The iCandidate: 32nd Installment cover

The iCandidate: 32nd Installment

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To begin with Installment 1, please click here.
The iCandidate is a guilty pleasure - a unique interactive thriller about a political reality show to choose a potential President of the United States - in which the reader has a key say in how the plot unfolds.
In The iCandidate, eight finalists from all walks of life face the kind of challenges they might have to deal with in the Oval Office:
• Will they use the nuclear button?
• What will they do about ISIS?
• How will they cope in a crisis?
At the end of each round the reader gets to cast an iVote to help determine who stays and who goes home. It is democracy in its purest form, free from party loyalties, donor obligations and antiquated electoral practices - and it keeps the authors on their toes!
In the novel, serialized weekly only on NoteStream, the eventual people’s champion goes on to challenge the political establishment in an iCampaign for the presidency climaxing in an explosive finale in Washington on November 8.
But The iCandidate has even greater aspirations to trigger a revolution in the way America selects the most powerful man or woman on the planet, and really, would it be any crazier than what we've got now?
Change America one iVote at a time - and cheer on your iCandidate! Be sure to cast your in-app iVotes to save your favorite iCandidates!


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars on 1 review




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The iCandidate: 32nd Installment

Chapter 99 - Falling

The sky darkened and it started to rain as Tariq drove across town towards the Hudson. Emily looked at her watch. Ayesha would worry if she were late.

“I don’t have long,” she said.

“I know a place we can talk in private.” Tariq pulled into a deserted parking lot off the West Side Highway. The clatter of rain and the rhythmic clicking of the windscreen wipers were the only sounds. Emily turned her head away from Tariq, staring out of the window.

Regrets

Regrets

“I’m sorry, Em. For everything…” Tariq had played this scene in his mind over and over, but now he didn’t know what to do or say. Emily glanced back at him. Her eyes were wet and he put a hand out to brush the hair from her face just as she reached up to do it herself.

Cruel

“Don’t do that.” She knocked his hand away. “Do you know that after all this time, I have never even wanted to try to have another child? And it’s because I never said goodbye to my baby… to our baby.”

She was shaking. “I never even saw the death certificate. It was a boy wasn’t it?” Her words hung heavy in the car; the windows steamed up from the heater, the rain still beating down on the windows.

“Yes.” Tariq said quietly.

Emily nodded, barely able to keep it together. “There was no closure.” Her voice cracked. “You just left me there alone. How cruel.”

Pressure

Emily was in tears and Tariq tried to pull her close to him. He could see the faint lights of the boats on the river.

“Don’t!”

She pushed him away. “You wanted to explain, so start explaining .”

“You couldn’t possibly understand the pressure I was under back then. I didn’t have a choice.” He knew there was nothing he could say to make it right.

“Pressure?” Emily was frantic. “What kind of pressure could possibly make you abandon me after everything we’d gone through?”

Lost

Tariq opened the door and climbed out into the rain. A couple of cars shot by on the road behind them, but otherwise it was quiet and the parking lot was empty.

The passenger door slammed and Emily walked around the front of the car to face him by the pier. “Pressure from who? To do what? None of this makes any sense.”

The years fell away and all he saw was the young girl with the soft blonde hair he loved and lost a lifetime ago. He needed to see something in her eyes that he could live with, some empathy for what he’d gone through, too. “What if our baby hadn’t died that day?”

Memory

Memory

He saw Emily’s eyes widen and reached for her, pulling her close, pushing his lips onto hers. In that moment, he was 23 again, kissing the girl he loved in his box room apartment.

Pushed up against a wood piling, Emily was unable to move before kneeing him in the groin, doubling him over. He slumped on the gravel holding himself.

No Going Back

She looked down at him, wiping at her mouth. “Why would you say something like that?”

Tariq stood up and grabbed her again, even more roughly this time, his fingers digging into the soft flesh of her arms. She tried to squirm away, but he held her in a vice grip. Their eyes locked and she saw the truth…and he realized there was no going back. With all his might he pushed out hard with both hands.

Emily’s panic-stricken face as she reached out for him was the same as it had been when her baby was taken from her.

Then she tumbled back over the edge of the dock and vanished from sight.

Chapter 100 – Psycho

Emily saw the silhouette of Tariq’s face peering over the edge of the pier as she clung onto a cable five feet below. It was strung across the concrete and she grabbed it as she fell to stop herself from plunging into the freezing river below.

Although she could see Tariq’s outline against the moonlit sky, she was hidden in the shadows; the sound of the rain and the rough water crashing against the pier camouflaged her heavy breathing.

No Help

Even after waiting what seemed like an eternity, Emily didn’t dare cry for help. By inching along the slippery cord, she managed to swing her legs onto a ledge. She battled to steady herself. There was a set of iron rungs over head, but they were just out of reach from the narrow ledge where she crouched, shivering against the cold.

When she thought Tariq had gone, Emily unfolded herself and reached out to see if she could touch the closest rung. It was agonizingly close but not close enough. As far as she extended her left arm it fell short every time. The concrete was black and smooth in the darkness. There were no cracks or handholds. Her only option was to stand facing the wall and jump sideways, enough to grab the rusty metal.

Faith

She waited five more minutes, not just because she was worried about Tariq, but also because she was trying to summon her courage. If she missed she’d drop into the icy water; she wasn’t a good swimmer.

A deep breath. Then another. She wriggled 180-degrees around until she was facing the rock, her lips pressed tight against it, her legs bent but not so much her knees would push her off balance. One more deep breath.

Then she jumped, trusting her right hand to save her.

Catch

Catch

Her fingers closed around the metal, but the swinging motion of her body wrenched them away. She was falling down now, the sideways trajectory lost. She was dropping straight with both hands brushing down the wall.

Her right hand felt metal too late and missed, but the left hand closed around it just enough to arrest her fall and give her the moment she needed to get both hands on the rung.

Breath

She swung there screaming in terror and relief, eventually finding the lower rung to rest her feet and take the weight from her arms. Then, very gradually, rung by rung, she climbed back to the surface, finally crawling over the lip and lying exhausted by a bench, trying to catch her breath.

There was nobody in the parking lot. Emily was filthy and her arms and legs were cut to pieces. Much worse was the trembling that rocked her entire body with the realization that the man who fathered her child was some kind of a monster.

Chapter 101 – Back From The Dead

Covered in scratches and bruises, Emily managed to stagger down the road to a dingy, dim-lit diner. The rain had started up again and she was soaked.

Her long blonde hair was matted with blood from a nasty gash on her cheek, and her white raincoat was now torn and splattered with mud. She’d lost one boot scrabbling for her footing. Her cell phone was in her bag she had left in Tariq’s car. With no other sign of life anywhere, she banged on the door of the closed restaurant and cried out for help.

Help

As the shock began to wear off the pain in her leg and side hurt more and she slumped down on the steps under a canopy shielding her from the downpour.

It was there that Jilly Calabrio, the diner owner, found her a few minutes later. “I was involved in an accident,” she told him. “If I could just use your phone?”

He wasn’t keen. The diner was in a tough neighborhood and Jilly had seen it all.

Second Thought

Second Thought

“Just one phone call.” He threw her an old, moth-eaten blanket. “Then you’d better get out of here before I call the police.”

Emily took the cellphone and was going to call 911 but something held her back. Before he pushed her Tariq had hinted that their son might be alive. She needed to find out the truth.

Truth

Tariq thought she was dead. Perhaps she could use that to her advantage.

She dialed Ayesha’s number and asked her new friend to come and pick her up in a cab.

As long as Tariq thought she was dead, she wasn’t in any danger. Emily knew what she had to do next. She had been running away from the truth for too long.

She knew where he lived, and his home was more likely to yield the clues she needed. Perhaps their son was there.

Chapter 96 – Dixville Notch

It was Tom’s idea to be in Dixville Notch, New Hampshire for the start of one of the most nerve-wracking days of his life. For pure emotional drama, it promised to surpass even his first uncertain steps teetering down Rayville’s Main Street in a pair of heels.

Tom’s appointment as the iCan Party’s Press Director proved to be a masterstroke. He stuck strictly to the new party line of telling the truth. Grace had wholeheartedly approved Jacqueline’s honesty policy. If the criticism was justified or true, they said as such. If it was a lie, they were equally forthright. Neither Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton had come up with an effective way of combatting it.

Tradition

Standing in the ballroom of Dixville Notch’s rambling Balsams Hotel just before midnight, Tom was about to witness a voting process with its roots back in the 18th century.

Of the town’s 75 residents, only 26 of them were eligible to vote and they were all crowded around Tom chatting about Grace’s chances. Camera crews and journalists outnumbered the locals two-to-one.

Tom had done his research thoroughly. He wanted a publicity coup for the iCampaign to come out of the blocks running on Election Day.

Thumbs Up

Thumbs Up

“Where’s Grace? Why isn’t she here?” a teenager asked, explaining she had celebrated her 18th birthday just three days earlier. “I made sure I was registered so I could vote for her. I’ve been behind her right from the start, so have all my friends. She’s awesome!”

Even the local Democrat organizer seemed a little star struck. “That’s a lovely dress, Tom. Isn’t this one of those dusty halls your iCampaign is always going on about?’

Home Town

“I don’t know what you mean,” Tom replied. “It’s spotless. If we were all voting online I’d still bring my computer in here to do it. I love this place.

It reminds me of Rayville, my hometown back in Colorado. The only trouble is we’d be waiting all day for the town clerk to turn up for the count. Between you and me, he couldn’t organize a drink up in a brewery, but he’s so earnest you can’t get mad with the guy.”

“Shouldn’t you be back there voting?”

“Absentee ballot, darling. It’s going to be a busy day.”

“Not for us. We’re nearly done, but I’ll be watching the TV with great interest to see how you get along.”

Vote

Vote

Then at the stroke of midnight, each of the 26 took turns in the booth inside the Ballot Room to cast their votes. The whole process took just a few minutes and when it was over the first result of the presidential election would be declared.

First Blood

It would be a while before the great majority of the results started flooding in from the rest of the state and across the country. All the polls were predicting a close finish.

But for now, in one small corner of New Hampshire at least, it was first blood to The iCandidate.