasions attempted to run for the seat, and has fallen only a little short in each of those instances, despite not having the traditional infrastructure of a major political party to fall back on when faced with the sort of challenges that a campaign will face throughout an election cycle.

                But more than that, in this contributor’s opinion, has helped finally secure the seat for Townsend, a native of Amelia City like his predecessor and principle opponent in this election, Craig Lewiston. To begin with, Mr. Townsend has long been said by locals to be a man of the people, proving as such by going on the podcast of one Sarah Chambers, a colorful local of some repute. He has also been more than fair with defendants throughout the county, often offering far lesser charges with plea deals for those facing their first offenses or petty misdemeanors. He has also managed to appeal to the normally center-right or more conservative residents of the county by staunchly refusing to address matters of law and order from the position of his own experience as an African-American; as was noted by a local opinion contributor for Ben Shapiro’s ‘The Daily Wire’, Mr. Townsend has never given into any kind of impulse to, quote, ‘-play the race card’.

                And lastly, Townsend’s association with campaign manager Sasha Kowen, a much-beloved local artist, seems to have won him huge favor among not only the more artistically-inclined but normally politically uninvolved, but also among the LGBTQ+ community, as Kowen has, for several years, been known as a staunch ally and spokesperson for their issues.

                So while Lewiston could count on some traditionally conservative voters to back his re-election bid, and Williams could lean on liberals and progressives, it turns out that the oft-ignored middle of the political realm of voters finally came to see, in Townsend, someone who could and would best represent them and their interests in Washington, D.C. It would seem that at long last, the people of Amelia County will have someone in office who properly represents them.

**

                Henry set his name placard in the last box, and turned to hand it to the young man in plain gray coveralls, putting his hands on his hips with a smile as he watched the fellow head out of the office with it. Rebecca Stallworth, the Assistant District Attorney who would be temporarily taking over his role until such time as a special election could be held to see who the county’s new DA would be, stood beaming at him in the corner of the office.

                “It’s going to be weird,” she commented, looking around the emptied office. The desk itself would remain, Henry’s lone gift to the room and his replacement. “I’ve gotten so accustomed to seeing you in here, Henry.”

                “Yeah, it’s been pretty much home away from home,” he replied with a slow look around the emptied room. “And believe me, it’s gonna be weird having two homes.”

                “Are you going to buy a place in D.C.,” Rebecca asked as he pushed off of the desk and led her out into the main office space of their floor of the building.

                “No, I’ll try to find something small to rent while I’m there. Did you know that Lewiston just parked his old RV at a campgrounds north of the District? Got himself satellite internet pretty cheap, ran most of his business right out of the camper. Says it saved him a ton of money, and he has one of those fancier ones with a full kitchen setup.”

                “Pretty smart. Cost effective, too.”

                “The man isn’t dumb. I was hoping to talk to him a little before heading to Washington, but he hasn’t come back to Amelia since the election.” The pair headed down the hallway to the bank of elevators that led up and down the imposing structure of Amelia City Hall, slipping into one that was sliding shut with the red arrow marked for street level, smiling awkwardly at the other passengers riding with them.

                “Do you think he might stay in the D.C. area a little while,” Rebecca asked. “Like, maybe he’s gotten accustomed to being out east now?”

                “Possible,” Henry said. “After lunch, I want to go see a fellow from the campaign to thank him for his help. You okay putting off the whole transfer overview until tomorrow?”

                “Um, sure,” she replied. “This guy’s not in the city, I take it?”

                “No, his place is a little out of the way, en route to North Perry. Not that long a hike, but I want to pick his brain about some things, see if he might be interested in coming onboard to work with me in D.C.” Rebecca nodded, leading the way off of the elevator into the building’s broad lobby.

                “Say yeah, whatever happened to that Kowen woman who was managing your campaign? She seemed to like, disappear right after the election,” Rebecca observed. This was more accurate, Henry thought, than she knew; the day after the results were officially acknowledged by the state’s Board of Electors, Henry received a call from Sasha to congratulate him on his much-deserved victory.

                “We know you’ll do memorable things for the people of Amelia,” she had said, then hung up after a short chuckle. And that had been that. He had tried to call her back later, but a pre-recorded message informed him that the number he had dialed was no longer in service. When he went to Howard Betting Tower to pay her a personal visit the day after that, he was informed by the doorman that Ms. Kowen and her associates had been seen dropping off her keys with the building’s manager the day before. “Odd fellows, those two she kept with her,” the doorman said with a shiver. “Like fire and ice, them.”

                As he and Rebecca sat down to order their lunch a few minutes later at a diner he had frequented for years as Amelia’s DA, Henry wondered what exactly he would say to or ask of Roderick when he got to his converted home.

**

                “What the hell,” Henry rasped as he stopped his car and threw it into ‘Park’, killing the engine and clambering out. His heart rate took an immediate jump, as what his eyes fell upon defied not only expectations, but logic in general.

                The old U.S. Marshals’ Service station looked like it had been abandon and overrun by the wilds for years.

                The small stables where Roderick had kept Rogue ostensibly in foul weather, and where the horse would sleep and take its oats and hay in the winter, was now a dilapidated and half-fallen-in thing, its boards crumbling and rotted through. The front of the old concrete-and-brick structure was layered in climbing ivy and moss, and several of the windows that had previously been shining, sturdy glass backed by drawn shutters were now broken in, dingy with age and carelessness.

                It didn’t look like it had been occupied for years.

                Henry started walking slowly toward the building, pausing a moment before stepping away from his vehicle. He thought of every horror movie he had seen over the years, and reached back into his vehicle, popping the trunk. He went around to the rear of his car, putting in the combination on a small case within to reveal a Glock 9mm. From another case, kept under the passenger seat, he retrieved two fully loaded clips, sliding one into the weapon and pocketing the other in his back right pants pocket.

                “Should have a fucking priest with me here,” he muttered to himself. Henry approached the building with careful cross steps, weapon held barrel down, his finger kept carefully outside of the trigger guard, as he had been instructed. He was no expert, not by a long shot, but Henry had paid close attention to the safety courses he had taken before acquiring his own firearm.

                When he got to the front doors of the station, Henry felt a drop of cold sweat run its course down his forehead; he could see from the corner of his eye some kind of movement, and whipping around to the left, still keeping his weapon held down, he gasped at the sight of what had caught his attention-

                Which turned out to be the ostensible owner of this decrepit property, Roderick. The cowboy stood there silently, a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth, one hand hovering stock-still over the handle of that large knife of his. His forehead and eyes were hazy to the eye, half-concealed in the shadow cast by his broad-brimmed traveler’s hat.

                “You mind puttin’ that thing away, councilor,” Roderick asked gently in that rough, raw voice of his. Henry slid the safety on, and tucked the weapon at the small of his back in his waistband. He felt the native unease that he associated with most of Sasha’s people, an instinctive terror that fairly screeched in the dark recesses of his mind to take this chance and flee this nightmare creature before him that looked so much like just an anachronistic man out of time.

                You know better than that, a strange but eerily chipper voice whispered in his mind. You KNOW he’s more than some middle-aged man indulging in cosplay. Henry cleared his throat, and hooked a thumb toward the façade of the old Marshals’ station. “What’s going on here, Roderick? I was just out here a couple of months ago; this place looks like it hasn’t been lived in in years.”

                “That’s because it hasn’t been,” Roderick said simply, reaching up to take the cigarette from his mouth and tap the ashes off to one side in the dead grass. “I won’t trouble you with the specifics, pard, you don’t need to know ‘em. You just need to know that it’s too late, now,” Roderick said, turning slightly and beginning to walk toward the driveway that would take him back toward the main road between Amelia City and North Perry. “I told you you could walk away, that you had one last chance. You blew it.”

                “What the hell are you talking about,” Henry snarled, not thinking as he took several steps toward Roderick’s back. The old cowboy paused, turning his head to one side. “Who are you people, anyway?”

                “We’re nobody good, councilor,” the knife-wielding man said with a hint of ennui in his voice. “We’re part of the reason you used a baseball bat to kill a monster in your condo bedroom about three months ago,” he said, sending Henry’s heartbeat into what would be a dangerous rhythm in an older or less healthy man. “We’re the reason Mary Williams was impaled on the limb of a walking, living, breathing tree demon that walked right out of a painting to do its creator’s bidding, to clear you a path to Congress.”

                Roderick walked over to Henry’s car then, opened the back seat door, and reached in, seeming to grapple with something inside. He came back out holding some kind of oversized, metal-plated scorpion with gnashing teeth like a leech, its stinger thrashing the air uselessly as Roderick deftly pulled out his knife and rammed it through the monster’s head. The thing slid off with a ‘splat’, and the cowboy wiped his blade off on a pant leg, sheathed it, and kicked the scorpion-thing a few feet away. He planted his feet and squared himself off toward Henry, the pale light of the day at this angle exposing an expression that, while weathered and clearly hardened, also appeared somehow worndown, weary. “We are not good people, Henry. We’re just not, and you need to leave Amelia City behind now, as fast as can be. Because you have been touched now by the strangers, Henry,” Roderick said, turning toward the woods surrounding the property. “And we don’t give third warnings.”

                Henry stood transfixed, staring as the scorpion-thing seemed to melt away into black dust, like a mirage falling apart in a stiff wind.