The Reset Manifesto
Chapter 5

Copyright© 2016 by Lazlo Zalezac

After taking a quick walk to stretch his legs, a bewildered George rejoined the family in the waiting room. He said, “There’s a ton of people out there. I don’t know where they all came from.”

“Is everyone seated?”

“Yes.”

“Good. Maybe we’ll get started. This waiting is getting on my nerves.”

The funeral director knocked on the door softly and then entered the room. Rebecca stood up and squared her shoulders ready to begin the ordeal.

He said, “The Secret Service has arrived.”

“Who?” Patricia asked.

“The Secret Service is here. They say that the Washington contingent is running late and won’t be here for another hour. The Governor’s party is delayed as well.”

“What Washington contingent?”

“I was told that it was the Vice President, the Speaker of the House, the Senate Majority Leader, and several cabinet members.”

Patricia asked, “What’s going on?”

Rebecca said, “Beats me.”

George said, “I’ve got no idea why the Governor would be coming here. God only knows why the Vice President is coming.”

“Your father knew a lot of people. Still, I’m very surprised that so many of them came,” Rebecca said.

“Are you sure Dad was just the owner of an Internet order store?”


Walking briskly with the black robe swirling around his feet, Peter approached his family wearing a large grin. He was carrying a mortar board hat in his hand. Hung around his neck and falling down his chest were the cords associated with three different honor societies. He wore an honors sash. He waved his free hand at them.

“Well, here comes the conquering hero,” his father said.

“I came, I saw, I conquered, and I got the T-shirt.”

His parents laughed. Patricia said, “Good job, little brother.”

“Thank you, Patty.”

“Patricia.”

“I stand corrected,” Peter said. He turned to his brother and said, “I see by your presence here that you were able to make it.”

“Yeah. My professor let me take his final early. I flew in this morning. I’m beat.”

“I’m pleased to see you. I know that pre-law is almost as difficult as ... basket weaving.”

Charles slugged him on the shoulder. Patricia laughed.

His father asked, “Did you get the job?”

“Yes. I’ll be joining Newton in four months.”

“Newton?” his father asked looking disgusted at his choice.

Charles asked, “Four months? Why not now?”

“I’ve given it a lot of thought. There are a lot of places to see and now is my chance to see this country. I’m going to drive around for four months seeing how other people live.”

His mother asked, “What are you going to do for money?”

“I know that you got a full scholarship to pay your way through school, but money is tight. We’re paying to put Patty and Charles through school. They still have years to go because of their majors.”

“Law school is expensive.”

“So is medical school.’

His father said, “We’d love to pay your way as a graduation present, but I don’t know if we can afford it.”

“That’s not a problem. I applied for a ‘Walk About Grant’ based on my minor in Social Studies. Someone thought it would be a great idea for a businessman who has a degree or a minor in Social Studies to spend a little time getting a feel for what’s going on in the world. I’m to write a report at the end of four months about how business decisions can affect entire communities.”

“I’ve never heard of something like that.”

“It was offered by the Soul Searcher Organization. It seems that they have an anonymous donor who wants high-performing business graduates to experience the real world before getting into a soul-stealing job,” Peter said with a chuckle.

“How much does it pay?” his father asked.

“Eight thousand a month for four months. The money is to cover food, clothing, hotels, and some experiences with a variety of people. There’s even a list of folks that I’m supposed to visit.”

“That’s good. Maybe you’ll find something that interests you more than going to Newton.”

Two men who wore slightly more ornate robes than Peter approached them. One had his hand out to shake. “Congratulations, Peter. The business school is hoping to hear great things from you.”

Shaking hands with the elderly gentleman, he replied, “Thank you, Professor Smith. I’m hoping that great things will happen to me.”

The second professor shook his hand while saying, “I’m sure they will, young man. I was told that you were offered a job at Newton. That’s a big company. You can learn a lot there.”

“Thank you, Professor Westen. I accepted the job offer from Newton. They’re putting me into the Management Faststream Program.”

“Oh! That’s great. You could end up being a director in five years.”

“I expect the alumni organization has a big circle around your name.”

Peter said, “It seems to be the right company for me at the moment.”

Professor Smith said, “They’re transitioning away from their traditional business model. They are keeping design and sales in-house while outsourcing manufacturing.”

“I know that,” Peter said. “I’m rather interested to see what it is like from the inside, rather than just reading about it in a text book.”

“A lot of people argue that it means job losses inside the country, but it is really a shift in jobs, here.”

“I remember your lecture on that very well,” Peter said with a patient smile.

Standing a bit away, Patricia nudged Charles and whispered, “He’s got that smile that means he doesn’t agree with a single word they’re saying.”

“His bullshit detector is in overdrive,” Charles replied quietly. “Does anyone actually believe that sending jobs overseas causes a simple shift in jobs here?”

“They do.”

They stepped back and watched the conversation for a while. The entire family relaxed when the two professors finally left.

His father said, “I don’t like what you said about Newton. It has the kind of reputation of using its employees and then tossing them out. You could find yourself without a job if you go there.”

“Although it does have that reputation, I can take care of myself. If you plan to be a shark, you have to learn how to swim with sharks. People who do well at Newton are in great demand elsewhere.”

“That doesn’t sound like you,” his mother said.

Charles said, “Your grades are good enough to get into law school. You could always shift into business law.”

“No. I’m doing what I think is right for me. I did have other offers, but I liked that one the best. It gave me more opportunities.”

Patricia said, “Business? You can do much better than becoming a businessman. You could be a world famous scientist with your mind.”

“No. I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing.”

His father interrupted, “Kids, you’ve had that argument so many times it’s getting old. Drop it, already. He’s got a business degree and a job he wants.”

“It’s just that he’s capable of so much more.”

The conversation was interrupted by the arrival of Professor Bowlings. He was grinning broadly. Rather than extend a hand, he gave Peter a hug. “I feel like I’m sending my own son into the world, Peter. I’m going to miss our discussions.”

“You’ve got Ann Randal to keep you occupied, now.”

“That’s a brilliant young woman.”

Peter turned to his family and said, “Everyone, this is Professor Bowlings. I worked for him as a research assistant throughout my stay here.”

Everyone noticed that he introduced Professor Bowlings and had failed to introduce the other two Professors. They greeted Professor Bowlings warmly.

“I’m expecting great things of Peter. You should be proud of him.”

“We are,” his father said.

“Peter, I know you’re busy with family and getting ready to charge off into the future. I’ll leave you to it. Just keep in touch with me, okay?”

“Of course I’ll keep in touch with you,” Peter said.

“Of course you will,” the man said and then walked off chuckling to himself.

“He seems like a very nice man,” Patricia said.

“He is. He’s going to change the world one of these days,” Peter said.

Charles started to say something, but his father nudged him and gave him one of those looks.

“Let me turn in the robe and then we can head out. We’ll have to stop by my dorm to pick up my stuff.”

“Sure.”

Once Peter was gone, Charles said, “Come on, Dad, he’s wasting his life.”

Patricia said, “His IQ is off the charts, and all he wants to do is be a businessman.”

“I know what you’re saying.”

His mother said, “You know, Peter, he’s going to do what he wants to do.”

“Aren’t you disappointed in him?”

“I’m proud of him,” his father said somewhat flatly.

“But ... business! Come on, that’s a waste of a great mind,” Patricia said.

“It’s what he wants. End of discussion.”

A week later Peter parked his new car, a graduation present from his parents, outside a small bar in Flint, Michigan. It had been hard, driving past all of those closed down factories, decayed houses, protest signs, and empty stores. The first thing he’d seen on entry into the town was a hand painted sign: “Don’t drink the water!”

Using a handkerchief, he opened the door of the bar. He tucked the handkerchief in his back pocket while looking around for the person he was there to see. The first thing he noticed on entering the bar, was the plastic five gallon bottle of distilled water sitting on the bar counter. His quarry was seated at a back table.

“What can I get for you?”

“A cola.”

“You wouldn’t want something a little stronger in it, would you?”

“No. I’m fine with just a cola.”

“Sodas are cheaper at the convenience store.”

“That’s all right. I’m here to talk to someone, and it’s crass to come into a drinking establishment carrying your own beverage.”

“Suit yourself. One cola coming up.”

The bartender poured a glass of soda and set it on the counter. He added, “The ice is made from distilled water.”

“That’s good. I’d hate to drink what they are passing off as water around here.”

“You and me both.”

Peter carried his glass of soda over to a corner table where a man sat staring at his drink. He looked like he was on his last legs — spiritually, not in terms of sobriety. He watched Peter approach with narrowed eyes. The other men in the bar watched Peter make his way across the room with a sudden tone of hostility.

“I’m not dropping the lawsuit.”

“Of course, you’re not,” Peter said. Holding out a small thumb drive, he said, “Your lawsuit will fail, but what is on here won’t.”

“What is it?”

“There are files documenting collusion between the EPA, the state, the water company, and the company that is the problem. It has copies of their actual water analysis results which are vastly different than what they are releasing to the public. They have also identified the actual source of the contaminants. There’s enough there to take them all down.”

“Don’t take it to your lawyer. He’s a shithead and is seriously thinking of selling you out. Don’t let him know that you know that. One word in the wrong place and you’re a dead man. I’m sure that you suspect that to be the case. That’s not a paranoid delusion, it is a fact.

“There is a file there with the name and address of a lawyer who has an axe to grind. Take it to her. She knows what to do with the material on the disk. She knows that the end result will be better if you can f•©k them all at once.”

“Who are you? Why are you doing this?”

“I’m just a person who is sick of the corruption going on in this country. By the way, don’t trust that guy with the checkered shirt. He works for the water company. Don’t say or do anything to him or you’ll warn the bad guys. Keep your mouth shut and don’t do anything stupid.”

After wiping the thumb-drive with his handkerchief, he handed it over to man. Peter finished his soda and said, “Good luck.”

Carrying his glass with him, Peter turned and left the bar. He dumped out the ice, tossed the glass into the trunk, got into his car and drove off. The less time spent in that toxic pit the better. He felt sorry for the people who were stuck there. Hopefully, the guy was smart enough to follow directions. If he wasn’t, there were going to be a lot of malformed babies being born.


Texas is normally hot and dry. Dry as in lacking rainfall — as opposed to an absence of humidity — in the summer. However, there are a few days every year when there’s an exception to that general rule. It starts with a clear blue sky, then a slow forbidding-looking dark line appears on the northern horizon. Massive clouds, dark, churning, and boiling, move overhead at tremendous speeds. It seems like it only takes minutes for the clouds to move from the far horizon to almost directly overhead.

Bands of green or pale blue can be seen at the edges of individual clouds within the mass. It’s not the blue of sky or green of water, but a color that somehow seems unnatural. It’s the color of ice catching the sun.

Peter was driving through a suburb of Dallas when such a storm appeared. He stopped by the side of the street and looked up at the clouds. A shiver ran down his back. His first thought was that it was a tornado, but it didn’t have any little starters for funnels. These clouds were churning.

He drove on looking for shelter. Then it started to rain. For the first few minutes it was a slow rain of huge drops which he could have sworn were the size of grapes. It was like miniature water balloons bursting on the hood of his car. He spotted a huge oak tree along one the street. He pulled up onto the lawn and parked under it. The rain started coming down harder and faster.

An elderly man was seated on the front porch of the house whose lot the tree grew on. Peter got out of the car and ran towards the porch. The old man was climbing out of his chair and drawing his pistol. Texas was a concealed carry state and a lot of people carried. Peter came to a quick halt. The wind was kicking up hard enough to pick up a trash can and blow it down the street.

Peter raised his hands and said, “Peace friend, I mean no harm. There’s a bad storm coming.”

“It’s just a Texas hailstorm,” the old man said waving the pistol in Peter’s direction. “It’s not a tornado.”

“I know. That’s why I parked under your tree.”

“I didn’t say you could do that. Now get out of here.”

By this time, Peter was getting soaked from the rain. He ran his hands over his hair squeezing out some of the water in a useless gesture. He looked at his car, at the tree, up at the sky, and then over at the old man. The sky was really starting to let loose. He held out a hand, palm up and watched it fill with water.

“You wouldn’t happen to be able to spare a glass of water. I’m getting mighty thirsty standing out here in this Texas sun,” Peter said.

A single stone of hail the size of a marble hit the ground next to him. The old man said, “Get up here on the porch. Sit on that end over there where I can keep you covered.”

Peter made it onto the porch just in time. The hail really started falling. He moved to the far end of the porch, sat down with his back against the house front, and looked out at the hail that was coming down. The hail was getting larger to where it was now the size of eggs.

“I parked under your tree for a reason. I figured if the tree came down, it would total the car and the insurance would pay to replace it. It’s brand new. My parents bought for me as a graduation present.”

The old man grunted.

“If the tree didn’t fall down, I figured that the branches would slow the hail down enough to keep my car from getting a complexion like a golf ball. If I parked out in the street, that car was going to look like the surface of the moon. I’d probably lose a window or two. The insurance company would pay me a little for the damage, but I’d be stuck driving a dimpled car.”

“You should have headed home and parked in your garage.”

“That’s a thousand miles away.”

“What are you doing around here?”

A huge hail stone hit the ground and shattered into dust with a loud bang. It was easily the size of a baseball, maybe even the size of a grapefruit.

“Right now I’m watching the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I mean, I’ve seen a hail storm before, but that was stones the size of peas. These are monsters. I swear, they could kill a person.”

“A few folks who keep their dogs outside while they’re at work are liable to lose them in a storm like this.”

“Damn. I hate hearing about things like that.”

“It is a damned shame.”

“How long do these things usually last?” Peter asked.

“Ten minutes or so. A storm like this will drop a bunch of ice and then move on leaving clear blue skies behind them. It’s Texas weather. For years, the only thing between Canada and here was a barb wire fence; and it was down half the time.”

Peter chuckled. The noise of hail bouncing off the roof was loud enough to make it hard to hear the old man even though he was just ten feet away.

“In summer, we get hailstorms. In winter, we get ice storms. Back in the day, Harold Taft was the weatherman on the television. He understood Texas weather. There were some times he’d just say, ‘It’s gonna be one of those days with drought, flood, tornado, sleet, hail, and clear skies all before noon, ‘“ the old man said with a chuckle. “He hand-drew his weather maps. They didn’t have fancy computers generating them in those days.

“That was in the fifties and sixties. Times were different back then, better in some ways, worse in others. Predicting the weather was more art than science. Cars only ran for about fifty thousand miles before you had to replace them. There weren’t so many people around, at least around here. Traffic wasn’t so bad.

“It wasn’t all peaches and cream. There was segregation, and that was pretty bad. It wasn’t as bad here as it was in other places. Whites and Coloreds kept separate. Coloreds could go to the state fair and the zoo during the Juneteenth days. Those are the days of June that end in teen. It was a big holiday down here. A good boss wouldn’t demand that a Colored person come to work during that time.

“I knew Coloreds who would quit their job if necessary, to take their kid to the zoo; because it was one week out of the year when they could show their kid what a real live lion looked like. There’d be picnics in the parks. There’d be a lot drinking and carousing. Lots of young girls got in the family way during the Juneteenth days.

“Segregation came to an end. People of color were no longer called, Negroes or Coloreds, but became Blacks or African Americans. Just to show you how much things have changed, in fifty years we went from Coloreds not being able to use the same toilet facilities as Whites to where we’ve had a Black president. I never thought when I was young that would ever happen.”

“How does that make you feel?” Peter asked.

“I’m going on ninety years old now. If you do the math, I was born in the late 1920s, just in time for the Great Depression, the Oklahoma Dust Bowl, and the Great Texas Drought. The world of men and the justice of God fell on all of us. The Whites were angrier about it though. It as if all of those troubles were the fault of Colored people. Some of us were still getting paid to dig ditches, pick cotton, and other manual labor jobs. A lot of Whites were wanting to take the shovels out of our hands, just for the chance to earn a little money. Tensions were high. There was a KKK here, like in the other parts of the South.

“Now, I listen to my grandson moan about how unfair everything is. He’s working in a company making damned good money. He feels they’re promoting Whites over him. Last time he was here, I told him about how it was when I was a kid. Whites had schools with real rooms, chairs, desks, and books. We had the covered car port, the ground, and books that were too old to use in a White school. Only a few of us learned to read, write, and do numbers. Those of us who learned often ended up overseeing the ones who didn’t.

“University? That was damned near impossible. There were a handful of colored colleges scattered around the country, but you had to be real smart to get into one of them. My grandson graduated from the University of Texas. He went through it on a scholarship.

“He bitches about the unfairness of things. Me, I fear that people like him are going to cost us all of our gains. They complain about a lack of opportunity when they’ve had far more opportunity then those of my generation. As a kid, I did jobs they’d turn down, today. They’re getting into a shooting war with the police, and that’s alienating everyone who has come to a slow grudging acceptance of Blacks.

“That’s how you kill a dream, like the dream of Reverend King. When you get angry and start saying violent things, you turn away the folks who are reluctantly accepting you, and those who are about to accept you. When the common White folks turn on us again, the hangings and burning crosses are not far behind.”

The old man looked over at Peter as if expecting him to challenge him on that last bit. He was shocked when Peter said, “You’re right about hangings and burning crosses, although I would say that the day is coming sooner than you might believe. The problem is that even the most violent of the young Blacks aren’t at fault. They are reacting to what’s happening to them.

“It’s all about money, not social injustice. People are getting paid to stir up tensions between the races. They think they are getting rich on it. They’ll get even richer before they discover that the money they are getting paid is more of a loan than theirs to keep.”

“What do you mean it’s a loan?”

“You don’t get rich by getting money from the rich. You get rich by taking money from the poor. The rich don’t give money to the poor unless they expect to receive even more back. It is the economics of poverty at play here. This is all about keeping poor people poor and making more people poor. When you can’t make more Blacks or Hispanics poor, you turn to making Whites poor.

“Whites have been advantaged economically over Blacks for a long time, but that has come to an end. You know that it is true when Whites start adopting the culture of the economically challenged. You saw it begin in the 90s with the whole Ghetto movement, white kids dressing in baggy pants and singing rap music about being Black. Today, it’s tattoos, weirdly colored hair, and rebellion against anything middle class. It isn’t that they are enamored with the ‘poor.’ It is that they are accepting their place as being poor.

“I know you won’t want to believe me, but the facts are there. Middle-class income has been frozen for forty years. Inflation has risen, but their income hasn’t. It was the lower middle class who were hit the hardest by the housing bubble. Middle class families are sending their kids to college only to have the kids graduate with debts that most of them can never pay off. They didn’t graduate and become economically superior; they graduated to face a lifetime of borderline poverty. Middle-class retirement money is going into managed funds that are losing money while the managers of those funds are getting rich.

“So you end up with four groups of Whites. The first group contains those who are unconsciously settling into the lifestyle of poverty. At the other end of the spectrum, you have the second group which contains those who are taking the money.

“The third group is those who haven’t been impacted too much by the economic manipulations around them. For the most part, they don’t believe it is happening. They see their loss of wealth as a result of their poor decisions. They bemoan having taken a balloon mortgage and losing their house unaware that they were manipulated so that it was the only kind of mortgage they could afford.

“It’s the last group, those who see it coming and are angrily resisting it, who are being used by the rich. They are being aimed at the Blacks and Hispanics with exaggerated crime statistics and fears of invasion across the border. At the same time, the Blacks are being aimed at the Whites. Nobody will win in that conflict except those who are orchestrating it. Why aim the two groups at each other? The answer is obvious: it’s so that neither side sees who is actually stealing their money.

“The government declared war on the American people in 1971. It didn’t call it a war on Americans; it called it a war on drugs. Drug use hasn’t decreased as a result of this war. The violence has increased and one of the primary victims of that has been the Black community. While the government said on one hand that it was against racism and drugs, it was allowing and participating in the sale of drugs within impoverished areas in a blatantly racist manner.

“Guess who got rich in the deal. It sure wasn’t the low-level guys selling drugs on the street. It wasn’t the users. It was the people at the very head of the supply chain and the people who are funding it. They are billionaires.”

The old man nodded his head in agreement, “It’s just the man keeping us down.”

Peter looked out in the yard. The hail storm had passed. The lawn was littered with hail stones the size of baseballs among much smaller stones. There were branches down. The windows on the house across the street were broken. The windshield of a car parked on the street was cracked. Folks were coming out of their houses to inspect the damage caused by the storm. The sky, with the exception of a few residual clouds, was bright blue.

Peter said, “I wasn’t driving through a lower middle class Black community by chance, to escape the storm, or because I was taking a short cut. I’m here to deliver evidence of payoffs in fomenting the current racial tensions here. The same party is paying huge sums of money to the more vocal leaders of both sides of the argument. The major events are being intentionally created and any unplanned events are being exaggerated.

“The man I’m delivering the evidence to doesn’t take prisoners. Don’t be surprised if all of the protests and angry news stories disappear within a week.”

The old man stared at Peter.

“The storm is over and I must be on my way. There’s too much to do and not enough time.”

The tree had served its purpose. Outside of a few very small branches, his car was untouched by the storm. He cleared off the leaves and branches from the top of the car, got in, and drove off. He had places to go and things to do.

The old man returned his pistol to where he kept it while thinking that maybe, one day, he wouldn’t feel that he needed it in order to stay safe on his own front porch. He’d seen enough of the world to believe that money was behind everything he was observing lately. He hoped the kid was right that the man he was about to see would stop the nonsense and things would quiet down. Protests and riots only cause problems.


Dean Braud, Attorney at Law, was looking over the hand-written board with the day’s specials. Joining him for their regular luncheon date, District Attorney Matthew Pellerin removed the jacket from his portly frame. He sat down at the table, ready for some of Mama’s fried lunch special: fried clams, fried shrimp, friend oysters, and fried catfish with spiced cole slaw, fried hush puppies, and a baked potato loaded with butter and sour cream. Ever since his doctor had told him to lay off the fried food, Matthew Pellerin had cut back his visits to Mama’s Place to once every other week.

Picking up from a conversation that had ended two days previously, Dean said, “Matthew, you can’t prosecute Willie. He’s your friend, for Christ’s sake.”

“I don’t want to prosecute him. Willie and I have known each other since forever. It’s not up to me. The press has been all over me about this case. They’ve got him tried and hung, already.”

“You and I both know he’s innocent.”

“I know that. The only problem is that I’ve got a folder full of evidence that I can’t refute that says otherwise. I’ve got the state Attorney General breathing down my back to hang Willie from the nearest tree. I was going to turn the case over to someone else on the grounds of conflict of interest and help you, but I was told that if I did that ... I’d be sorry,” Matthew leaned forward and, in a low voice, said, “Dean, those people scare me.”

“They scare me, too. Why did they pick on Willie?”

“Because he fit the profile. He is liked and respected in the community, he isn’t too rich to save himself, he isn’t so poor that folks wouldn’t care, and his place holds a central spot in this location. After they finish destroying him in the most brutal fashion possible, everyone else in the area will crumble when the spotlight is turned on them,” Peter said, sitting down in one of the chairs at the table.

Both men turned to look at him. Matthew stared at surgical gloves that covered Peter’s hands. Peter took a sip of the glass of ice tea he was carrying with him. The two men exchanged glances as if checking out if the other knew this guy.

Peter said, “That’s how they operate. They come in and squash some poor sap like a bug sending a message to the entire community. In a year, this whole area will belong to a chemical company. That’s what this whole thing is about.”

At the looks on the men’s faces, he said, “I guess you didn’t know that. Well, now you do.”

He reached in his shirt pocket and pulled out two thumb drives, one red and the other blue. Handing the blue one to Dean, he said, “This has the evidence that will keep Willie out of jail.”

“This has the evidence that will put the state Attorney General and a number of businessmen behind bars for their role in this,” Peter said handing the red drive to Matthew.

“Who do you work for?”

“I work for all of the Willies in this country. However, in this case I’m just the messenger boy. A fellow who used to work for the None Such Agency gave it to me to give to you. He hates bad guys and for some reason, this crew really turned his crank. He wants blood.”

“None Such Agency?”

“NSA.”

“Oh.”

“The evidence is golden.”

Peter reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a very small black thumb drive. He placed it carefully on the table between the two men. “Unfortunately, he doesn’t know how to use information like what is on those drives to their fullest effect. I do. You two are going to have to clandestinely work together to free Willie ... I just realized something: Free Willie, wasn’t that the name of a movie?”

“Yes.”

“Willie’s going to have to live under a cloud of suspicion for about a year. However, he’ll end up a very wealthy man if he keeps his head and sobriety.”

“Who are you?” Matthew asked.

“That’s not important.”

“I’d say it is very important.”

Peter took another sip of his tea unconcerned about what Matthew thought was important. He leaned over to Dean and said, “I took the liberty of placing an envelope on the front seat of your car. Consider it a donation for Willie’s defense fund. It contains the number of a bank account with two hundred thousand in it. That should be enough to pay for all of the people you’ll need to defend him.”

“What’s with the gloves?”

“I’m a very paranoid individual. It comes with the territory of protecting people like Willie. You might want to think about that. Considering that I was able to walk right up to you and sit down before either of you noticed me, you might want to pick up a little paranoia. You’re dealing with some very nasty individuals.”

“Just how bad are they?”

“They’re destroying Willie because they can. They’re going to destroy his wife and the future of his kids. Then they’re going to steal this whole area from the people around here. I imagine they’ll end up killing Ol’ Cooter because he’s just too cantankerous to play their game. And if things go their way, you two will be buried right beside him, because ... you’ll know too much about what really happened.”

Ol’ Cooter was a hermit who lived on the edge of town. He was more than likely to greet someone with his shotgun as to say hello to him or her. Every town needed a character and the old man was it. Everyone had an Ol’ Cooter story. A few of them even made it on the Internet.

Matthew said, “I’ve had a bad feeling ever since that folder of evidence dropped on my desk.”

“Take care of Willie. Get whatever help you need to protect him,” Peter said while standing up to leave. He turned and walked away taking his glass of iced tea with him.

Matthew stood up to follow him out the door. Dean grabbed him and asked, “Where are you going?”

“I’m going to see what car he gets into. I want to know who he is.”

“Leave him alone. He just gave us a great big present.”

“Dean!”

“Matthew! Sit right back down here and order Mama’s Fried Lunch Special like you always do.”

Peter opened the trunk of his car and tossed the empty tea glass into it. He removed his gloves and tossed them in the back as well. He drove off unconcerned. A mile down the road, he pulled off and put the license plates back on his car.

He paused after replacing the front license plate to look at the alligator that was sunning itself just a couple of yards from the road. He pulled out his cell phone and took a picture of it. He climbed back into his car and drove off satisfied that all was well. At least, it was as well as it could be in these days and times.

Edited by Morgan
Edited By TeNderLoin

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