“You’re creating a monogamy,” Willard yelled at Mayor Lemieux.
“Willard, you charming imbecile,” Christine Lemieux said. “It’s monopoly and no I am not.” She looked at Willard and shook her head. “Your brother is out to get both of us.”
“Come now Willard…”
“I’m not your sexual puppet,” Willard cried. “I can’t do that on command.”
“Wallis wants you bankrupt,” Lemieux said, ignoring Willard’s crude outburst. “And wants me out of the Mayor’s seat.”
“I don’t understand where his stupid idiot hatred comes from. Mother always said he was the calmest angry boy in the world,” Willard said. “I remember in elementary school Wallis, with a straight face, slowly walked over to the biggest kid in the school and punched him square in the throat.”
“Why’d he do that?” Lemieux asked.
“Said he learned it watching a prison movie. No other kid would mess with him after that,” Willard said. “He thinks he’s untouchable.” A crooked smile broke out on his face as if he experienced a nirvana of thought.
“We’re not going to punch your brother in the throat.” Lemieux looked at Willard’s suddenly downcast face. His brow, slightly protruding, reminded her of the Cro-Magnon man display at the museum in the city. She glanced down at his strong, meaty hands and bit her lip. “Listen Willard,” she said, averting her eyes to look outside her office window. “We need to have a game plan here. Pick our position.”
“Reverse cowgirl?” Willard asked with a smile.
“Focus, my dear sexually repressed constituent. How can we defend ourselves from a position of strength?”
“Well,” Willard said as he flexed. “I am stronger than him.”
“This will require cunning,” Lemieux advised.
“Thought, Willard, not vagina,” she said quickly.
“Oh, I knew that,” Willard said. He didn’t. He sat down in the chair. “I think we have to do something. Ha!” He snapped his fingers, but then trailed off, staring into the distance.
Lemieux grimaced as Willard’s black overalls shed dark dirt all over her office chair. She knew he was intelligent, just incredibly uneducated. When Willard failed to continue Lemieux shrugged her shoulders. Finally she asked. “Do you have a plan?”
“My brother has always liked playing with fire,” Willard said. “That’s why he opened a crematorium; so he could legally burn people.”
“Wallis is one weird cat. Even so, we’re not going to become arsonists, Willard,” Lemieux said, shaking her head.
“I don’t believe in that evolution garbage,” Willard said.
“That would be a Darwinist. We’re not going to start a fire,” Lemieux explained. “Where do the electrons in your brain go when you think?”
“I don’t know. Haven’t thought about that,” Willard said. “Speaking about electricity… Are we..?” Willard paused and a hungry look entered his eyes.
“Not tonight,” Lemieux said. “I have some work to do. Perhaps tomorrow.”
“I have two burials tomorrow,” Willard explained.
“Good. Then business is still booming,” Lemieux said with a smile.
“Well, they were boomers. But my cemetery can’t always rely on them you know. They’re dying out.” Willard stood up and rounded the desk, planting a kiss on Lemieux’s lips. She felt her back arc. “I’ll see you later.” She watched him lumber out of the office.
Christine Lemieux sat alone in her office for some time thinking about the little town she governed. Parford, population 3,200, had exactly nothing by way of attractions, except for the cemetery and crematorium. It did have a flourishing downtown thanks to the efforts of Lemieux. She managed to get a bylaw passed that forbid any chain stores, chain restaurants, and chain dealerships of any kind from opening within the county. It meant a thriving small business hub.
She knew all it took was a big stack of cash to bribe the two other councillors to change their minds. Which was why she had them constantly followed. She saw two older gentlemen appear in the hall and waved them into her office. They wore simple jeans and long sleeved shirts. One man was black and the other white; both retired carpenters from the local furniture factory. “Welcome gentlemen,” Lemieux said as they stood before her.
“Thank you Ms. Mayor,” said Reggie Black, the white man.
“I’m gettin’ fat,” said Jamie White, the black one. “Marvin is makin’ his burgers better and better.”
“That damn ketchup of his is to die for,” Black said, licking his lips.
“I’m glad you enjoy them. With each report you give me I’ll gladly pay for your meals.” Lemieux leaned back in her chair. “What do you have today?”
“Well, not much I’m afraid,” White said as pulled out a wad of napkins. He sighed and then put on his reading glasses. “Let’s see here.” He licked a finger and flipped through a few sheets. “Here we are.” White read silently, moving his lips. “I’ve been following Councillor O’Shea. He drives a little too fast for my liking, especially around his ex-wife’s house. He peels rubber every time he drives by and honks his horn. He’s been seeing some woman over in Normville. I guess you’d have to see a woman outside the county if you’re as big a jerk as O’Shea.” White and Black laughed heartily at the joke. White resumed reading a bit. “Oh, he almost hit a dog. Can you use that?”
“Not really,” Lemieux said with a smile. She didn’t care at all for the substance of the reports, just that the surveillance was being done.
“Councillor Johnson picks his nose an awful lot. I mean, always,” Black said. “It seems like it’s some kind of sickness he has. A finger is always up there.” Black made a scrunched up face as if he was going to be sick. “And he wipes his snot everywhere. Like he’s some kind of dog markin’ his territory.” The two men laughed. “Snot-dog. Can you use that information?”
“Hell yes,” Lemieux said. “I’ll not be shaking his hand ever again.”
The two retired carpenters continued to take turns advising Lemieux of the most trivial actions of the two councillors. She just sat there, listening. She knew her spies were idiots and bigmouths, flapping at anyone who’d listen. But that suited her just fine. The whole town knew why they were following the councillors. It was the most talked about secret surveillance mission in the county. Even the carpenter’s grandkids spoke about the latest reports during show and tell at school.
Lemieux also knew the two men rarely actually followed their assignments. It had got to the point that people would report the two councillor’s movements to the carpenters and they in turn would just hang out at Marvin’s Diner and Spa, writing it all down on McDonald’s napkins. “Thank you Gentlemen. The CIA missed out on your skillful work.” Lemieux bid the two men good night and they left. Before long, the two councillors in question showed up at her office. They’d been waiting for the spies to leave. She waved them inside.
“Listen Ms. Mayor,” Councillor Patrick O’Shea said as he stormed into the office and sat down in a presumptive manner. His pristine light blue suit looked expensive and he adjusted it to suit his comfort. He pointed out the door, referring to the carpenters. “Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee are a nuisance.”
“Yeah,” Councillor Leslie Johnson said. He paced back and forth behind O’Shea, he wiped his nose repeatedly with the back of his hand. “They’ve been spying on me as I step out of my sauna.” Johnson was particularly fond of his sauna. He purchased it the instant he got his ancestry results. He felt it connected him to his Scandinavian heritage. What he didn’t know, and what no one at the ancestry company bothered to correct for liability reasons, was that his results got mixed up with another man’s. He received a Norwegian man’s results, while Johnson’s pure English past was sent to someone in Norway.
“Were they on your property?” Lemieux asked.
“Were you doing anything illicit?” Lemieux asked.
“No, damnit. Just sweating. Is it suddenly illegal to sweat? Huh?” Johnson started pacing again. His face perspired as he worked himself up to a froth. “Can’t a politician sweat in peace, huh? Without being called Nixon, or Tricky Dick, or Sweaty Dick, or Sticky Dick. Huh?”
“You prefer just plain dick?” Lemieux asked, tongue in cheek.
“No!” Johnson yelled. “I just want to be able to walk from my sauna to my house without it being reported to you and every reader of the Parford Press.”
“I get it. You were indisposed,” Lemieux said with a nod.
“No!” Johnson yelled again.
“It is an invasion of our privacy,” O’Shea said, realizing the sleeves of his suit were covered in dirt. “Do you realize there’s dirt on your chair?”
“Ever since you sat in it,” Lemieux replied.
“No, there’s literally dirt.” O’Shea stood up and took off his jacket. The back was covered in dark dirt stains. “You’ll pay for the dry cleaning for this,” O’Shea said as a wagged a menacing finger at Lemieux.
“I didn’t offer you a chair. You sat down on your own volition and you can, anytime you choose, fuck off on your own volition, too,” Lemieux said. She looked at O’Shea’s hands; bony with popping veins. They were quite likely the least sexy part of the drab faced councillor’s body. And that was taking into account his face. No matter the colour of clothing he wore, everyone agreed his grey skin clashed.
“I want the spying stopped,” Johnson demanded. Lemieux noted his hands had scratches and scabs. As if he picked fights with barbed wire. She imagined they were covered in snot.
“It’s not spying. It’s observation,” Lemieux corrected, thinking that the most likely thing Johnson would ever amount to is to be described as Patient Zero for some kind of outbreak. A goddam walking contagion. A microbiologists wet dream. A disease would be named after him. Johnsonitis, where a person’s nose would swell and leak fluids excessively in a post nasal deluge. Limieux frowned. She had missed something. “I’m sorry what?”
“Huh?” Johnson said impatiently. “It’s harassment,” he repeated.
“It’s a community watch program.”
“That’s not what a community watch program is supposed to do,” O’Shea said, still swatting his jacket in a futile effort to remove dirt. “Gawdamit! This is my favourite suit.” Perspiration gathered on his forehead. “We’re not criminals.”
“I didn’t say you were, but the community is watching. Besides, all you both have to do is sign the papers,” Lemieux said with a sweet smile.
“I am not signing any affidavit stating that I won’t vote for a reversal of your Parford Purity By-law,” O’Shea said. “Sooner or later larger organizations will be needed.
“And you would take a bribe,” Lemieux suggested.
“Gawdamit, that’s slander. Never would I take a bribe. But why would a councillor tie his objectivity up to a power mad bitch like you,” O’Shea retorted.
“Your choice.” Lemieux shrugged. “You should know, you paragons of integrity, that my two carpenters are building quite a report about you both. As long as they are on public property they will watch your every move. And everyone in town, too for that matter.” She almost laughed at the curled snarls on O’Shea and Johnson’s faces. They walked out of her office and she leaned back in her chair. “I have to disinfect my office.”
Lemieux stood up and stretched. She picked up her cell phone and tapped a couple of icons. She put the phone to her ear and waited.
“Hello?” A woman’s voice answered.
“Is this Jasmine Garcia?” Lemieux asked.
“You might want to stakeout Councillor Leslie Johnson’s home. He has a nasty habit that you might find intriguing,” Lemieux advised.
“Has he been running naked from his sauna again?” Garcia asked with a verbal shrug. “Usually he does that when there’s snow on the ground and he can rut in it like some snow-pig. He claimed it was in his genetics.”
“Ok,” Lemieux replied slowly.
“It’s been a slow week, maybe I can get photos to force him to give me a quote on the record,” Garcia said. Lemieux could hear the hopefulness in her voice.
“Officially, that’s extortion,” Lemieux advised.
“No, it’s just old fashioned, good natured, friendly leverage,” Garcia said. “Good night.” And she hung up the phone. Lemieux thought for a moment and then shook her head. “This town is so screwed.”