THE CANDIDATE • by Gustavo Bondoni

“I’m sorry sir. Nothing personal,” the driver said as the car pulled to a stop along a deserted stretch of mountain road. The gun in his hand kept Emery from moving.

“What’s happening, Tim?”

“Better offer from someone else.” The driver shrugged. “Hush, now. They’ll be here soon.”

Almost immediately, a Hummer pulled up in the roadway behind them. Black. Sinister. Unmarked. Four men descended and approached the limo.

Tim ordered Emery out. They stood facing the men.

Emery had expected Arabs, or Russians or Chinese. He was disappointed. The three men looked like a cross section of middle class America. The thin black guy in the conservative suit and pencil mustache seemed to be in charge while the two big white guys — one blond-haired, one dark — moved to either side of Emery.

“Good work, Tim,” the leader said. “We’ll take it from here.”

Tim nodded and handed over the pistol. As soon as the gun was out of sight, the blond guy took a step forward and punched the driver in the face. He went down in a spray of blood and stayed there, kicking feebly.

Emery was enraged. “Do you know who I am?”

The black guy just smiled. “Of course we do. We can’t let you win today. And the only way to stop you is to kill you. Goodbye, Mr. Emery.”

Emery struggled, but the big guys stuffed him back into the limo. They put the semi-conscious driver into the front seat and locked the doors and bulletproof windows from the driver’s compartment. He was trapped.

Emery had been suspicious from the outset. It had all been too easy. His party had made it seem perfectly rational. His approval rating in his home state was through the roof. He had the ideal physical characteristics — strong enough to be respected by men, handsome enough to be trusted by women. They gleefully pointed out that the opposing party had been making a huge mess of things for the past four years. It would be a landslide. The polls had upheld this view.

So, if everything was so peachy, why wasn’t he the least bit surprised that, instead of being on his way to vote for himself, he was trapped inside a limo awaiting God knew what fate?

The car shuddered. The Hummer had come up behind it and was pushing the limo forward. Through the window and the partition, Emery could see a sharp turn approaching a few hundred yards ahead. Nothing but a long fall awaited on the other side of the guardrail.

He pulled desperately at the door handles as the car gathered speed, but it was no use. The doors were locked from the driver’s cabin. He pounded on the glass, trying to get Tim to react. The driver seemed sluggish, looking back in confusion. Emery frantically gestured for the man to look forward.

The driver turned and sat there, uncomprehending, for precious moments before he reacted. He gripped the steering wheel with both hands – just as the limo hit the guardrail and went over it like it wasn’t even there.

Silence filled the cabin as the car sailed through the air, all road noise gone. Emery could see the ground hundreds of feet below as the nose of the vehicle pitched forward to face it.

The driver scrambled madly — hopelessly — to steer the car back. The realization that this was it, he was going to die, took root in Emery’s soul. He silently watched the screaming driver, fascinated, horrified.

His own self-control deserted him with the ground less than forty feet away. He began to scream, but cut it off when a sudden unexpected deceleration slammed him into the glass partition separating the driver and passenger compartments. The car was still again. The mounting wind noise had subsided along with the screams, and Emery could see that they were, impossibly, floating just a couple of yards off the grassy slope. As he watched, it descended gently to the ground, twisting slowly in midair to position itself wheels downward.

The three guys who met them when they staggered out of the car could have shared the other three guys’ tailor — conservative grey all around — but they certainly didn’t look like Americans. It wasn’t anything specific which set them apart — all three were Caucasian — but it might have been the pallor of their skins or the deadness of their eyes.

As they approached, Emery found himself chuckling. Those dead eyes, almost matte brown in appearance, reminded him of his vice-president to be. And then he stopped laughing. They really looked like his vice president’s eyes, somehow flatter than they should have been. He’d never really liked Kristoff, and those eyes were probably the reason.

“Ah, Mr. Emery,” the nearest said. “I’m so glad we got to you in time.” His voice had the same unemotional nasal quality that had insured that his own running mate would never make any of the truly important speeches.

“What? How did you — ” Emery gave up and just waved in the general direction of the car, the cliff and the broken guardrail.

“That’s classified, I’m afraid.”

“But it was you? Not divine intervention?”

“Yes. We’re friends of your vice-president. We were keeping an eye on you. If anything happened to you, his candidacy would have been ruined. New elections would have been called and your party would have selected a different formula.”

“Then you’re not with the guys on the hill?”

“Oh, no. We need you to win this election, Mr. Emery. We can’t allow you to be involved in any accidents.”


“Well, at least not yet,” the leader said, and flashed him a smile that showed way too many teeth. “Please come with us. You need to cast your vote.”

Gustavo Bondoni is an Argentine writer whose writng spans everything from literary fiction to silly comic fantasy to creative nonfiction. His day job keeps him too busy to write novels, but, even so, he has recently finished writing one.

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