The final two months of the campaign passed in a blur, even for the Flash. With Pat Dugan taking over the security detail — much to the chagrin of the Department of Extranormal Operations, or the DEO — there were no further incidents on the campaign trail. Traveling back and forth across the United States became boring, even for the younger members of the entourage, such as Courtney Dugan and John Garrick.
“Saturday night, and we’re stuck on a train between Cleveland and Pittsburgh. When is this ever going to end?” moaned John, sitting at a table in the train’s dining car. Before him sat a chess table with the pieces in disarray. Across the table from him, Courtney leaned against the window.
“Three more days,” she said listlessly. “Do you realize, we’re missing Halloween because of this?”
John shrugged. “Heck, we dress up in costumes all the time. What’s the big deal with Halloween?”
Courtney sprang up in her seat, leaning over the table. “Are you kidding? Kim Norton has the most awesome Halloween party every year! They decorate up the barn, and there’s got to be a hundred people or more. All her parents’ friends and their kids, her older brother, and all the hunks from the football team. And, of course, if the football players are there, the cheerleaders all have to come along, too!”
“And it’s probably going on right now, isn’t it?”
Looking up at a clock on the wall, the young blonde nodded her head. “Yeah, it started at six. That is, six o’clock their time.”
John looked around warily. “We could go, y’know. I could take us there and back, and chances are the old-timers would never notice.”
Courtney also looked around, then leaned closer. “No.”
“Huh? But I figured you’d want to go!”
“I do, and it’s a nice thought. But I’m working here, even if it doesn’t look like it.” She glanced down at the bright blue, green, and pink-striped sweater and designer jeans she wore. “I’m supposed to stick with you, and keep track of you, and look after you, and all that–”
“You sound like a babysitter!” grumbled John, slumping down in his seat.
“Funny, I’m trying to sound like a member of your security detail.” Courtney smiled and leaned her head on her hand. “And your friend.”
“It looks too close to call, dear. Bob may win it, but both Garrick and Gunderson are very close.”
“That worries me, Ronnie. I trust Bob, of course, and it won’t have any surprises for Garrick. But I really don’t trust Gunderson. I didn’t care for him as a congressman, and the idea of him as president… well, it scares me.”
“I know, dear. I know.” Ronald Reagan stood and walked to a window overlooking the grounds of the White House. “For over forty years, this office has been entrusted with the secrets of the Justice Society and many of the other mystery-men and women. But all of the men who have held this office since World War II have been good and honorable men, even if we haven’t agreed on many subjects. That should be true of any person who holds this office, but I fear that might not be the case come tomorrow.”
Jane Reagan walked up behind her husband. “You have never needed to use that information, ever since Rosalyn passed the Intrepid file to me on your first inauguration day. But its care is still my responsibility, not yours. Eleanor Roosevelt established that precedent when she passed the information to Mrs. Truman. I will see that the file is destroyed if Gunderson is elected tomorrow.”
“Don’t be too hasty, Jane. If the election is as close as I expect, the results we see tomorrow night may not be the final outcome. But perhaps you should move the file out of the White House today.”
“Do you think somebody may try to get the file that quickly? The only people who know about it are those who have been president and their wives.”
“That’s what we believe. But Gunderson sits on the House Intelligence Committee, and someone in the FBI, CIA, or NSA may have reported to the committee about the file. After all, they have continued to provide updates through all these years.” President Reagan turned to embrace his wife. “I think this afternoon would be a good time to go to Camp David, don’t you?”
Catching his meaning, Jane Reagan nodded. “I believe you’re right, dear.”
Election night in Keystone City was a time of waiting. The polls in Keystone City closed at nine o’clock, but there was another three hours before the polls on the West Coast closed. Alaska and Hawaii closed even later, though they represented few enough electoral votes that the outcome was rarely affected by the two westernmost states. The early results, from the immediate area and throughout the Eastern time zone, were encouraging. Preliminary results showed Jay Garrick with a slight lead over each of his opponents, though the field was split enough that nobody had a majority of the votes.
As results started coming in from the Central time zone, the Democratic candidate fell further behind. “I guess the Midwest still isn’t ready for Massachusetts-style politics,” said Jay to Pat Dugan. “He’ll probably pick up votes in California and some of the other Western states, though.”
“Maybe. Me, I think he’s a twit. Dole’s a good guy, though. You or him, I could live with as President.” Pat looked up from the plans for Keystone Plaza Hotel’s conference center. “Of course, I’d prefer if you win it, boss.”
“Thanks for the sentiment, Pat,” grinned Jay. “You know where Max and Amanda are?”
“They’re already in the conference hall. In another three hours, you’ll either be making a victory speech, a concession speech, or a speech to rally the troops while we wait for the tie-breaking votes. They’re getting things set up down there.”
“Any word from Plasticman? You never did tell me what the assignment is that you sent him off on.”
“He had a tip from one of his NBI contacts about the Gunderson campaign, and he wanted to check it out. Last I heard from him, over the weekend, he told me that he was going undercover, and it might be a while before we heard from him.”
They turned back toward the television as new returns from Chicago and St. Louis were announced. The news was not good: Gunderson picked up four percentage points from the two urban centers, placing him even with Garrick. For over two hours more, Garrick and his aides watched a three-way horse race play out, with each of the candidates taking a turn in the lead, only to have one of the other candidates pick up a large block of votes and take the lead.
“Still, it’s the electoral votes that really matter,” commented Dugan at one point. “How are they stacking up?”
“Not good. Gunderson has picked up some of the biggest states for electoral votes.” Jay looked up at the clock. “Almost two o’clock, with over ninety percent of the votes reported, and we’re behind by over sixty electoral votes. I think it’s about time to call it a night.”
Fifteen minutes later, a hush fell over the Keystone City Conference Center as Jay Garrick stepped up to the podium. “Ladies and gentlemen, friends and supporters, I entered this campaign a bit over a year ago, unsure of whether I had a serious chance of winning. Since that day, I have met thousands of people across this land who convinced me that it was possible. It has been my great honor to speak with these people, to learn from them, and to see that the American dream I’ve believed in since I was a child is still alive. But despite the efforts of everyone in this room, and those who supported us around the country, I have seen the writing on the wall. Ten minutes ago, I contacted Stan Gunderson to offer him my congratulations on his victory. The official results will be announced shortly, but I wanted to thank you all myself before the official announcement. You have put forth an outstanding effort, and you can all leave this campaign with your heads held high, knowing you exemplify the American way!”
Jay’s short speech was greeted with applause, even as some of the campaign workers wept openly, and others surreptitiously wiped tears from their eyes. Jay stepped down from the podium and made his way through the crowd, offering personal thanks and support wherever he could. Throughout the next two hours he returned to one point over and over again, that it was better to have run an honest campaign and lost, than to have won with a questionable campaign. Later, as he drifted off to sleep, he reflected on that thought one more time, then drifted off to the deep sleep of the honest man.