Copyright© 2021 by Lazlo Zalezac
The most recent edition of the local newspaper had eight pages. Odds were good that only one of those pages was actually going to be read by anyone. The whole first page of the paper covered a story exposing a price fixing scheme that affected the prices that farmers got for their crops. Farmers had been getting ripped off for years according to the article. The article named names and gave in-depth details about how it had been done. Hundreds of people were going to be sent to jail as a result of the investigation.
Considering that the towns of Millville, West Millville, East Millville, North Millville, and New Millville were right in the heart of corn country this was big news. A simple trip to the store took five times as long as usual since everyone was talking about the scandal. Even the bank was running slow that day.
Karen stepped up to the counter and said, “Hello, Mel.”
“Hello, Karen. How much have you got for us?”
“Ten million and thirty dollars,” Karen answered.
“That’s a lot,” Mel said. “I hope that the ten millon isn’t from a food company.”
“It is from a high tech company in Boston,” Karen said.
“I take it you’ve heard about the scandal,” Mel said. She glanced at the check and then ran it through the machine.
Karen said, “That’s something, isn’t it?”
“I was talking to one of the farmers in the area who has a very large farm. He said that he might make an extra half a million dollars next fall if he gets realistic prices for his corn for a change,” Mel said. She grabbed a receipt slip and slid it into the machine. There was a zzzt sound when the amount of the deposit was printed on the receipt.
“That’s a lot of money,” Karen said. Everyone in the area knew that large amounts of money were involved in agriculture. Crops brought in a lot of money, but the debts carried were equally large. It was often joked that it cost more than a million dollars to raise a million dollars worth of crops.
“According to one of the news reports on television last night, the farmers should have gotten paid ten percent more than they received,” Mel said. She held out the receipt for Karen.
“That is incredible. People might actually make a living out of farming for a change.”
Mel said, “That is the difference between keeping and losing the farm. This is going to be real good for the bank. We’ll have fewer foreclosures and more equipment loans.”
“It is going to be good for every business in the area,” Karen said. “I’ll see you next week.”
“Great,” Mel said.
Upon returning to Solutions Incorporated from the bank, Karen asked, “Has Magus arrived yet?”
“He hasn’t come in yet,” Claudia answered.
“That’s odd. He’s always here first thing in the morning,” Karen said.
Claudia said, “I know.”
“Did you know that he had a ten million dollar check for me to deposit today?” Karen said. She had nearly wrecked her car on the way to the bank. She was nervous at the idea of carrying a check worth ten million dollars.
Claudia said, “One of the Fortune 500 companies came in Tuesday. For you or me, he charges us ten dollars. For one of them, he charges ten million dollars.”
“It sucks to be them,” Karen said.
“It sure does,” Claudia said with a laugh.
Karen asked, “Speaking of things sucking, how’s the divorce going?”
“I signed the papers earlier this week. We still have to wait for it all to become official,” Claudia said. Her husband was not being very cooperative.
“That’s good,” Karen said. She didn’t really know the process by which people were divorced. She figured any progress was good news.
Not wanting to think about the misery that her divorce was putting her through, Claudia asked, “How does it feel to have your husband at home?”
“It’s great. I can’t tell you how much I missed him,” Karen answered. Don had returned three days ago and they had spent nearly every minute that they were alone in the bedroom. She had been very happy that her daughter was still in school and Stephen was spending the entire day at the office. This was the first time since he had returned that she had left the house for more than twenty minutes.
“I thought you were walking funny,” Claudia said.
“Hush,” Karen said. She tried to look severe, but broke out in giggles.
Claudia asked, “What is he doing while you’re at work today?”
“He’s visiting Doug. He hasn’t seen Doug since he was wounded,” Karen answered. Wanda had told her that Doug was going to be returning to work soon. Mary had already moved out of their house.
“I’m sure that Doug will appreciate the visit. He must be bored sitting around the house,” Claudia said.
“He’s going back to work soon,” Karen said.
“That’s nice. I bet he’s looking forward to it,” Claudia said.
Karen said, “His injuries shouldn’t be a problem since he works in the office of the feed store.”
“I imagine that it is going to be very busy there in the near future,” Claudia said. Spring was coming and farmers were preparing for another year of work. “It is going to be even busier this year because of the article in the news paper.”
“You wouldn’t believe what it was like at the bank today. Everyone was talking about that article,” Karen said.
“I find the whole thing incredible. It is hard to believe that they were able to rip off so many farmers from all over the country. Imagine being able to control the price of corn, soy, and milk like that,” Claudia said.
“Someone really busted that whole crop price fixing scheme wide open.”
“That’s the biggest news in agriculture since the invention of the plow,” Claudia said.
Karen said, “I bet farmers everywhere are jumping for joy.”
“You bet,” Claudia said. “I heard they were going to hold a parade here in town. It wouldn’t surprise me if all of those crooks are hung in effigy and carried down Main Street.”
“You should have heard the talk at the bank,” Karen said. “Mel was telling me that the farmers could expect as much as ten percent more for their crops this year.”
Claudia said, “That’s a big deal around here.”
“It makes you wonder who managed to expose it,” Karen said. It had been a very sophisticated plot in which government reported numbers were fudged one way, then fudged in a different way, and then corrected after all of the transactions had been performed. The farmers lost money on the sale and the consumers paid too much money on the purchase, but the middlemen made out like bandits.
Claudia said, “It had to be someone smart. I mean, he had to show how some of the crop report numbers got double counted, then under counted, and then correctly counted without looking like an obvious fraud. Those guys were able to do that for ten years.”
“Those crooks walked off with four billion dollars every year just from corn. I don’t know how much they stole from the dairy farmers and the soy farmers, but I imagine it is just as much. It might reach ten billion dollars once they finish the investigation,” Karen said.
“That’s a lot of money stolen from farmers,” Claudia said.
Karen said, “You don’t think...”
“Nah,” Claudia said.
Startling both women, Magus entered the office. He said, “Ah, good. You are both here.”
“Yes, we are,” Claudia said expecting Magus to scurry off to his office. Instead, he just stood there smiling at the pair of them. He looked excited for a change. She entertained the idea of slipping around the desk and trying to give Magus a hug. The way he would waddle off waving his arms over his head was always worth a laugh or two.
“Claudia, I need you to set up the home schooling high school senior exit exam for Stephen for Monday. The Principal of the high school needs to administer it. Remind him that he owes me a favor,” Magus said.
“Okay,” Claudia said. She grabbed a notepad and scribbled a note to that effect.
“Already?” Karen asked. It took a minute to realize that Stephen was in the wrong year of school to be graduating. “He’s only a junior.”
“He’s a senior. He passed the junior exam two months ago,” Magus said.