They came in the dark before dawn; their short hair spiked straight up with Coach briefcases. The taller one carried a Transatlantic Beekman with his Armani pinstripe. His shorter, heavier and older one carried the Logan Brief his wife had bought him for Christmas the previous year. That one was also attempting a combover to cover the growing bald spot on the crown of his head. It thrilled him a little that his younger companion was showing more forehead than he used to. The polling place supervisor, a seventy-six year old retired steel mill worker named Alan Fenstermaker, ambled up the sidewalk lugging a box full of supplies. He drew back in fear when he noticed the two beasts waiting by the door. He had seen and heard stories about their kind before but had never actually seen them. He had hoped they would pass by his polling location. After all in 2000 they hadn't ventured north of Tallahasse and in 2004 they had haunted Columbus. But there they were, staring him down from the portico of the senior center. He could almost smell the crazy coming off them.
They watched silently as the doors were unlocked. Alan knew the real trouble would come once they were inside.
He set down the voter registration rolls and walked over to the snack bar to start the coffee. The tall one wandered over to the thick black books. He ran his hands over them and Alan would later swear he heard democracy cry a little.
"How do we know these are correct?" The tall man asked. "How can we be sure every name in here is valid and legal?"
Alan gestured at the books. "Those came from the election board."
The shorter lawyer laughed a little. It was a small sound, devoid of humor and full of skepticism. "ACORN signed up some of these "voters"," he said. Alan could actually see the quotes around the word voter shimmer in the air.
"That's what they give me down at the board of elections and that's what we're using." Alan insisted.
Tall man thumbed through the book, absently glancing at the names on the pages as they fluttered by. "We're challenging them. We have to know if each voter is valid."
Alan looked puzzled. "Challenging who?"
The squat, older lawyer let a greasy smile spread across his mouth. "Everyone of them. Every person who comes through that door, every person who looks a little iffy. Everyone...with a 'D' next to their name."
"Now wait a minute..." Alan protested.
"No, old man," said the taller of the two. "You look. I don't know what all these people think they're up to but there is an order to things and we won't see it disrupted. There are wars to win, wells to drill and health care benefits to be taxed." He reached into his briefcase and threw a thick file on the table. It slid toward Alan who backed away from it. "The voters on the list in that file are suspect."
"Because we say they are!" The short man yelled. "We worked Florida in 2000! We had our man inside Fox News, that harpy in the Secretary of State's office and the Supreme Court in our pocket. Ohio doesn't afford us those advantages but if the votes don't count, well...they don't count." He kicked a chair toward Alan. "Get comfortable. It's going to be a long day."
Alan stood stiffly, afraid of what he would have to put up with. He had heard stories of lawyers and investigators, scaring voters with wild stories and intimidation. Something had to be done. He fretted for a moment and then reached in his pocket. His fingers closed around a small object and he smiled. He stood up straighter and charged at the Bruno Magli clad ogres.
"Begone ye foul demons!" He shouted. "Leave this place and never return! You're not wanted in this good and decent place by these good and decent folks! They'll not bear the sight of ye while they go about their duty!" The two lawyers advanced on him but he pulled his fist from his pocket and thrust it at them. They pulled up short, cowering before the retired mill worker.
"No," cried the tall one. "You can't."
"I can!" Alan roared. "I can and I am!"
"We have masters," the older one said softly. "We cannot go to them in failure. Please," he groveled, "let us just have a few of them."
"I've no care for your futures, monsters! Ye must be gone!"
Obediently, the two lawyers backed to the door and pushed it open. The tall man looked at Alan with pleading eyes. He held his arm out again, swinging the talisman in front of him. They went through the door and bolted across the parking lot to their Chrysler 300.
Alan sat down, exhausted, and dropped his hands to the table. His right hand opened and an object rolled onto the scarred surface of the well used buffet table. "All those years I've been carrying you," he said softly. "And I never realized your power."
The object was old, almost a century and a half old, but Alan always pulled it out of its case on election day. He had worked every election for the last twenty years and never did it without the talisman his father had passed on to him just as his grandfather had passed it to his son.
The 1860 Licoln election button looked up at Alan. Lincoln, the Republican president who had decided to extend Federal power over state's rights in order to preserve the Union and who hated how slavery undermined the legitimacy of his party. No GOP goon could long stand against such conviction. Alan smiled. When things were left to the people, the people would decide what they wanted. He got up and unlocked the doors for the voters.
32 minutes ago