The iCandidate: 34th Installment
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!
NoteStreams are readable online but they’re even better in the free App!
The NoteStream™ app is for learning about things that interest you: from music to history, to classic literature or cocktails. NoteStreams are truly easy to read on your smartphone—so you can learn more about the world around you and start a fresh conversation.
For a list of all authors on NoteStream, click here.
Read the NoteStream below, or download the app and read it on the go!
Chapter 105 – Down to the Wire
Paddy Cahill nursed a fuller than usual tumbler of Bushmills and stretched his arms above his head as he leaned back in a battered, brown leather armchair. He’d decided to spend the afternoon in his Capitol Hill office. A Cuban cigar sat next to the ashtray; he considered lighting it.
He called strategist Jean Harris in to congratulate her. The iCampaign was doomed after a string of early results were divided pretty evenly down conventional party lines. Hillary had taken Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, D.C., and Vermont.
After the initial excitement in Dixville Notch, the rest of New Hampshire – a state that often predicted the winner – also remained loyal to the Democrat nominee.
Trump was the projected winner in South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, New Jersey, and Oklahoma.
The score so far for the iCan Party? Zilch.
“They’re done. It’s over,” Cahill said to Hillary as they looked over her victory speech one more time.
“Let’s give it another 30 minutes, just to be sure.” Harris was checking through all the exit polls. “Remember back in 2004, when the early results all pointed to John Kerry winning. How did that end up? With four more years of Bush, that’s how.”
Cahill was unmoved. “The Times and the Post are already calling it. Call David Mason and see if they are capitulating yet. If not yet, see if he’ll give you a time. This is not a day for the faint hearted.”
He turned around to see if Harris heard him but she’d gone.
There was something in the latest exit poll that worried her, and she wanted to test the water with the president’s Chief-of-Staff David Platt, a more experienced election campaigner.
“This new batch of exit polls being released show that voters overwhelmingly support Grace Conwright,” she said, speaking quietly so Cahill and Hillary didn’t hear.
“That makes no sense with the early results; maybe people were just messing with the pollsters when they said they voted for Conwright? I’m not sure if I believe this, but 67 percent said they’re voting for the iCandidate.
We’re also getting word that it’s turning into a massive turn out. It could end up as high as 82 percent.You’ve got to believe a lot of that is because of the whole reality show factor .”
“It’s not like we haven’t been warning you, Jean.” Platt was unsympathetic. “The President has told Paddy a number of times to be more mindful of this but he ignored him.”
“So do you think it’s right?” There was a flicker of fear in her voice.
“Could be nothing, Jean. But the Clintons shouldn’t be claiming victory just yet.”
Chapter 108 - Mistaken Identity
With his usual resourcefulness, Kristoff had managed to get a permit to hold a massive results party at the National Mall. Win or lose, Grace and Todd were going to throw the biggest political bash in history, right in the shadow of Congress and the White House.
Mason was the last of the gang to reach the makeshift iCan Party offices set up behind the Lincoln Memorial, where they planned to watch the final results come in together.
When he’d left the hotel, they were all but counting Grace out, saying what a breath of fresh air she’d been,but lamenting how much longer it would take to really crack the two-party system.
Mason turned on the giant T.V. in front of the office conference table to see the next wave of results. Tom put his head around the door to say he was in another small conference room watching CNN with the others. “We’d actually like a quick word with you about something, David,” Tom said. “Do you have a minute?”
“Sure. Come on in.” There wasn’t much else he could do right now other than wait for the results…and hope.
“It’s a little delicate,” started Tom, as Rich and Dulce traipsed in, “but some of the team believe that one of ours, Cameron, to be precise, may have been up to no good.”
Mason was aware Cameron wasn’t especially popular with the others, but assumed it was a personality clash and no more.
“Well he got himself kicked off the show because of that bar brawl which wasn’t smart, but we think he may have been trying to jeopardize the chances of the other iCandidates all along.” Rich obviously wasn’t a fan.
“I have to tell you guys, there was nothing Cameron could do to affect the outcome of the show,” said Mason. “It was all carefully and tightly controlled by Desmond. He made sure there was no interference from the outside.”
Mason’s attention was drawn back to the T.V. screen where a breathless anchor was announcing breaking news coming after the break. He was not in the mood for listening to gossip or playing detective right now. “Look I don’t know where this is all coming from but guys any minute now it sounds like we’re going to be told that the iCan Party has lost, so shall we just try to go out with a little dignity?”
Rich ignored him. “And then, of course, there was the affair.” He looked embarrassed at bringing it up.
“We believe he seduced Jen and then blackmailed her into quitting the show.”
Jennifer and Gillian came bursting through the door at that moment, carrying a tray of coffees and cupcakes. “Thanks for telling us you’d switched rooms, these trays are heavy!” Jen grumbled. “Anyway, food for the troops.” Gillian put her tray down on the table. Everyone looked at Jen who froze, and the room went silent.
“What’s wrong? What have we missed?”
Tom looked uncomfortable so Rich cut in. “We’re just telling Mase here that there’s a feeling that Cameron’s not been a straight arrow. A few of us think he’s been trying to sabotage us all along, from the first day of the show until now. Especially you, Jen.”
Jennifer carefully put the tray down and looked at Mason. “I don’t understand.”
“Jen, we’re talking about your breakdown on the results show. We know he must have messed with your head after the affair ended....” Tom tailed off.
“How do you know I had an affair?”
“Are you saying you didn’t?
“Look. I did have an affair, and when it ended it, he tried to blackmail me, and yes, I lost it...”
“There! See, I knew it!” Rich was beginning to think they’d been imagining it.
“But I honestly don’t know what you’re talking about.” Jennifer continued. “I didn’t have an affair with Cameron.”
There was a stunned silence.
“Well if not Cameron then who?” Rich asked, perplexed.
“Oh my God!” Mason cried. “Look at this everyone!” They all turned their attention to the T.V. screen; The breaking news was in. Grace had picked up Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia, all key swing states with thin majorities in the last election.
Gillian screamed. Tom jumped up from his seat, quickly adjusting his slip. “It’s happening, it’s actually happening!”
Rich whooped for joy and picked Jen up like a doll, swinging her around. “Put me down you big goon,” she laughed. Soon they were all hugging and congratulating each other, with Jen’s affair completely forgotten.
Chapter 109 - The Kiss
Steadily but irrevocably, a trend grew with Grace first catching up with and then pulling away from her two stunned rivals as the cold, crisp Washington afternoon turned to evening. With the darkness came the stunning realization that the curtain was falling on the legislative centerpiece of the defining democracy of the past 100 years.
If the votes kept rolling in at the same pace, the iCampaign tally would be such a landslide that by the time the west coast results were counted, they would hardly matter.
Grace didn’t know whether to scream out in triumph or cover her head and hide.
She settled for closing her eyes and her ears from the unrelenting statistics pouring out from the T.V. screen. She was uncomfortable with all the fuss at headquarters and sought the peace and quiet in the studio village erected behind the Lincoln Memorial in readiness for the party later.
She was trying to gather herself enough to scribble a rough draft of a victory speech and jumped up startled when she heard a gentle knock on the door.
It was Cameron. Things had been so hectic that the two of them hadn’t been alone together since the phone call.
“I just came to wish you luck Grace. How are you feeling? Ready?”
“No. Of course not.”
“In that case, yes, I am totally ready and I’ve never felt better.”
“You’re going to be great.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I have faith in you. You’re the smartest woman I’ve ever met.” His voice was soft, and for a moment she felt herself transfixed. Quickly shaking herself out of it, she responded with a curt nod. “Well I must get on.”
He stepped towards her smiling. “Strange behavior at times though. Why is that, by the way?”
Was he trying to play her?
Grace put her defenses back up. “Honestly? I find your playboy act a little nauseating.”
Cameron spluttered. “Seriously!”
“I know I’m quick to judge, but you’re such a flirt. That’s your reputation isn’t it, the playboy?”
Cameron feigned shock. “Perhaps you shouldn’t listen to rumors.”
Grace realized she’d never actually seen Cameron with a girlfriend, but then remembered a more persistent rumor from their time on the show.
“You can’t deny you were running around with Jennifer?”
“Can’t I?” Cameron looked genuinely shocked now.
“I thought you weren’t taking the competition seriously, and I guess it bothered me.”
Cameron stared back in amazement. “What are you talking about? I wasn’t running around with Jen, or anyone else for that matter.”
“Come on, Cameron. You were always texting with her, and disappearing….” She trailed off, feeling foolish. This wasn’t the reaction she was expecting at all.
“I’m always texting with my sister and my nieces and nephews. We Skype a lot, too. You thought I was having an affair with Jennifer Flynt? That’s hysterical! You really don’t know me at all!”
“Well, I thought I did.”
Cameron’s head was bowed and Grace was horrified she’d offended him, but when he looked up, the glint was back in his eye.
“Were you a tiny bit jealous, Conwright?”
“No, of course not. She seems far too bright.”
They both laughed.
“Well, now that you have finished insulting me, can I say something?”
“You aren’t your usual laid back self, Conwright. Gorgeous, yes. Calm, no.”
She didn’t want to tell him that she was still consumed with doubts, that she wanted her father, she needed her mother, that she just wanted to curl up in a corner and close her eyes. “It’s hardly surprising when there appears to be a very good chance I am about to become the first woman President of the United States. Not a lot to be calm about there.”
Cameron put his hands on her shoulders. “Listen to me Grace. You deserve this. There’s a reason you made it here today. The American public relates to you, they see your strength and they know they can trust you. Although I might have to have a word with them when it comes to your lousy judgment on the male character. Or specifically, mine.”
Grace finally let her guard down and sobbed. “I don’t feel strong at all. I can’t stop thinking about my parents and how they must have felt in their last moments. I’m living their dream but I can’t escape from the nightmare. I don’t think I can do it, Cameron. I really don’t.”
Her attacker’s masked face flashed into her head again, and Cameron pulled her close.
“I can’t imagine how tough it’s been for you,” he whispered. “It’s really hard to understand why such terrible things happen, but rather than see your parents’ deaths purely as a tragedy, you could look at it as a legacy they left you – a legacy to carry on what they started.
If you can truly feel that then you’ll be able to walk out on that stage tonight and claim what’s rightfully yours. You won’t be scared; you won’t feel alone, because it will no longer be a burden to carry around. It’ll lift you up and drive you on to achieve your dreams.”
Without her family, or special someone, something had always been missing from Grace’s life, and in just these last few moments, Cameron had made her feel that everything was going to be okay.
Maybe even more than okay.
“Thank you, Cameron,” she lifted her head from his shoulder and looked deeply into his eyes.
If he gave himself time to think about the next move, he would never have dared place his hand gently under her chin and tilt her face to his as he slowly leaned forward. Grace closed her eyes…and a loud knocking on the door made them both jump.
“Miss Conwright, Mr. Kristoff would like to see you.”
Grace pulled away, embarrassed and flustered. “More results. I have to go. Do I look alright?”
“Beautiful. You’re beautiful.”
She was torn, wishing she didn’t have to leave just yet.
She paused at the door. “Cameron, I…”
He reached her in two strides and pulled her into his arms, kissing her with such passion she couldn’t breathe.
They pulled apart as the door opened and Grace - all thoughts of the election momentarily shoved aside by a jumble of new emotions – followed after Kristoff’s assistant.
“Good luck, Grace, and remember what I said about being strong.”
“What did you say again, I forgot?” She stopped in the doorway, smiling back at him.
“Feeling a little better, I see! Glad I could be of assistance.”
“Will you be out there with me?” she asked, serious again.
Standing in the middle of the room, Cameron saw much further ahead.
“Always,” he said.
Chapter 110 - Snapshot
Zia would do anything for Ayesha; but he really didn’t want to get caught up in some domestic scandal that his girlfriend’s mentor was involved in. Plus, the timing couldn’t have be worse.
Ayesha was unusually insistent and sounded frightened. The best he could do was bring Ayesha and Emily to him. He simply couldn’t get away.
Ayesha had never struck him as the dramatic type, but she was talking about Emily’s life being in danger, or other such nonsense. She said something about an ex-boyfriend. “She’ll be safe at the hotel,” he told Ayesha, “and it will give me the chance to see you again. I just won’t be able to spend as much time with you as I’d like to.”
Zia was still in a meeting when he got the call that they had just checked into the hotel. He made his excuses and jumped in a cab across town.
He knocked on the hotel room door. Ayesha opened it just a crack before quickly pulling him in.
The curtains were tightly drawn, and at first he didn’t see Emily sitting on the couch, her blonde head bowed to cover her face. She looked up at him, embarrassed by her tears.
He chose a seat across from where Ayesha sat holding Emily’s hand.
“I’m not sure I can do anything to help, at least not today,” Zia said. “But I’ll do what I can.”
Emily was aware she was leaving so much out as she tried to explain how she’d met her old college boyfriend in the Village, and how he’d tried to kill her. She had never told Ayesha about the baby and didn’t want to talk about it now.
Zia’s eyes were glazing over. Emily knew she sounded crazy, and she was struggling to hold her emotions together.
He stood up, and paced the room, trying not to sound as agitated as he felt. “Look, I’m sorry but this seems to be a matter for the police. I can make the call if you want but…”
“What about the photograph?” Ayesha knew there was something Emily wasn’t telling him.
Emily picked the frame from her bag and started to pass it to Zia but stopped. Emily knew it was hopeless. “It’s nothing. I’m really sorry to involve you guys in this. Please, you mustn’t worry.”
“Wait, can I see the photograph?” Something in Zia’s expression had changed.
“No, it’s okay.”
“I’d really like to see it.” He reached out a hand. “Please, Emily.”
She didn’t want to let the only link she had with her son out of her hand, but she slowly passed it over.
He recognized the frame before he saw the familiar photo it contained and slowly sat back in the chair, still looking at it. “Where did you get this?”
“I went back to his house this morning while he was out…the man who tried to kill me. I…I believe this is my son…”
“What’s wrong?” Ayesha saw the look on Zia’s face. He sat there, not moving, staring at the picture. His head was spinning. Nothing could have prepared him for this moment.
“My grandmother took this photograph,” he said.
“What do you mean?” Ayesha’s eyed widened. “How does your grandmother know them?”
Zia was looking at Emily as the impact hit her;her hand flew to her mouth.
“This man is my father, and the child blowing out the candles, that’s me.”