I managed to hit the 40k mark today. I’m happy with that and glad to still be on track to finish. Today’s main scene was challenging, and I went back and forth on how it concluded, even though I thought I had made up my mind earlier. In the end, I stuck with my original plan, but it was so close to going the other way.

Marshall Cooper

Day 24 – 40,000/50,000 words

 

Chapter 9

The mayor’s office was smaller than Marshall expected. It was a corner office, on the fourth floor of the city municipal building. If it were another floor or two higher, you might have seen the ocean from there, but an office building across the street obstructed that view. Marshall remembered the mayor from the party for Sheriff Dwight’s daughter. His name was Jimmy Green. Marshall tried to picture Benton Noro with this slight man. He tried to picture the appeal. He tried to think of her as Benton Green, but he dismissed that thought quickly. He could not imagine her changing her name for this man. He had clearly given up on his thinning hair at some point, and began shaving it close. His circular glasses gave his round head too much accent.

“As you can imagine,” Jimmy Green said without inflection, “The sheriff’s death has created more than a few difficult issues for the city to resolve. Among those, is the issue of whether or not to approve your application for the position if IT Director within the Sheriff’s department.”

Marshall nodded. He had gotten the call to come in two mornings after the sheriff’s death. The council was due to meet that night. Until the sheriff’s death, there had been no question that they would approve the application. Marshall was more than aware of how situations can change quickly. “I understand,” he said simply.

“I’ve looked at your application,” the mayor said. “I am not seeing any management experience. Is this correct?”

Marshall said without hesitation. “This would be my first management position.”

The mayor glanced at him. “I wanted to be sure on that point. It is the primary sticking point of your application. Looking at your resume, I have no doubt you would be good in a programming capacity, and I would have no trouble giving you such a position.”

“As I understand it,” Marshall said, “The council does not get involved in hiring programmers.”

“That is true. The council does not.” the mayor said, “But with the position of sheriff unfilled, at least until after the election, that job does now come under my responsibilities. All non-managerial hiring approvals fall to me. So, as a programmer, I can and would hire you today.”

“But not as a manager.”

“For a management position, I am reluctant to vote in your favor. When the sheriff was alive, we could trust his judgment for the most part. More importantly, he had enough friends on the council to push it through whether we truly trusted his decision or not. That’s politics. After 40 years, he had established the right to run the department his way.”

Marshall stared out the window, looking at the office building that was the mayor’s primary view. He wondered if, as IT Director, he would have had a better view from his own office. “Can I assume that without your support, my chances of approval are not good?”

The mayor spread his hands apart to form a slow, slight shrug. “You might get the votes, but I would suspect not.”

Marshall tried to picture the Benton Noro he knew, coming to Santa Creda out of love for this man. In a way, he could see it. Jimmy Green had power, and Benton Noro tended to like that, but there was little that Marshall could see otherwise. Still, men at work and men in love are two different things. There might have been more to this man once. There still might be. Marshall decided to gamble that there was more to this man. “I appreciate your candor Mayor Green,” Marshall said. “I will, of course, withdraw my application if I do not have your recommendation. I agreed to take the job because Dwight believed in me, and because he told me he needed me. I never really pursued the position, and had I not been so fond of Dwight, I would have turned it down.”

The mayor picked up the application and looked at it as if giving it a final consideration. Marshall continued. “For the record, I am not interested in a programmer position. If I wanted a programming job, my old employer would rehire me tomorrow. They’ve told me as much. I’m even reasonably sure they would let me do the work while continuing to live here. That’s because I am good at my job. I cannot tell you I would be a great manager. I don’t know that. I can tell you that it was important to the sheriff that I take this job. I can also tell you that there are serious problems that need to be addressed — if not by me, by someone. For that I wish you the best of luck.”

Marshall stood up and walked over to the desk. He held out his hand. “I can go ahead and take that back,” Marshall said. “That will save you the trouble of throwing it away.”

The mayor continued to hold his resume. “I didn’t say I had made my final decision.”

“Now would be the time then,” Marshall said. He stood patiently while the mayor looked one last time at his resume. For a moment, Marshall thought the man was going to change his mind. In the end though, he handed Marshall’s resume back to him. Marshall took it, folded it up, and put it in his pocket.

“I’m sure you will do well in Santa Creda,” the mayor said, “but the timing on this was not in your favor.”

Marshall smiled then. “Timing is an interesting thing,” he said, “Did you know that today is the deadline to register to vote in the next election? I hadn’t gotten around to it, but I guess the timing is right now. I believe the office is even in this building.”

Marshall followed through on his word, registering to vote that day. He knew it was a small gesture, but he did want to be sure he could vote, since he had somehow become politically active for the first time in his live. He knew little about Mayor Green’s opponent, a woman named Anya Polzin. He had heard her ads. Apparently she could fly a fighter jet. Other than that, he hadn’t paid much attention. He was pretty sure she would be getting his vote now though.”

Marshall wasn’t sure how to process losing the job. When it was offered, he wasn’t even sure if he wanted it, but the idea had quickly grown on him. Now that the offer had been rescinded, he felt the loss. He also had the realization that his future and been released from its restraints. He felt unsettled though. He felt as if he had chosen a side, and then the side had not lost so much as ceased. He was free to go in any direction.’

As he walked, Marshall’s iPhone vibrated in his pocket. He pulled it out and flipped the switch to set it back to ringing, and then he answered the phone.

“Hello Marshall,” the voice on the phone said, “This is Benton Noro. I was wondering if you could come by my house tonight at about six. We wanted to talk to you about a matter.”

Once more the image of the sheriff ran through his head. He tried to picture them ten years earlier. He tried to picture Jimmy Green with a head of hair. Benton Noro he pictured exactly as she was. “Text me your address.” Marshall said. Marshall headed home, changed clothes and took a shower. Then he headed toward Benton Noro’s house.

“I wish you had let me know before you had taken the sheriff’s offer. I would have warned you off.”  Benton Noro said. “That had a low probability of success, and you have better offers coming.”

“You sound like someone who knew the sheriff was going to die.” Marshall said. “That’s a little disconcerting.”

“No,” Benton Noro said, “I only knew his time was up politically. That his body would also fail him came as a minor surprise.”

Benton Noro lived on a cliff overlooking the ocean. The house itself wasn’t large. It had two bedrooms, the second of which Benton Noro used as an office. The living room was spacious though, with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the water. The house was built with a stone base leading into birch walls. The place felt a bit like a well-appointed cabin. Marshall sat in the living room along with Jacob Martin and Victoria Basha. Benton Noro had spoken as she brought out a tray of fruit, cheese, hummus, and crackers from the kitchen.

“Are you supposed to be a psychic?”

Benton Noro laughed. “Of course not. I am merely observant and well-trained. Some people mistake one thing for the other though.

Marshall ate a cracker, just to be polite, and took a sip of the ice tea she had already given him. “The sheriff needed help,” Marshall said. “I thought I could help.”

“I’m sure you could help.” Benton Noro said, “The good news is that David likes you. I’m sure that once he takes office, if you still want that job, arrangements can be made.”

Marshall thought about it for a second. “Is that a given now? I’ve heard of people losing to dead candidates before. It’s really not that uncommon, and pretty embarrassing for the loser.”

“That would be embarrassing,” Benton Noro said. “But you need not worry about that.”

Benton sat down on the sofa and took Victoria’s hand in hers. Marshall stared out the window for a moment, looking at the waves make their way in toward the shore. He had called and offered Catrin the chance to come with him to see Benton Noro, but she had declined flatly. He had walked to Benton Noro’s house. It was a nice day, He had followed the beach as far has he could, then climbed the steps up the cliff wall. From there it has been another two blocks to get to the house.

“Fair enough,” Marshall said, “But I have a feeling there is something you do want me to worry about.”

“Worry? No, of course not, but we did want to discuss an opportunity that has come up. It would require a bit of a financial commitment on your part, but I think in the end it will give you a solid place in the new community we are building here. Then Benton Noro set about revealing her plan.

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