* * *
“I would like to thank presidential candidate Parsons for being with us today, stay tuned for more right after this…”
John stood, shook hands, said a few pleasantries, and was on his way to limo number three. Since Ron Parsons was from the same political party as the sitting president, he only needed to emphasize his willingness to do what was in the best interest of the country and an eagerness to improve the people’s perception of the party and the presidency.
It was all trite and boring, but he had to play the part. He was eager to get back into his own body and a few hours sleep before the farce stared again. He managed to make it to the street entrance of the studio without incident. The long hours were tiring, but after the election, the missed sleep would be worth it.
“Mister Parsons, a word before you head off?” John paused and looked in the direction of the voice. It was coming from an attractive woman, brown hair and eyes, in her early – to mid twenties. John started to smile, but his eyes focused on her press badge. Her cameraman followed behind her and kept the camera pointing toward the ground. It was a maneuver to keep him relaxed, but he knew the press had power.
Normally he wouldn’t have stopped for an unscheduled interview, and he was about to say so when he caught a whiff of her perfume. It wasn’t anything special, some sort of vanilla scent. John’s wife had worn vanilla. His pause was enough to allow her to catch up with him.
“My name is Teresa.” She pronounced it ‘Tur-ESS-a’ with all of the emphasis on the ‘ess.’ “This guy with the camera,” she jerked the hand holding the wireless microphone over her shoulder, “is my brother, Tim.”
John gave her his most practiced politician smile, “I’m pretty busy Teresa.” He handed her a business card. “Call to set up something a little more,” he paused and his eyes roved over her professional pantsuit, “intimate,” he concluded before stepping into the waiting limo. If Teresa responded, he hadn’t heard it.
* * *
Election day had finally arrived.
John continued shuffling interviews, appearances, and speeches with all three bodies. He continued the diatribe playing all three roles: James Hudson as the frustrated outsider demanding change, Ron Parsons as the fast track candidate trying to distance himself from the current administration, and President John Michaels as the incumbent striving to ensure a smooth transition and secretly hoping his party stayed in power.
Tonight, his puppets had their roles to fulfill – all autonomous. They had been coached extensively, and they knew the price of deviating from script. Each candidate had victory and concession speeches written by John. He even recorded those speeches with identical podiums installed at each party’s headquarters. Video cameras would be banned – national security risk, of course. That guise had gotten him plenty of movement through out the campaign. Both parties had official videographers, and photographers. Still photos wouldn’t show anything out of the ordinary. There had been a point to focusing the debates on the candidates themselves. Vice presidential running mates would be sufficiently out of the frame for the speeches.
John’s obedient proxies would give the appropriate speeches when the winner was announced, but the speeches handed over to the press and posted online would be the prerecorded speeches he performed. The endeavor that started two years ago, and ramped up the last two months, would finally reach fruition. In a few hours he would be president of the United States again regardless of how the insipid, stupid masses voted.
He gave ‘strong ess’ Teresa a few interviews as Ron Parsons, but he steered her access toward President John Michaels. She would be at the Parsons headquarters, but she would be spending her time as President Michaels’ guest. She was eager to get John’s reaction as each district reported. He would try to cultivate her – any other kind of relationship would have been inappropriate.
John decided that if he couldn’t have her, he could at least keep her close. Tonight she was wearing a flattering black dress accentuating her curves. Several other reporters took notice of her and John felt the same pride in others noticing her as he did in his rare book collection. She was definitely worth a look, but he knew no one would touch. She laughed at his jokes and made small talk all night. There was nothing like a beautiful young woman to make him feel younger. It was as if he were in his twenties again when he was around her. He relished the feeling more intoxicating than any drug.
Teresa stayed taking notes until the polls had closed. James Hudson was declared the winner early and Ron Parsons gave his somber concession speech. It was followed immediately by Hudson’s victory speech, raspy from the cheering. Ron Parsons would be paid for his services but he wouldn’t be able to enjoy it – there could be no loose ends. James Hudson would be a malleable figurehead; John was comfortable ruling from behind the throne – especially since he would find himself being consulted by the new administration.