On election night, the Republican Party of Bartlette County met at the Oak Mountain Inn. A somber crowd filled the resteraunt to capacity. One wall had two giant televisions on it. The first had Mountain 7 News and the a second was hooked to a computer showing official election results out of Richmond.
It had been a terrible idea to substitute Greg Harvey as candidate for sheriff after Riker Minton died. No one liked Harvey and the man spent every waking moment of the last week and a half screaming at the top of his lungs that Bo Ross killed Sheriff Minton. By election day people were starting to remember that the Sheriff had suffered two or three heart attacks before and really should not have been running for another term. To no one's surprise, it became clear almost immediately that Bo Ross had the election in hand.
The election for commonwealth attorney was much closer. Brad carried Saint Minas by a wide majority, but lost Yared by an even wider gap. The votes from the precincts outside the towns had balanced everything out and given Brad a fifteen vote lead. Then everyone waited for the votes out of Mount View.
Two hours later, they were still waiting. At eleven-thirteen Brad was talking to Karen Layle, who had been unopposed in her re-election as County Treasurer, when he heard a commotion. Turning, he saw people congregating in front of the television with the computer results. He walked a little closer so that he could see. Then one of the people standing in his way moved aside and Brad saw the screen.
Mount View's results were posted. Brad Dollerby - 286 / Yusif "Joe" Habib - 313.
He felt some grab his arm and looked over. Maggie was leading him to a chair. For the next few minutes Brad listened to person after person offer him condolences. When the commiserants were gone, Maggie handed him his cell phone and whispered into his ear that he needed to call Habib and congratulate him. All Brad did - all he could do - was hand the phone back and say "Not happening." Judas may have gotten his thirty pieces of silver, but Brad would go to Hell himself before he'd congratulate the bastard for it.
Everyone was cheering and congratulating Yusif. The Democrats had all gathered at Clyde Mullins' house to await election results. Early in the evening everyone had cheered when Bo Ross' victory was confirmed. Now they were almost delirious with joy. For the first time in anyone's memory, the Democratic Party won two of the constitutional offices in Bartlette County.
For most of the evening the prospects seemed gloomy. Dollerby had a slight lead over Yusif and the only precinct left to report was Mount View. Mount View was a Republican bastion and in the last election the closest any of the Democratic candidates had come to victory was more than a hundred votes behind the Republican. Yet, there had been some reason to hope. At least half the Sheriff's deputies lived in Mount View and they were not happy that Dollerby was prosecuting deputies. As well, Greg Harvey was unliked by the deputies because he was the person who did all the Sheriff’s dirty work, including punishment and firing.
Then the results came in and Yusif carried the town by twenty-seven votes.
The beer was flowing freely from the kegs in the kitchen and everyone was walking around with blue solo cups. The music was turned up, the lights in the main room dimmed, and it seemed like everyone under the age of fifty was dancing in the main room.
Yusif was outside with some of the older men, most of whom were smoking cigars. He could see the giant “Elect Bo & Joe” sign down by the road. His feelings were mixed. He was flush with victory, but also recognized the price. His relationship with his two best friends had been sacrificed for principle and a political job.
Brad did not call to concede or offer his congratulations. Maggie called. She was terse and cold, giving a formal congratulations and hanging up even as he thanked her.
As he stood there studying his ambivalence, the music in the house stopped and a chant of “joe, joe, Joe, JOE . . .” broke through his thoughts. He turned toward the house just as Maddy opened the door. “You better get in here, “Joe”, before this gang rips Daddy’s house apart looking for you. I think they want a speech from the conquering hero.”
Yusif put his arm around Maddy and they walked back into the house together.
It was late and Jerome sat alone, reading Interior Castle, in a little chapel attached to Saint Mary of Serenity church in Fairfax. It was separated from the church proper by a small glass wall and had just enough room in it for the tabernacle and four small pews which might seat sixteen people. It was a place for prayer and reverence. Jerome hoped it would serve as a sanctuary as well.
He knew he was asleep when a voice came from behind him.
“Really? Jerome, has He ever stopped me from talking to you before?”
“I don't think it's the Lord's fault that I cannot rid myself of you.” Jerome replied. “It's my lack of faith. Were I able to embrace the Holy Trinity more fully there would be no room for you.”
“That's a mighty convenient excuse. If they don't act it's because you failed them. Your Trinitarian God never seems to take responsibility for its own failures.”
“Speaking of failures,” the voice continued, “have you seen the result of your own failure yet?”
“That was no failure. It was merely an election result.”
"Sure about that, are you? Even after I told you of all the good Dollerby could have done without your interference?"
"All you told me was that he would become powerful. And all of that power would have been founded in the blood of a man Brad caused to be killed."
"You are good at rationalizing things, Priest. You can't see the trouble you've caused yet."
Jerome's anger flared. "Free will. It is given by God to everyone and everyone in Bartlette was exercising their free will. You cannot lay this at my feet!"
"I don't have to, Priest. You'll do that all by yourself. You know you are responsible for the things that are going to go wrong, whether you will admit it to me or not."
When Jerome woke, he spent a long time with his head bowed in prayer.
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