The Victim

Chapter Three: Ascent

Takeover

A few days after the shooting I’m well enough to receive visitors. At first it’s only people from the campaign and natdec. Then, the people working at my late husband’s campaign set up a press conference for me. I’m still convalescent, with bandages wrapping up my left arm. When I enter the room in the hospital set up for my press conference, it’s already full of reporters and cameras. They all stand up to applaud.

I get to a small stage and stand in front of the microphones. My uncle stands at my left, my friend from school at my right. She’s holding my daughter’s hand, who is at her right. After the reporters take enough photos, I extend my right arm to quiet them down. “As most of you know by now, a few days ago me and my husband were shot, point-blank, by a maniac.” I stop for a moment. “My husband was not perfect. He made mistakes during his term in office, mistakes that hurt our family in specific.”

“But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a good man, or that I didn’t love him,” I continue, more determined and louder. “That doesn’t mean his vision wasn’t the right one. And I’m sorry, oh, you don’t know how much, that he couldn’t live to change everything he wanted to change. Not only for him, but for all the people that wanted to vote for him because they believed in his dream.”

“You see, when a politician like him is killed, it’s not only him that dies and their family that weeps. The electorate has also lost something. Something valuable. That… poor, deranged assassin took away the chance to change. I just hope somebody else comes along and carries on with his vision. Thank you,” I conclude, unleashing the pack of rabid reporters that bark their questions, thinking I can understand a single word they say.

“Please, one at a time,” says my friend from school. Almost every hand from the crowd is raised. I point to one of them. “What do you plan to do next?” she asks. “Mourn and recover. After that, I’ll see.” I point to the next one. “Did you know the shooter spoke to an unidentified woman just days before the shooting?” The question throws me off, but I remind myself they’re not looking for me, that I was wearing a wig, that there were no cameras, and that I left no trace.

“I’m not aware of the details of the investigation, I leave that up to the state, in which I have absolute faith.” I point to the next question. “Will you run for governor this term?” The room fills with expecting rumor after the question. “Well, I-I hadn’t really thought about it. But perhaps it’s too soon for me, sorry.” There’s plenty of raised hands, but I don’t think this is going anywhere. “I hope you excuse me, but I’d like to rest now. Thank you for your questions,” I say before standing down from the stage and heading for the door. I hear loud applause behind me as I leave.

My friends and family follow me like an entourage. When we get to my room, uncle asks my friend from school to wait outside with my daughter. She nods and takes her to buy candy. He closes the door and it’s just us. “I-I think you should consider running for governor,” he says, “If you’re up for it of course.” I look at him confused. “But, isn’t it too soon?” I ask. “People will think—” “People will think you’re strong, and a hero,” he interrupts me. “The state needs reform, you have a lot of momentum right now. Do this not only for yourself, but also for your daughter, so one day you can help her like I helped my niece and nephew.”

“I don’t know,” I say, hesitant. By now he thinks this is all his idea. “Look,” he says grabbing my shoulders. “I’m just as shocked and horrified by my nephew’s death as you are. But you have to keep in mind the bigger goal here. My family… well, our family, has held government posts for the past sixty-four years. My father and his father before him worked hard and made compromises to make sure their children achieved greatness. The only one left to carry on this legacy is you and your daughter, and dammit if I don’t make sure she has the best possible chance!”

He takes both my hands. “Run for governor, accrue friends and favors. For her,” he says. “For her…” I repeat, looking down. “But let’s not announce just yet,” I say and he nods in agreement. “And one more thing,” I say. “Anything,” says uncle. “From now on, my friend from school will be part of the family. She can be over anytime I want.” At first he hesitates, but then he smiles and says “You’ll make a great politician.” I spend the next couple of days with my daughter and my friend from school. Someone from the campaign calls during the first night I spend home. Apparently, there’s a new tag that is getting some popularity on social media: #makehergovernor.

It turns out that after my speech, several articles were published praising me and saying I should run for the office. At this moment there are sixteen thousand, three hundred and eighty-four tweets supporting my bid. By the second day, uncle and I are getting calls offering support if I decide to run. That very afternoon I announce my candidacy for governor, explaining how I’ve been “asked” to run.

With less than two months before the election, the campaign that worked for my late husband now works at full steam for me. I attend as many events as I possibly can, accepting certain generous donors as future members of my cabinet. During the first week alone, I struck deals with my future secretary of commerce, director of finance, commissioner of human resources and superintendent of banking. All of them female administrators beyond reproach.

Uncle was right, I do have plenty of momentum to win the election. My small, favor-trading entourage appears with me in public. I’ve met most of the members already in past events, some years ago. They’re all vipers, though not all of them have poison in their fangs. I take social media by storm, and spend a lot of time answering messages personally, sharing tweets from other people, commenting, etc.

Finally election day comes. There are no shadows lumbering over me, no scandals. I stand proud and strong. When the results start dripping in, it seems like it’s going to be a close race. But then, I take the lead. Oh and what a lead. The gap that separates me and the conservative candidate widens and widens. Eight per cent lead, sixteen per cent… There’s champagne and victory celebrations when there’s less than eight per cent of uncounted ballots. The final results are crushing. I receive sixty-four percent of the total votes, a landslide victory. I’m going to become governor.