Copyright© 2011 by Lazlo Zalezac
The chauffeur drove the sedan into the parking lot of the office building that housed the corporate headquarters of Plante Gourmet Pickles, Inc. It wasn't a particularly large building. It stood alone on the rather large piece of property. The property had been purchased in rather poor condition, but a Walde construction company had refurbished the building, while incorporating a number of security elements into it.
It was, in many ways, an impressive building. Where it had once had a plain lawn, it now had an extensive pond, often occupied by the wild ducks that ran around the building. A footbridge over the water provided access to the building from the parking lot. Trees dotted the landscape providing shade for lunch tables.
It had gone from being a standard box-shaped office building to one with character. The use of two colors of brick, light and dark red, on the building gave it a warmer appearance than the gray flat exterior that had once graced the building. A small brick ledge that ran around the full exterior broke up the flat face of the building. Arched windows softened the straight lines of the building.
Getting the appropriate building permits had been a continuous battle. Ultimately, it was the environmentally friendly features of the plans that allowed a public relations campaign to force approval from the planning board. Solar panels covered the roof, allowing the sign outside to boast that it was a 'Green Building.'
The chauffeur parked the car and then got out to open the door for Carl. There was a slight pause while he looked around before opening the door. Carl and Samantha exited the vehicle holding hands. Jennifer exited the front seat of the car and waited for them at the walkway to the building. They made their way to the building at a slow walk, pausing once to watch the fish in the pond.
The receptionist, Cynthia Shieldman, buzzed them in. She greeted them with a friendly 'good morning.' She informed Carl that his visitors were already waiting for him in the conference room. They had, in fact, been there for several hours.
Carl went into the conference room, looking forward to the meeting. The assembled team had been working towards this day for months. The engineers had finalized the design for the factory and generated the blueprints necessary to get the permits required to build it.
The facility was way over engineered, and had been designed that way for a reason. Walde construction teams and Schmied engineers had gone over every facet of the design, to assure compliance with every law and building code known to man. There were a lot of codes and regulations. The lawyers had spent 'man years' reading through every regulation, ruling, and law from every government agency that might possibly be interested in this project.
The security folks had gone through the backgrounds of every man and woman on the council, and had targeted two of them for increased surveillance. Their surveillance had paid off. One of the councilmen, Joe Parelli, had been having frequent meetings with a lawyer from out of town. Investigation showed that the lawyer was in the pay of a small subsidiary of a very large frozen vegetable company. They now had a thread to one of the enemy. It was now a matter of time to trace it back to the person in charge.
George Smyth looked up when Carl entered the room. He smiled and pointed over to a table to the side of the wall.
"The mock up is finished."
Carl said, "Great."
Carl went over to the large model positioned in the middle of the table. Laid out in three dimensional glory, was his pickle factory. The model showed the access roads, added traffic lights, parking lots, and the three buildings all to scale and with the landscaping.
George walked over and said, "This is the most expensive pickle factory in the history of mankind. The only way to increase its price tag, would be to gold plate everything inside."
"Will that be necessary?" Carl asked sarcastically.
"It may be," George answered. He laughed. "I've never seen anything like this. You do realize that this building will stand up to a F6 tornado and a magnitude 9 earthquake."
"How about a forty-foot Tsunami?"
"If a tsunami can travel more than five hundred miles inland, the last thing anyone will be worried about is this factory," George answered.
"The security plans are in place. A US Navy SEAL team could take it out, but some whack-job? No. Of course, there are the official plans and the private plans. Our private plans would give even a SEAL team a few surprises."
"I can't believe that our security plans have to be a matter of public record. It's like they want to make it easy for someone to find out how to break in," Carl said.
George asked, "So why were you late?"
"Another traffic ticket," Carl said tiredly.
It was another minor harassment resulting from taking on city hall. After the second ticket, the limousine had been wired with cameras like those used in police cars. Every ticket after that had been tossed out of court. One officer had been suspended. That had only worked up the frenzy to catch him doing something illegal to an even higher pitch.
George said, "It seems like the city council wants to fill the city coffers up with your money."
"That does appear to be the case," Carl said.
Jennifer stuck her head in the conference room. "There's a Mr. Anthony Gamboni here to see you. He doesn't have an appointment, but he insists it is important that you meet with him."
Carl looked over at Herman Steward.
Herman said, "Go ahead and meet with him. I'll stand outside. I'll have someone pick up his boss, Mr. Marcelo Caggiano."
"Thanks," Carl said.
Carl went into his office. A minute later, Jennifer led Mr. Anthony Gamboni in. After a short exchange in which coffee was offered and rejected, Jennifer left the room.
Carl said, "You wanted to see me."
"This town doesn't want a pickle factory. You might want to consider another location for it."
Carl said, "I like the location that I found."
"Maybe you didn't hear me. We don't want a pickle factory here."
"Who is 'we'?" Carl asked.
Carl looked up at the ceiling with an exaggerated expression of confusion on his face. He scratched his head. He frowned. He rubbed his chin.
Carl asked, "You're here on behalf of the town council, mayor's office, or ... who, exactly?"
"Some of the business leaders."
"Some? Which ones?" Carl asked.
"The ones who are the leaders of the business leaders."
Carl said, "That's odd. I've never seen you at one of the Chamber of Commerce meetings."
"We have our own Chamber of Commerce."
"You don't say," Carl said lightly. "That's very interesting. How many members are in your Chamber of Commerce?"
"Enough. Now, I'm trying to tell you nicely that we don't want your pickle factory in our nice little town."
"I'm here to stay," Carl said. "Is that all?"
"You really don't want to build your factory here. This area is prone to a lot of accidents."
Carl said, "You are a fascinating man."
"What do you mean?"
"You claim to represent the town, but you don't have a real role in the government. You say you represent some business leaders, but none of them are in the Chamber of Commerce. Then you give me an interesting statistic that this area is prone to accidents. If I didn't know better, I'd think you were trying to intimidate me into leaving town," Carl said.
"You might consider my advice and find somewhere else to build your little factory. Okay?"
Carl said, "Anything else."
"It's been fascinating talking to you. I didn't realize that people like you still existed."
Carl was thinking that it would be kind of nice to make reference to how endangered species had to be protected to keep them from becoming extinct. He wasn't sure if the man seated across from him would get the implication. He refrained only because he didn't want to provoke some incident that a Wache would have to handle.
"I'll be talking to you again."
"I seriously doubt that," Carl said.
Carl stood and held out his hand. When his visitor did not shake his hand, he withdrew it with a sad shake of his head.
After Mr. Anthony Gamboni left, Carl sat down at his desk with a sigh. If he wasn't surrounded by security people, he would have been terrified by this visit. As it was, it just angered him. How dare they send an idiot like that to try to intimidate him into leaving town?
Herman stuck his head in the door. "Come walk with me."
Carl followed Herman out of the office. They went over to Herman's office.
"Mr. Marcelo Caggiano is on his way to our private suite at the hotel just outside of town. We'll have another thread to follow by the end of the day."
"It sounds like you were expecting our visitor."
It seemed a little fortuitous for them to be able to pick up Mr. Marcelo Caggiano while his minion, Mr. Anthony Gamboni, was delivering his threats. He wasn't sure what was going to happen to Mr. Caggiano, but he knew that Wache family members did not respond lightly to threats, and a threat had been delivered.
"It was just a matter of time. This will free up two more of our people."
Carl had no idea how many members of the Wache family were involved with his pickle factory. He knew of at least twelve, although there had to be close to a hundred of them in the area. His chauffeur, the receptionist, his secretary, and Herman were all Wache. Then there was his 'girlfriend.'
"We'll need them. Things are heating up."
"Why did you want me to come here to tell me that?" Carl asked.
"We're sweeping your office for bugs," Herman answered.
"Do you think that is necessary?"
Herman answered, "He could have talked to you anywhere. Instead, he chose to come here. There had to be more of a reason for that than just a simple conversation."
There were times when Carl wondered if Herman had a clinical case of paranoia. However, the man had been proven correct, time and time again. He had come to trust Herman's insights.
Carl said, "Let's go back to the conference room to discuss tonight's meeting."
The two men returned to the conference room. Jim Woodman was fiddling with the computer while George was staring off into space, deep in thought. Juan Torres, the lawyer, was reviewing some folders.
Carl said, "I want to see the presentation."
"Right," Jim said.
"Before we begin, let me say that we've got some hints as to what kinds of questions we're going to get. Their lawyer has basically identified a couple of contradictory regulations. They're going use that to make sure that they can ask a bunch of questions for which there are no obviously correct answers," Herman said.
Juan Torres said, "We've got those covered. According to the law, the most restrictive version can be assumed. In cases where there are explicit contradictions, the broadest authority has precedence. In other words, state law can not violate federal law, and local law can not violate state law. We will get arguments on that. What will end up happening is that we'll have to start quoting case law at them. They aren't going to want to play that game, particularly since locals have invariably lost."
Carl said, "I can't believe that they are fighting a pickle factory like this."
This particular area had an unemployment rate of nearly fifteen percent. The city should be begging to get companies to move into the area. The pickle company would have direct hires, but would also trigger an increase in other businesses. They would need gasoline, office supplies, and other essentials for a business of that size.
"We haven't even gotten the big boys involved yet. Things are going to get very interesting when we get above the local level. They will want to play the case law game with us," Juan said.
Not wanting to dwell on the legal games that would be played in the future, Carl said, "Let's get to the presentation."
For the next thirty minutes key elements of the design were presented. Carl watched the presentation impressed by the work the others had done to help make his dream come true. After listening to it, he couldn't believe that anyone could object to them beginning construction. He knew they would.
The factory was comprised of three buildings. The smallest building was an office area for managing the operational aspects of the company. Basically, there wasn't much to the building other than a reception area, offices, and break rooms.
The middle sized building was a warehouse for storing his products until they could be sent for distribution. It was a basic warehouse type structure with loading docks for trucks. There was enough space to store more product than he would be able to produce, during the first few years of business. However, the building did have expansion points in case more space was required. There was a conveyor system that ran through a covered connection to the warehouse for delivering the pickles for storage.
The largest building was where the cucumbers were pickled. It was the most complex building of the three with pickling tanks, canning equipment, packaging equipment, and lines for preparing the cucumbers. There was a covered unloading dock for bringing in the raw materials, namely vinegar, spices, and cucumbers. A separate dock was used to bring in the bottles, labels, and packaging materials. It incorporated clean design practices to assure that no foreign contaminates would be introduced into the product. There was even a small laboratory for food quality inspections.
He was very impressed with the layout of all three buildings. The fact was that the whole site was far larger than what he had initially planned. He had wanted a little gourmet pickle company that served specialty markets. Instead, they had gone after the larger grocery store market with a presence sufficient to challenge the existing pickle companies. It was necessary for his company to be large enough to attract the attention of those wanting to control food.
After the presentation was over, they went to the mock-up of the factory site. George Smyth pointed out key features of the site. He lifted the roofs off of the model buildings to show how the interiors would be laid out. Little details, like the safety lines on the floor denoting where it was safe to walk, were present.
Looking at the model, Carl could see his factory in production. It was easy to imagine walking from vat to vat checking the status of the pickles and taking samples to assure that nothing had been contaminated. He could feel the coolness of the refrigerated area. He could hear the noise as hundreds of glass jars rumbled along conveyers, through the wash, and onto the pickle packing equipment.
He thanked the men for the presentation, stating that he would see them that evening at the city council meeting. He left the conference room and went back to his office.
His secretary, Liz Knight, greeted him. "We found a bug under the chair your visitor used."
Liz fit the ideal that Carl had for a secretary. She was in her mid-fifties and had the kind of manner that would intimidate anyone trying to pull a fast one. She even managed to keep Samantha and Jennifer off his back when he was in the office.
"What did you do with it?" Carl asked.
"We destroyed it. It was a cheap-ass low-tech piece of crap. It wouldn't have even broadcast out of the building."
"I guess that's good. Was that the only one?" Carl asked.
Even as he asked the question, he wondered if he was becoming clinically paranoid. There had been a time not that long ago when he would have been amazed that they had found one and would never have suspected that there might be others.
"Interesting that you should ask that. We found one in the reception area," Liz answered.
Carl said, "You know, when I think of plots of world domination, I think of British spies and evil villains who are trying to steal nuclear weapons to hold the world hostage. I never really thought of a plot of world domination involving individuals trying to squash Carl Plante's pickle factory."
Liz laughed. "It does sound a little absurd when you put it that way."
"I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who feels that way," Carl said.
There were still times when he thought that Tom Farmer's assessment of the situation was way out of line. His experience in starting the pickle factory was giving him evidence that there was indeed a plot. Still, it just seemed like a bad piece of fiction.
"Just because it sounds absurd doesn't mean it isn't happening," Liz said.
"I know," Carl said with a sigh.
Liz asked, "Will you be heading home to get some rest for tonight's event?"
"I'll go as soon as I find my 'girlfriend' and my personal assistant," Carl said.
Living with two women was not easy. There was a little competition between the two of them as to which one would bed Carl first. To be honest, there was no competition – Carl was interested in Jennifer. Even dressed and coiffured to minimize her attractiveness, she was still the most beautiful woman that Carl had ever seen.
Unfortunately for all three of them, Carl knew he was not a good enough actor to pretend to be in love with Samantha when he was intimately involved with Jennifer. Of course, every time he hugged and kissed Samantha in public, Jennifer would throw a hissy fit in private. After nearly eight months of living together, the tension in the house was getting nearly unbearable.
Hearing a little anxiety in his voice, Liz asked, "Are there problems in the Plante household?"
"That would be putting it lightly," Carl said.
There were times when he didn't want to go home. There would be little catty comments between the two women. There would occasionally be emotional outbursts in his direction. He would get irritated and shut them both down. At least, Skippy was always happy to see him.
"You're going to have to take matters in hand," Liz said.
"What do you mean?"