AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story was written for Sunday Scribblings and features Vince Mott, a character from Diana's Diary, which is part of my Will and Diana series. You can read more about Vince by following the tag at the bottom of the post.
Vince sat at the battered metal desk in the office of the abandoned warehouse he and his gang called home. He frowned at the numbers on the piece of paper in front of him and tried to re-do his calculations. He was pretty sure Big Jim from the Sabados had shorted him on their recent handoff of stolen pharmaceuticals, but he couldn't prove it.
Something wasn't adding up, and he was beginning to get a headache. It wasn't the smoke from the guttering kerosene lamp that was making his head pound, and it wasn't his hangover or the numbers themselves. What was grating on his nerves and making him clench his teeth in frustration was the low hum of a squabble somewhere in the warehouse. It was common for arguments to break out among his group of misfits, but this had been going on for nearly an hour.
With a scrape of rusted castors on the concrete floor, Vince pushed back his chair and stood up. What did it take for a guy to get a little peace and quiet around this place? He went into the area his team used as living quarters, where he found his idealistic lieutenant Ozone under verbal attack.
"You're delusional," Peru was telling him.
"We're not buying into your twisted fantasy," Fausto added.
"What the hell is going on?" Vince said.
Ozone turned to him but it was soulful spitfire Gitana who spoke. "This idiot thinks we should vote in today's election."
Vince looked at Ozone in curiosity. "Is that what all the yelling has been about?"
"They won't listen," Ozone explained. "They think voting does no good."
"They're right," Vince said with a shrug. "El Duque has this town all locked up. The elections are just a cover."
"It's rigged," Fausto agreed, coming to stand by Gitana. "A waste of our time."
"It's not a waste of time." Ozone appealed to Vince. "Even if El Duque's men throw away all our ballots, we're at least sending a message."
Vince raised his eyebrows. "What kind of message? He already knows he's a thieving bastard. Voting for someone else won't do any good."
Ozone sputtered. "But— if we don't vote for someone else, El Duque will think we want him and his goons in power. Or that we don't care, you know? We have to let him know how we feel. That's what democracy is all about."
Gitana gave a derisive snort. "Democracy? You think this is the old days or something? You think we're still part of the United States?"
"The United States isn't a democracy either any more," Peru reminded her.
"Right." Gitana turned back to Ozone. "There's no such thing as a democracy, except in the history books, so quit pestering us about it."
Before Ozone could say anything, Vince held up a hand for silence. "She's right," he said. "We're only a democracy on paper and you've got no business harassing anyone about it." At Ozone's crestfallen look he added, "But you're right about one thing - if you vote, you're at least taking a stand." He looked each member of the group in turn. "Vote or don't vote, makes no difference to me. But if you don't vote, don't complain about who gets elected, got it?"
After getting everyone's nodded agreement that this was reasonable, Vince told them to keep things quiet and went back to his office. A few minutes later, Ozone poked his head in.
"Thanks for sticking up for me, boss."
Vince looked up from where he was still trying to figure out how he had been shorted. "I don't know if I'd call it that."
"You got them to quit arguing with me."
"I did that because you guys were bugging the shit out of me."
"Well, thanks anyway." Ozone paused, then asked, "So are you going to go vote?"
"Hell, no. They're all dishonest bastards. Even if we got another guy in the mayor's seat, he'd be no better." He bent back over his columns of numbers and now he saw the problem. With a pleased little grin, he calculated how much Big Jim owed him. He shook his head as he listened to the clop of Ozone's boots walking away. Poor guy was a good fighter, but too optimistic. Vince knew there were enough thieves in this world, himself included, without voting for any more of them.