“ ‘Fly With Me’ is playing at the Ivy Theatre!” sang Kelly.
Matthew bent his face down to the printer and began to speak to it as if it was hard of hearing. “If you’re Rettel then click three times,” he announced for the fun of it.
The printer stopped and then clicked three times.
Kelly and Erin jumped off their feet.
“If you want to meet at the Ivy, then click two times and stop and then click two times again,” tested Matthew.
The printer clicked two times, stopped and then clicked two times again.
“Whoa!” mouthed Matthew silently. “He can hear us …” he whispered.
The printer clicked two times.
Erin squinted her brow and steam burst from her ears as she realized that her apartment must be bugged.
”How dare you!” she protested.
The printer printed a message and shot a piece of paper out across the floor.
Kelly ran to pick it up. “It says: ‘Time’ ”
“We’d better go,” announced Matthew. “It’s almost 2 pm.”
The three friends ran down the stairs and for two blocks to the Ivy Theatre, where they stared down everyone who passed by in search of the infamous Rettel.
“It could be anyone,” said Matthew with exasperation.
“And there could be more than one of them,” warned Erin. “Sometimes Treasure Hunters travel in packs.”
The three of them looked like cats in a dog pound as they nervously stood with their backs against the wall of the building.
“Greetings,” announced Rettel, with a soft, confident voice. He was not at all what Erin expected. She had imagined a mean, spiteful sort of person, but instead he was mesmerizingly at ease. She couldn’t decide what his nationality was, only that his features were striking. He looked younger than they were but he exuded a confidence that made him seem much older.
“Shall we talk?” he asked. “There’s a place in the park across the street.” They followed him without question through the traffic and along a path down by the river, until they arrived at a bench that sat under an Ash tree.
Erin planned to start the conversation with a set of demands but her anger was nowhere to be found. She wondered what was wrong with her as she, Kelly and Matthew acted as if they were school kids on a field trip with their favourite teacher.
Rettel stood in front of them with the negative white spotlight of the sun behind him, so that even when they squinted their eyes they could only see his outline. Every now and then, Erin was sure she could see wings rise up from behind him, but she convinced herself that it must be the shadows from the bikers who rode by. She was so taken by his presence that she did not hear a single word he said.
“You want her to do what?” asked Matthew incredulously.
“Now?” asked Kelly.
“What?” asked Erin.
“Yes,” confirmed Rettel.
“What did he say?” repeated Erin.
“He said he wants you to run for office!” announced Matthew.
Erin sat in silence as her consciousness distantly floated above her head in a bubble that spun in an eddy current on the gentle breeze that meandered down the river. She seemed to have no emotion at all, just an acute oneness with everything around her. The whole of the earth including the river, rocks and trees, seemed to have a sentient form and voice.
“Erin!” shouted Matthew. “Erin!”
It was hard for her hear him because she was so far away, but gradually the concreteness of the moment burst the bubble and down she came back to the park bench.
The three of them were staring at her waiting for an answer.
“Yes. I’ll do it.”
Matthew covered his mouth with his hand and Kelly beamed with the excitement of it all.
Rettel looked at Matthew and said, “You know what to do,” and then he disappeared.
Matthew looked left and right but Rettel was gone, nowhere to be seen. He knew that Rettel had simply vanished but his mind decided that because the sunlight was in their eyes, Rettel must have walked away quickly into the shadows.
Erin, Kelly and Matthew ran to the registration office and rang the bell to get the clerks attention.
“We want to register,” said Matthew authoritatively.
“For what?” asked the clerk.
“For office,” announced Matthew.
The clerk rose slowly, slapped a piece of paper on the counter and looked at the clock. “You’re cutting it close,” she admonished drolly. “We’re about to close and the deadline is today.” Then she used her elbow and a tilt of her neck to point towards the pen. “All the crazies want in on the last of it,” she added unabashedly. “You’re the fourth one today. I could barely breathe for the smell of alcohol on most of them.”
Matthew purposely dismissed the clerks attempt to put them off, and he placed the form squarely in front of Erin. She picked up the pen and checked the appropriate boxes.
“You’ll need an endorsement,” proclaimed the clerk.
“She’s running as an independent,” defended Matthew. “She does not need an endorsement.”
“Sure,” replied the clerk as she rolled her eyes. “Check the office you’re running for and sign your name.”
Erin’s hand hovered over the form in a moment that seemed to be frozen in time. The pen was poised above an endless list of political positions to run for in which a single stroke of ink would seal her fate.
Matthew wanted to tell her to drop the pen and run but instead he held his breath, while Kelly leaned in for a closer look and chewed her nails in anticipation.
The pen moved slowly towards the form and with a flick of her wrist, Erin chose:
“Of course. The highest office in the land. You shouldn’t have much trouble at all,” sang the clerk sarcastically. “A man was in here this very morning and signed up his cat for Taoiseach. Why not?”
Matthew and Kelly both raised their eyebrows and looked at each other with wild eyes, as Erin carefully and deliberately signed her name to the form. The sound of the roller ball lightly pressing through the paper on the linoleum counter top was smooth and even.
Signature: Erin McBride
“It’s done,” announced Erin as she stepped back from the counter.
“You’ll receive a confirmation letter in the mail,” mocked the clerk as she pulled down a noisy metal screen gate and locked it with a shake to make sure it held. Then, over her shoulder she threw Erin’s form towards the ‘In Box’ and grabbed her coat and turned off the lights and left the room.
Rettel immediately announced Erin’s intention to run for office on the Ansel and Rettel website, and it caused quite a stir.
When her family heard about it her father stared off into the ceiling, her mother nearly spit out her tea, Father Michael got knots in his stomach, Mrs. Mancinni fumed, and little three year old Finny couldn’t have cared less.
However, when Rettel’s Commander, Captain White heard the news he nearly blew the door off his office as he charged towards the main control floor where the ‘software geeks’ managed the mules. He made a bee-line to Ryan’s desk but he wasn’t there.
“Get me that kid now!” screamed the Captain.
“Officer Rettel … I mean Ryan, Sir, hasn’t been in today and we cannot locate him,” she replied. "He seems to have disappeared.”
“Shut him down!”
“And shut the site down!”
“Sir … I wouldn’t advise it, Sir!” she stammered.
Captain White knew that he would be raked over the coals for Rettel's rogue behaviour. He would have to explain why a government controlled website launched a candidate who would directly challenge the seat of the head of government, the existing Taoisaech. Captain White was certain that he would be dismissed with dishonour.
“Shut it down!” he yelled.
“But it's the only site we have running in some countries, Sir. It would be a complete Code Black to dump it without a backup.”
Captain white gritted his teeth and yelled so hard that the ceiling trembled. “Get me a new mule people! And make it quick! We don’t have much time!”