“1647 votes cast out of 2891 eligible voters, and I’ve lost by 99,” Linda said glumly, staring at her screen. “I can’t believe it.”

Margrave walked over, her heels clacking loudly on City Hall’s wood floor. “I can’t believe it either,” she said. “Frankly, I’m suspicious.”

“What do you mean?” Linda said. “The numbers are right there.”

“Lies, damn lies, and statistics,” Margrave replied. “You’re doing a bang-up job, Mayor Soderquist. I’ve done my research, and your administration has done more for Deerton than any other since the war.”

“Yeah,” Linda sighed, wistfully. “It’ll be hard to let it go, but I suppose it means spending more time with the dogs.”

“Or letting the town go to the dogs. Think about it, Mayor Soderquist: you’ve done a magnificent job despite all the challenges, all the chaos and disorder and agitators, and you lose by exactly 99 votes?”

“The number does seem awfully round,” Linda said, squinting at the screen.

“And where did this number come from? A voting machine? Who’s to say it couldn’t have been tampered with, or that the old ladies working the polls didn’t let people vote illegally.”

“Do you think we should have an investigation?” Linda asked. “Maybe we can get the cheaters thrown out. If they cheated, that is.”

“There’s no doubt in my mind, Mayor Soderquist,” said Margrave, who perched on the edge of the mayoral desk. “You can’t let them assume power, not when these important questions are still hanging over the process. With the power of the mayoral office, they could cement themselves in power despite, as you said, cheating their way into it.”

“What should I do, then?” Linda said. “Does the town charter say anything?”

“It says that the mayor should be elected by a free and fair election, and that the mayor should step down the day after the results are counted if defeated.” Margrave smiled. “Should. Not must; should.”

“I’ll stay in office until I can investigate these irregularities,” Linda said. “There’s too much important stuff going on to have any questions, yeah?”

“An excellent decision, Mayor Soderquist,” Margrave said.

“Won’t the state election folks have a problem with that, though? They might not have all the facts like we do.”

“All they’ll care about is whether you have the same letter next to your name as they do,” Margrave said. “You just leave them to me.”

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