Text copyright © 2012
Robert Stetson All Rights Reserved
Table of Contents
THE CRUCIBLE II
THE CRUCIBLE III
Text copyright © 2012
Robert Stetson All Rights Reserved
Table of Contents
CHAPTER 1 OUR STRUGGLE
CHAPTER 2 LOSING LEO
CHAPTER 3 RITZ VILLAGE
CHAPTER 4 MOON WALKING
CHAPTER 5 VET IN THE HOUSE
CHAPTER 6 MOON CITY
CHAPTER 7 WHAT TERRORISM
CHAPTER 8 SEE NO EVIL
CHAPTER 9 MOOSE AND MOUSE
CHAPTER 10 WHAT OF RAMSEY
CHAPTER 11 HELLO DERECK
CHAPTER 12 MALL to MALL
THE CRUCIBLE II
CHAPTER 1 BLUE CHIP CREDITS
CHAPTER 2 QUIET THE MASSES
CHAPTER 3 POISON PILL
CHAPTER 4 PLANET PERI
CHAPTER 5 SPY ON BOARD
CHAPTER 6 FUN TERAFORMING
CHAPTER 7 ELITE RAT TRAP
CHAPTER 8 BLOOD BATH
CHAPTER 9 THE FOG PIRATES
CHAPTER 10 PRICE FIXING
CHAPTER 1 LIGHT THE JOLLY ROGER
CHAPTER 2 ROASTED PIG
CHAPTER 3 PARTING WAYS
CHAPTER 4 BEYOND THE KUIPER BELT
CHAPTER 5 STELLAR FRONTIER
CHAPTER 6 KNIGHTS TEMPLAR
CHAPTER 7 PRIME DIRECTIVE
CHAPTER 8 WAITING ON THE ELITE
CHAPTER 9 ENTER THE SAMURAI
CHAPTER 10 PLANET BUSTERS
CHAPTER 11 TROJAN BUSTER
CHAPTER 12 MISSING PLANETS
CHAPTER 13 STAR VALLY FOUND
CHAPTER 14 THREE TRUISMS
THE CRUCIBLE III
CHAPTER 1 LIGHT THE JOLLY ROGER
CHAPTER 2 ROASTED PIG
CHAPTER 3 PARTING WAYS
CHAPTER 4 BEYOND THE KUIPER BELT
CHAPTER 5 STELLAR FRONTIER
CHAPTER 6 KNIGHTS TEMPLAR
CHAPTER 7 PRIME DIRECTIVE
CHAPTER 8 WAITING ON THE ELITE
CHAPTER 9 ENTER THE SAMURAI
CHAPTER 10 PLANET BUSTERS
CHAPTER 11 TROJAN BUSTER
CHAPTER 12 MISSING PLANETS
CHAPTER 13 STAR VALLY FOUND
CHAPTER 14 THREE TRUISMS
It’s amazing what I have to put up with lately. My people are all a bit weird.
I’m reminded of the Devil and how he looks around at his staff, Sloth, Anger, Envy, Greed, Gluttony, Lust, Wrath, and Pride.
The Devil shakes his head in despair and says, “It must be the wages.”
Take Leo for example, we once, went undercover as street people and Leo showed up with the filthy ragged costume I gave him. The clothing was freshly laundered and pressed.
Leo lamented, “I thought I’d never get all those stains out.”
I stood there just looking at him in amazement and said, “You look great, Leo. Go home.”
Doug Ramsey, on the other hand didn’t need to be issued street rags. He fits right in with the homeless crowd.
When he’s in a hurry he often forgets to shave. He always exudes a slight, but pleasant clean soapy aroma.
His clothes are a mess and if anything ever happens to him, we’re going to donate his wardrobe to the blind.
I never figured out how he can be so clean and look so scruffy.
As for me, my name is Clark Spencer. I’m a Private Detective working on my special project called the Polygon.
It’s a new day and waking from my slumber, I claw at the night stand seeking to find the clock and check the time. My groping is answered by a thud.
“Damn,” I grumble. Now I fumble around on the floor to locate the damned clock.
The search ends in success and I pull it up onto the bed. Finding the top I press down. The dial lights up.
The time displays in big blue numerals but before my eyes can fully focus, the clock speaks in a flirtatious woman’s voice, “Six A.M.”
You tend to think of a Private Detective as being a person with a rough exterior, both muscular and tall, with a commanding bark.
I am none of these things. I am short and slim. My hair is a soft red and thinning fast as the years go by.
My voice is somewhat soft, sounding more like a monk than a master.
My skin is smooth and of light complexion from years of avoiding the sun.
These meager attributes make me the perfect Detective, as you would never suspect me to be one.
As for my project, the Polygon, it is well on the way to being a secret society formed by companies owned by the members.
Our group consists of individuals who are pooling our few remaining resources to overcome the hardship of our times.
Nigel Eats and Warren Buggs are Lawyers with strong backgrounds in business and finance.
Since graduating from law school and hanging out their shingle, they have been wildly successful.
Nigel calls me and says, “Times are becoming more difficult every day with new gun legislation that only effects the legal owners of firearms.
“Now the insurance companies are clamoring for money from every gun owner and sharing their ill-gotten gain with the government as payment for raping the legal gun owners.
“They have passed a law mandating liability insurance on every gun.
“Like car insurance where every car is insured even if only driven by one driver, every gun is insured even if ten of them are owned by a single owner.
“Criminals do not insure their guns, so what’s the point.”
The government has mutated into a strange dictatorship. They claim to be a benevolent dictatorship, but it’s killing the common folks.
Our nation has mutated and is being governed by the cruel and greedy megalomaniacs known as the Council of 12.
The identity of the 12 people who comprise the Council is a secret.
The Secrecy surrounding the identity stems from the election process that has mutated from the Electoral College who circumvents the popular election process into a process that is more like the election of the Vatican Popes has been through the ages.
The anonymity of the Council members has mutated from the concept of the Secret Service guard that watches over the head of state. It was determined that if no one knew the identity of the heads of state, no one could attempt an assassination.
The President, the Cabinet and Congress merged to form the Council of 12.
From this group came all the laws by which we live.
I’ve been in the gumshoe business for twenty two years.
My company is Metro Net Investigations which was doing fine until the banks started falling like dominos and I, like so many others, have now lost all of my investments and savings.
No one can pay the cost of investigative services any more.
It takes a difficult downturn of events in life to reveal who your friends really are. The ones you take for granted can be the first to go, much like my recent divorce.
Although I’ve lost all of my cash reserves, my most valuable assets are my loyal people, Leo and Ramsey, who are the only two employees left at Metro Net Investigations. They remain steadfast. Their loyalty is unquestioned.
Leo Sardis and I go back to our college days when we would sit around and talk about the evils of organizations.
Leo was known for saying that companies and governments do things that a person could never do.
He would say that, “With organized evil, there is no accountability.
“With organized evil, there is no forethought, and or guilt. Everyone is just doing their job.”
The other guys around campus nicknamed Leo “the braineac”.
Leo is brilliant in every way, except where keeping a low profile is important.
He has always been one to stand up and be counted. This is an admirable trait, but not in the stealthy business of underground investigation.
Leo is the quintessential geek from his big black rimmed glasses to his messy black hair. He is athletic and graceful when in motion.
If not for being one of my investigators, Leo could have been a dancer. While his hair is always a mess, his clothing is immaculate, neat and tidy.
In the business of taking control of your finances, you need muscle.
Doug Ramsey has always been a bit of a bull in a china shop. When a bad situation threatens to develop, you can always count on Ramsey to escalate it.
On the surface you might think Ramsey is a bit of a dullard. He is big, in both height and girth. His hair is cut, standing about a quarter inch from his scalp all over. I’m not sure what color his hair is, it’s too short to tell.
His saving grace is that when things go very wrong, Ramsey springs into action. When the smoke clears there is no one left standing and we realize Ramsey is on the job. He’ll be the big guy with the stupid grin.
Ramsey has been my friend for as long as I can remember.
I like Doug Ramsey because he is genuine. He puts it on the line and stands by it.
I’d bet he could singlehandedly clear out a whole biker bar in short order if it came down to fisticuffs.
Metro Net Investigations is acquiring and hiding the wealth and resources required for the betterment of the group.
The mission is to each maintain our balance of ownership while not creating a public record.. For this we need the skills of no nonsense legal professionals, such as the likes of Buggs and Eats, Attorneys at Law.
Their specialty is circumventing some seemingly impossible legal nightmares by artfully finding alternative legal solutions.
Nigel and Warren have been friends of mine since we met at the university.
We would exchange talk about the implications of new legislation and how it can be legally circumvented.
Sometimes Leo and Ramsey would join in on the conversations and it would become an electric experience.
We were young idealistic college kids who were voted the most likely to be arrested at a rally. For all the madness we portrayed we never actually ever attended a rally. Our cause was too serious in nature to protest openly.
We prefer to quietly plot ways of circumventing the obstacles in our lives.
These strategies were devised for fun. But now, in today’s economy, they are life sustaining.
The first time I saw Buggs and Eats I would have sworn they were twins. They are always together and don’t think people didn’t wonder about that.
I can only wonder how they manage to be married with infant children and spend more time together than with their families.
They are both rotund with ruddy complexions and they walk with a slight waddle. They dress in suits, white shirts and ties which all tend to be a bit unkempt.
Their appearance could have impacted their business over the years but there is no evidence that it ever did.
Members of the Polygon don’t partner with these men for their stylish exterior. Their success is entirely linked to their ability to take hopeless legal situations and turn them around.
Al Akken of Akken CPA Financial Services is in no danger of going under even though all of the businesses around them are disappearing fast.
They are victims of the economic disaster that is plaguing the world. The economic recession is deeper than ever before. Banks, are failing.
Akken CPA has managed to hang on with no seemingly visible way to sustain the company even though investments are drying up without warning.
Everyone seems to be aware of Al’s genius when it comes to handling and manipulating money.
I know Al very well. He and I have been friends for a few years and in that time I have watched Al perform miracles. The problem is that almost no one has any money to manipulate.
Al is a funny looking little man that passes very well as a CPA with his immaculate manner of dress and fussy personality. He is small, blond and wears the stereotypical horned rimmed glasses.
He always has a snow white handkerchief that he uses to periodically clean his eyeglass lenses. He drives me crazy with his fussy neat nick personality.
He is essential to our success and I have learned to tolerate his personality quirks.
Metro Net Investigations is being kept afloat with the financial ashes of the Spencer estate.
I am selling off everything including real estate holdings which drop in value as a natural consequence of bank failures.
I’m selling at a loss, but when you look at the financial trends, I seem to be liquidating my assets just ahead of the falling economic curve.
Property is a financial anchor. It holds you down. When the wolves are at the door, you need to be mobile and have plenty of liquidity. Cash is king. If they can’t find it, they can’t take it.
The process of forming a secret society consisting of companies is easy. It has to be conducted so that to an outward observer it would appear to be a simple business alliance.
When pooled liquid resources such as cash and other holdings are kept under wraps, it becomes a secret society.
We’re looking for legal ways to circumvent the damage we’re suffering at the hands of new legislation.
We did this for fun back in college, but now it has become serious business.
There is a saying among the wealthy, “When they change the rules we change the game”.
The Polygon is a microcosm of the Japanese strategy employed just after World War II which galvanized the people. By using the tactic of delayed rewards they turned the entire country into a single synergistic empire.
They worked hard and asked little in return. They were perceived as willing to live on a bowl of rice a day and they put in 16 hours of hard work.
The Japanese beat the world bloody with their work ethic.
As a result America lost its manufacturing edge.
After the Japanese people became westernized they lost the work ethic that created their great nation. Then the Chinese took over and became the world’s biggest economic empire using the same time honored strategy.
It’s early morning and my hair is a mess. Leo Sardis and Doug Ramsey are occupying the living room. They are locked in quiet conversation preparing for today’s mission.
The TV is spouting more bad news, as usury laws were just recently modified and are now eliminated, allowing national credit card institutions to charge upwards of one hundred percent interest and one hundred dollar penalties on late payments.
Leo cries out in a rage, “What the hell! Why don’t they just take everything from everyone and be done with it?”
I look over at Leo and say, “For crying out loud, Leo. The best revenge is living well, but we need to work quietly and pool our resources for now.
“Stop complaining and keep your mind on the job at hand.”
For today’s mission, we have located the meeting place of the rich and politically powerful “Council of 12” and it has been identified as an affluent local Village. This is one of many gated and fortified communities that cater to the upper class.
The tension in the room is so thick you can cut it with a knife. Now Leo is griping about his wardrobe.
We aren’t going out for or ordering in breakfast because we don’t want any sign of activity at this hour of the morning. We go down the back stairs and move quietly to the car.
The parking garage is semi-dark. The air stinks of mold. We close the doors slowly to eliminate any sound.
The general public is not allowed inside Ritz Village and we have to try and find a strategy to get inside and map the layout of the village. We need the identity of the participants along with the time and location of all the various government activities.
I slip my key in the ignition slot, but the electric car doesn’t respond.
“Damn! It won’t energize,” I say. I exited the car and popped the hood. It is clear the battery cables are cut clean through.
Ramsey yelled, “They found us!”
We are surrounded by twenty men with weapons all aimed at our heads.
The authorities can find anyone with the tracking devices they implant in our forearms.
They insist that the tracking devices are for our own protection and emit both vitals and Cartesian coordinates so they can measure heart and respiration rates along with location.
The real question here is how they knew enough to watch us today.
Perhaps they know what we are up to. They can’t track everyone all the time. Matters are made more difficult by the devices required in our cars that keep track of velocity, time and date information along with detailed GPS tracking info.
The insurance companies use these to ostensibly calculate the discounts on our car insurance by monitoring our driving habits.
They monitor the roads we drive, and they maintain a log of the neighborhoods we visit, time of day and the frequency of our travels.
The government has direct access to the data base mandated for these tracking devices for our protection, and to quickly locate stolen cars.
With twenty men with weapons all aimed at our heads surrounding us, the Squad Leader steps forward and speaks, “Leo Sardis.
“On behalf of the Council of Twelve, you are under arrest. Take him to the holding area.”
It is then that I notice four big black 4X4 SUVs with license number “C12” on black license plates surrounding our car. How did I miss that?
We are made to lie on the ground face down.
I watch them take Leo to a large white semi also bearing the council’s familiar license number “C12” on a black license plate. The side door opens and an elevator ramp comes down.
The inside of the truck emits an eerie green glow. It has the strange quality of frosted green glass, while the outside is metallic looking. The ground is crawling with a cold fog and the fog glows sympathetically green with the light from the trailer.
Two of the guards have tasered Leo and are carrying him upright like a big lifelike ragdoll. His big black rimmed glasses are on the ground. No one bothers to pick them up.
Then they fire their tasers at us even though we don’t resist and we are paralyzed for about twenty minutes.
Each member of our newly formed Polygon has a personal tracking device planted in the small of our back under the skin much like the government devices planted in our forearms.
These company devices are planted by our company doctor, and are about the size of a grain of rice. They also track location and vital signs in the same way as the ones planted by the government.
I check my watch and press the monitor code for Leo.
I report, “Leo’s vitals are looking strong.”
Ramsey groans, “Doesn’t look as though they are intending to kill him so they must be after information.”
Leaving the rest of us behind suggests that they don’t realize that we are on a mission.
“We had better scrub today’s mission”, I announce.
Ramsey is just looking back at me and nodding. His face is beet red and I can see his anger and frustration mounting.
It would be too dangerous to bring Ramsey on such a delicate reconnaissance mission in his current state of mind.
“Let’s regroup and figure out what to do”, I say, not verbalizing that I recognize Ramsey’s state of mind.
Ramsey says, “We had better stay clear of the apartment for a while.”
We lay low for several minutes and then leave on foot.
We do not return to the apartment.
It seems morning will never come as I don’t sleep most of the night pondering the meaning behind the abduction of our comrade.
We are gathering for a staff meeting in the hopes of coming up with a plan of action.
Discussions turn heated as we each share our opinion of the government vehicles destination.
We have to find Leo and get him back somehow.
Based on the level of the gated community security the most logical location for Leo’s detention would be Ritz Village.
The only way to link the origin of these unique Council license plate codes to Ritz Village would be through a scouting mission.
Their medical facilities are huge and well equipped, even for a potential Council Village. It suggests that there is much more going on than medical activity considering the population density.
“The medical facility there is restricted to outsiders. Only the occupants of Ritz Village are allowed to enter the facility.
Most other hospitals are open to the areas they occupy”, I say, pondering the uniqueness of the facility.
As Ramsey and I enter the Staff meeting I announce, “Something has come up and Leo has been arrested.
“Ramsey and I are not going to attending today’s meeting.”
I also tell the group, “Go ahead and share your reports and we’ll catch up to you all later.”
The sky is clear and there is a slight breeze. I’m on the phone and order a taxi to a hotel close to Ritz Village.
Ramsey asks, “What are you doing? We have a car.”
I cautioned Ramsey with, “If we are going to spy on Ritz Village then we might not want our vehicle traced to that location, right?”
Ramsey’s eyes get bright for a moment and he responds, “Gee. I never thought of that.”
Ramsey and I are on our way to Ritz Village to gather information and maybe find out where in the village Leo is being held.
Ramsey and I sit on a bench in the entrance park that provides a good vantage point for the main gates to Ritz Village.
With the wide open spaces provided by the park we are not successful at keeping a low profile. It is difficult to stake out this location without being rather obvious.
People just don’t lounge at the parks here especially since it is located just outside the village.
The parks are for aesthetic value giving the village entrance area a wealthy ambiance.
We brought coffee and sandwiches to tide us over.
Security here at Ritz Village is extremely tight and with the exception of the parking lots the area surrounding the village gate is rolling meadow.
It’s been a long day and the sun is starting to set.
As much as I enjoy Ramsey’s company, you could fall asleep and he would probably not notice.
Ramsey isn’t much for small talk. In the absence of excitement, his brain sort of goes on standby.
Looking at Ramsey, I can see we’re both tired and I lament, “Looks like the day is just about over. It doesn’t look as though today would be a good day to venture inside.”
Ramsey whispers, “Clark. I feel a vibration.”
Looking down at my coffee resting on the bench, it has ripples in it. I also hear a dull rumbling sound.
“Yes, I hear something coming” I reply.
Our view is somewhat limited by the village walls. We move behind the only cover, some sparse nearby shrubs.
We are aware that they are probably using infra-red along with stealth cameras to detect people out here.
We wait for the convoy to stop and the troops to swarm our location, but it doesn’t happen.
The village gates open wide as four large black 4X4 SUVs round the outside wall and turn to enter the village followed by two white semi-tractor trailer trucks.
All six vehicles have the same distinctive black license plates we had seen the previous morning.
We make out the plates, and do manage to snap a couple of photos with our low light cameras.
“That’s all we’re going to get for now,” I say, “Time to pack up.”
Our rental car is parked in an open parking area and the security seems to end just short of the lot. I wonder, is this lack of security outside the Village confidence or vanity?
We sauntered back to the car slowly making sure not to display any sense of urgency lest we arouse suspicion.
The drive back is done in silence. I let Ramsey drive to keep his mind busy. I’m concerned he may fall into a depressed slump. He is very close to Leo.
In some ways the members of the field unit at Metro Net Investigations are like a commando team.
We each vow that if anyone in the group is in trouble the others will come. We will never leave a fallen or wounded comrade behind. It makes the job more tolerable.
I would trust either of these men with my life and they share that expectation with me.
As we arrive back at the local hotel we turn in our rental car and see our taxi waiting.
The final leg of our journey takes us back to the office.
We load the photos into the computer, zooming in on the license plates of each. Sure enough, they are all the same black license plates bearing the distinctive C12 marking.
Ramsey blurts out, “The Council of 12! You can’t tell one vehicle from the other by the license plates.”
Ramsey and I start working on a strategy to get inside Ritz Village.
Ramsey suggests in his usually flamboyant way, “We can blast our way in, get Leo and then blast our way out.”
I reply, “We can also sneak in, determine where Leo is being held and then escape undetected.”
Our plan is taking an agonizing week of pros and cons.
Ultimately, Ramsey and I are in agreement that we’re not sure how to find Leo, so it will possibly need to be a scouting mission.
If we can accomplish his rescue it will have to be decision made on the spot.
I leave Ramsey with one last nugget of information, “Ramsey, the most perfect strategy goes out the window the moment the first shot is fired.”
Ramsey looks back at me, smiles and winks.
Things are developing very quickly and we decide to proceed with the rescue mission as soon as we can conjure up a legitimate reason to enter the village.
My mind is racing so it’s important to think things through. It’s times like this when a person makes the most mistakes. Leo is in deep trouble and I mean to get him back.
“I realize we need a reason to enter Ritz Village, but when do we plan to get Leo?” Ramsey asks.
I respond, “I told you, we have to set the mission aside until we find a legitimate reason to go there.”
Ramsey is getting frustrated, I can tell. I stopped walking and moved in closer.
I speak softly, “Look, my friend, I have a possible solution to the problem and you’re going to have to trust me.
“The problem with our rent and the problem of rescuing Leo may just play together to our advantage.
“The owner of the building lives in Ritz Village.
“We need to set up a meeting soon.”
Ramsey let out a long breath and seemed to relax a little. He looked at his shoes and replied, “O.K. I’ll be patient.”
We retire for the evening.
The sun is up and it’s a beautiful day.
All of the principals of the Polygon are gathered together to share information.
After getting coffee and a roll we enter the meeting room and gather around the table.
We learn that the savings and loan bankers have defaulted on all savings accounts and have called in loans amounting to billions of dollars.
This has left us strapped for cash and put us in a negative cash flow situation. The money is tight and we’ll have to come up with some solutions.
Back when the news of the savings and loan scandals first broke, an examination of our leases uncovered a legal flaw.
The cost of renting an apartment is nearly doubling our overhead and we don’t need to maintain a separate floor space for work location and our living area.
Between ordinances that zone property between business and residential and the self-renewing leases, I think we need to sever the financial bind between us and the residential leases first.
After eliminating the residential leases, we have to work on a way to incorporate the business addresses and our living arrangements.
There are also reports of pending legislation to eliminate cash as a means of commerce, limiting the duration of currency life by imposing an automatic void on all currency at the end of one year.
Ramsey and I sit for a while and ponder the situation until I break the silence with. “Our resources are already strained.
“Leo is still being held. We suspect he’s in Ritz Village.
“Our landlords both live and work in Ritz Village.
“We suspect that Ritz Village is the central location for the Council of 12.
“Ritz Village seems to be a focal point for all our issues.
“If we can’t get an appointment with our landlord and they don’t release Leo soon, we’ll have to break into the village and go looking for him.”
I tell Ramsey, “Buggs tells me he’s drafted a court case that should eliminate the residential lease and free us from our burden.
“The idea is to get to court in the next six months and eliminate our residential addresses.”
“Zoning was a problem prior to the savings and loan scandal. With the civil unrest concerning the loss of all savings, the cities and towns have loosened up on enforcement.
“The whole zoning process has been abandoned.”
Buggs comments, “Our funding is limited. We are forced to decide which of these leases to keep intact.
“We can’t afford both, and the residential lease is the most oppressive.”
Eats says, “Clark’s residence is currently in a building owned by Socco Belkin. Socco is a wealthy real estate Barron with ties to the mob.
“Octave Coderre owns the Metro Net Investigations building where we conduct business and is aware of our financial plight. Octave Coderre is prepared to keep our lease intact by ensuring a victory in severing our residential lease.”
I say, “Socco plans well ahead and this situation isn’t going to find him asleep at the switch either.
“With Al Akken, Buggs and Eats working on background information, we might be able to use some legal techniques for the laundering money for the Polygon.
“We need to discuss a survival plan that will enable us to last long enough to recover from the losses incurred by the theft of our savings as soon as we deal with the problems with our leases.”
Buggs and Eats leave to work on the case for having the leases declared null and void.
Nigel Eats exits the Clerk of Court’s Office and approaches us as we stand in the foyer.
Nigel says, “I barely had time to file our case when the Clerk of Court notified me that our trial will be on the docket in one hour.”
“This is unheard of,” Buggs says, “The courts tend to grind on for months. Apparently they are not allowing for any depositions in this case.”
We file into the courtroom and in about an hour the Bailiff calls our case.
The Judge looks sternly at us and says, “I understand you want to terminate your residential lease with Socco Belkin?”
Nigel replies, “Yes, you’re Honor.”
The Judge drops the gavel and declares, “Your lease is hereby terminated.”
We are dumfounded.
Our office building owner, Octave Coderre is the richest men in the city and we have considered the possibility that there may be some sort of manipulation going on here.
Someone has a great deal of influence to get our case fast-tracked on such short notice.
We think Octave Coderre was forcing a quick outcome to ensure termination of our residential leases with Socco so we could afford to pay our lease on the office we’re renting from him.
Just to show the power one man can possess, we actually won our case because Octave Coderre provided us with a Lawyer from his staff.
The orchestration was so artistic that the Lawyer already had our case all drawn up.
Our legal strategy won’t be needed. Socco has no time to prepare his side and a continuance is not allowed. Also, I’m sure Octave has the judge in his pocket.
The Judge was prepped by someone and it isn’t clear how we won, but we actually won without any testimony being given.”
Nigel Eats speaks out in complete disbelief, “How is it we could watch six trials and be the only ones who win their case?”
Buggs responds, “It is clearly preordained. The whole thing is a setup. Isn’t it odd how such kangaroo courts don’t seem so bad when you are the kangaroo?”
I start to wonder how best to measure the severity of the situation and ask Al for some clarification.
I ask, “So, Al, how deep does a recession have to be to be regarded as a depression?”
Al looks thoughtful for a moment and says, “There is no precise metric for that, but I can tell you this much, when your neighbor is out of work you are in a recession, and when you’re out of work, you’re in a depression.
“At least, that’s the indicator I use.”
We all laugh.
We leave the courthouse late because we are watching the outcome of so many other trials.
It is clear that we would have lost for sure if not for Octave Coderre. Now he is assured that we can more easily pay his rent. Also, with me both living and working there, everything I own is in the building.
If I lose my business, I lose my home. The banter continued as we made our way to the car.
We climbed into the shiny black Lincoln Town Car. This car is my pride and joy. We head out onto the highway and begin to accelerate.
The front passenger window suddenly explodes in Ramsey’s face and draws a trickle of blood.
I press on the accelerator and the Lincoln Town Car bolts forward just as an old dented Buick painted to look like a squad car flies out of the alley and comes in hot pursuit.
The bandit Buick turns on their mock red and blue strobe lights.
The sound of an illegal electronic Police siren fills the night.
We pull our 38 specials and start to fire at the rapidly approaching Buick.
I had Buggs reload for me while I drive and curse the snub nose 38 Special for only having a five shot capacity.
It’s hard to shoot and drive at the same time, so I ask Ramsey to be ready to aim and fire when I slam on the break.
I punch the break hard causing the car to nose dive and swerve slightly.
Just as I had suspected, we catch them by surprise.
When they go by, Ramsey has less than one second to draw a bead.
I ask myself, Did he nail their shooter or not?
At that moment they break off the chase and we escape down Haley Avenue.
Buggs draws a handkerchief from his breast pocket and starts to wipe the blood from Ramsey’s face.
Most of the street lights are out. The city is seeing the hardship of budget cuts brought on by general poverty.
I continue on with my mind totally focused on the task of driving.
Buggs rolls his eyes in disbelief, “Doesn’t anything slow this guy down? The bleeding is superficial but Ramsey should be at least a little shaken up, don’t you think?”
We all ignore Buggs comments. There is no time to reflect on Ramsey’s lack of reaction to his near death experience.
Ramsey looks over at me asks, “Was that an attempt at a hit, or was that an attempt at a robbery?”
Looking briefly back at him I respond, “Better keep our guard up for a few days.”
I take a second look back and see that Ramsey is busy reloading his 38.
We actually won freedom from the residential leases. The ordeal with the phantom squad car where Ramsey’s car window was shot out is over and we are still alive.
I curse under my breath. Angry, I cry out, “I can’t believe they actually shot up my car. Damn!”
Buggs has his cell phone out and he’s dialing.
“Who are you calling?” I inquire.
Buggs puts up his hand to stifle me.
He asks, “Is there any way we can get a message through to Octave?”
He is talking to one of Octave’s henchmen.
He goes on talking, “Octave told us if there is ever a problem with the outcome of the court case, let him know. I think we just got a visit from a hit man.”
The door to Octave Coderre’s office blows open with such force it sounds as though it might come off the hinges.
Octave Coderre exits the elevator and makes his way down the corridor lit by luminous walls. His face is crimson and he is walking fast.
Octave has two of his best men in tow and they are not smiling.
Their weapons are detected as they approached Socco’s office and the weapon drawers open automatically.
The sign indicates that they must surrender their weapons before entering the office, but the two body guards then crash through the outer door paving the way for Octave to continue without breaking stride.
Octave raises his walking stick which is old and gnarled. It is an old Irish shillaly handed down through his family for several generations.
Two men bearing sawed off shotguns round the corner and snarl at them to get lost. Then, they recognize Octave and immediately lower their guns.
The color drains from their face and they begin spouting humble apologies.
Octave speaks, “Cut the crap. Where the hell is that worm, Socco?”
The two men stand aside as Octave storms up to a pair of 16 foot tall double doors which open before them.
Sitting behind his large antique oak desk is a figure which appears small in stature given the immensity of the desk and the room.
Socco’s body guards begin to announce Octave Coderre who cuts them off with a shout, “Socco, you worm. You never could settle a problem like a man. You sit here while your henchmen settle your business for you.”
Socco sits up in his chair and says, “Octave, how nice to see you sir. Always glad to get a visit from you.”
Octave’s Shillaly comes down sharply on Socco’s desk making a sound much like a gunshot.
Socco grimaces, his ears ringing from the blast.
“You attempted to rub out some tenants of mine yesterday after they nullified your crappy lease.” Octave continued, “Hands off! Those men belong to me!”
With that, Octave exited the room along with his armed escort.
There will be no further problems with Socco. People like Socco are ignored by Octave Coderre and the authorities only as long as they play ball.
Over the next few days the men of the Polygon wear their bullet proof vests, convinced that Socco, having lost the case, is seeking retribution.
Aside from sweating a lot, the bullet proof vests are doing them no good at all because, as it turned out, Octave Coderre had that meeting with Socco.
You might ask why Octave never told them about the meeting.
People like Octave Coderre do what they do. They tend to work in the background, but are quiet and reserved by all outward appearances.
You can always tell who the nastiest roughneck in a room full of nasty people is.
He’s the one that never seems to give anyone a hard time and no one messes with him.
That’s because his reign is swift and terrible. When he prefers to act on his rage, he usually has others doing his work.
We attend Leo Sardis’ funeral which is a somber affair with a closed casket.
Ramsey and I looked at the tracking locator and then at each other.
Leo is not in the casket. At least our tracking chip is not in the casket.
The official story communicated to the family by the Council of 12 was that Leo had a heart attack and died while being taken for routine questioning in an unrelated case.
The news reported that under the law, Global Security has the legal right to detain anyone suspected of being a threat to national security without due process and is not required to advise the detainee of their rights.
The definition of national security is not specified and the nature of the threat is automatically off-limits to anyone outside of the government as is always the case, even the reason for the secret is a secret and the identity of the people keeping the secret is a secret.
They can take anyone anywhere, any time and do anything to them in the name of national security. National security is the age old cry of the oppressor.
Al Akken shows up at the office announcing that our paperwork is on file with the Banking Commission and it has been approved.
Our money will be safely tucked away and will be deposited and written off as soon as the Commission signs off on a start date.
Al is holding most of our stashed cash for the Credit Union in a trust under the guise of loans extended by the members.
We are moving the furnishings from our apartment to the office.
Octave Coderre said to vacate the residences we are leasing from Socco by morning.
The letter we received from Octave Coderre is explicit in its instructions.
The letter explains further that the wealthy savings and loan Vice President, Socco Belkin who owns the residential building has hired a newly created management firm that specializes in collections.
I remember these people from my days working at the local Police precinct. They are a gang that sprouted as an outcrop of an organized crime ring.
Socco Belkin is the very person who seized our entire life savings without penalty when he was Vice President of his savings and loan and has now threatened to seize our worldly possessions as well.
Our meager holdings would have been attached and sold at auction.
Our future incomes along with any future holdings would be attached as well, with interest, until the entire debt is paid in full.
We would have joined the widows and the poor on the streets.
As for Octave Coderre, when a power broker does you a favor you can be very sure there is a payback in the wind.
Octave smiles and winks, “Be assured, Socco can’t touch you.”
There is a small girl with the black hair that has lives across the hall at the office. She has lived there for a long time. Her name is Peggy Morton.
She’s kind of cute and Buggs picks up on her right away. As often as Buggs came by the office he never had the occasion to meet Peggy. Now that I live here Buggs spends more time at the place.
Buggs approaches her and blurts out, “Hi, my name is Warren.”
She smiles and introduces herself.
She has a strange little tattoo on her left earlobe, of a pixy. It is the damnedest thing I’d ever seen.
It turns out that she is an interior decorator.
She is insistent on helping us move our stuff in and is directing the movers on proper placement of our furniture.
Buggs is asking her out for dinner and he stumbles over the invitation, rendering it a verbal disaster.
I had never seen an Attorney at a loss for words before. Her smile is sweet and you can see she has a thing for Buggs, as well.
She answers him coyly, “I’d love to have dinner with you, Warren.”
I have a feeling Warren and Peggy won’t be back at the office soon. They look as though they might pay a visit to the love pods.
The love pods had come into existence when the population became so thick and so poor that people were teaming up, integrating their living and office space and had nowhere to go if they wanted to become intimate.
You rent the pods by the hour and they guarantee both anonymity and privacy. They have no windows and are sound proof.
Warren and Peggy didn’t come back until the next morning.
“I thought we lost you, Buggs” Eats wisecracked.
Buggs and Peggy are not amused, as it is considered rude to say anything about people who spend time in the love pods.
I never figured out how you are supposed to know that they were at the love pods. If they don’t come back to work, I guess you’re just supposed to assume.
Another reason for the love pods emerged when the high population density prompted concerns about runaway births.
There is a concern in the Council of 12 that the implementation of The Cure would dramatically raise the lifespan on the population and result in a much higher population.
One of the best ways to curb increases in the population is to convert as many people as possible to homosexuality.
Laws are passed to promote and safeguard the same sex couples and secure their marriage rights.
The new laws have become strict regarding any taunting or disparaging remarks about the gays.
It goes as far as being a full blown hate crime. Same sex pairs now get to use the pods for free and homosexuality is not only encouraged, it’s urged.
Society is moving to the notion that it’s cool to be gay.
Birth control materials are always given as part of the pod package.
The issue of condoms is free to all under the guise of disease control.
Actually they reduce the rate of new pregnancies.
Buggs takes me aside and whispers, “We have all of our money tied up in the Credit Union trust and it will be sixty days before we can make a withdrawal for our construction account because the Union License takes time to clear the Banking Commission.”
I say softly but firmly, “We should have held cash aside to cover the next two months’ rent. When did we find out about the delay?”
Eats grimaces and responds to the question, “Al Akken screwed up. He assumed that we would have a cash fund to use in the even there was a delay.”
We ponder the best course of action.
A rental lease is a pretty serious matter, so we decide this catastrophe can serve two purposes.
First, this visit to Ritz Village to see Octave Coderre can provide a solution to our budget problem.
Second, it also gives us a legitimate reason to get inside of Ritz Village and find out where those white government trucks are headed.
We immediately get on the phone and make an appointment to visit Octave Coderre at his Home-Office.
Buggs hears us and speaks up, “Don’t forget that Octave Coderre is a powerful man. He won’t care about your personal problems. He’s in it for the money”
Ramsey says, “I’m thinking we may be lucky to get out of there alive.”
I reply, “I’m no good to him dead. He’ll hang on for the money, at least for a while.”
I ponder the problem further and ultimately say, “It’s better to try and resolve our rent problem now than to be late and have everything we own confiscated and lose our Home-Office too.”
It’s obvious that this may be the only chance we get to enter Ritz Village. If we’re going to find Leo this is our big chance.
At that point Ramsey and I gather up our courage and head over to Ritz Village.
As we drive to the outskirts of Ritz Village and park in one of many lots around the mammoth gates to the village, we are again reminded of the stark contrast and the opulence of Ritz Village.
The village is the size of a small city complete with high rise buildings. The rules for entrance to Ritz Village are strict.
Residents have a coded transponder that opens the gate as they approach them.
They are checked by the gate guards and can then drive right on in.
The gates are guarded by both robotic and human guards to ensure that no unauthorized people enter there.
Those who are not residents of Ritz Village are required to park in one of the outside lots and take a Ritz Taxi into the city.
Our Ritz Taxi arrives swiftly. The Ritz Taxi has a reader to scan the barcode on your Citizen’s ID card, thus identifying you.
The central computer checks you against all law enforcement databases and then against the Ritz Village “no entrance list”.
The card reader says, “You are Clark Spencer. If you have a criminal record or if you are on the no entry list, then you are required to hire a courier to do business on your behalf.
“You are not on the no entry list and have no criminal record on file.”
There is a slight delay, and then the card reader announces, “You have a scheduled appointment with Octave Coderre at the tower, please enter.”
The security doesn’t stop with the gate.
The taxi driver proceeds to impress us with his knowledge of the village, “I’ve been driving here for 23 years.
“The wall around the village is sixty feet tall with sensors all the way around and aimed skyward. The sensors are aimed so they reach a focal point two thousand feet above the village. You can’t even drop from a helicopter without being detected.”
The driver hands us a contract to sign.
The contract reads, “Prior to looking for office lodging you must be sponsored by a resident and pass the vote of the Village Council. Whether a resident or just visiting, you must sign an agreement to adhere to Tribal Law.”
As we exit the taxi we stand on the north side walkway. We notice that the air smells sweet. I get the faint scent of lilacs in the breeze. The temperature here in Ritz Village is always a steady seventy two degrees Fahrenheit.
I say to myself, “How do they do that?”
This part of town is nothing less than elegant.
The sidewalks are some kind of concrete with a blend of silicone. They are firm, yet cushion the feet. I never knew you could stand on concrete and feel as though you are standing in plush carpet.
The buildings here are all frosted glass and glow in the night.
Some are a soft green and others are a pale blue. A pink one stood out with its sign embedded in the glass.
The surface of the buildings are smooth, like fine marble, and yet they are not marble, or glass, or plastic.
A simple but elegant change of color in the pink building spelled out the letters Y.W.C.A.
There are no street lights in this part of town because none are needed. The buildings impart a daylight glow that illuminates every corner of the surrounding streets.
The Black Tower is the building we seek and it stands prominently in the center of the Village. It’s black and is the only building, aside from the hospital, that is not illuminated on the outside.
This lack of illumination gives the building a foreboding aura. The building is so black it seems to absorb the surrounding light.
Once inside the Black Tower it’s much warmer in appearance with soft pastels. They are the typical pastel illumination usually found on the outside of the other buildings.
Ramsey whispers, “Do all the buildings here have this kind of lighting?”
I whisper back, “Hell if I know, but this sure is spooky.”
There are no bulbs or light fixtures inside the buildings as they impart the same illumination inside the building as found on the street outside.
There are light switch-like panels that can act to dim or extinguish the illumination in each area.
Such opulence seems offensive in a starving world. If it’s true that there can be no elegance without simplicity, no good without evil, or no day without night, then perhaps there can be no opulence without poverty.
Living alongside the impoverished must make the good life sweeter somehow, but it must also require a powerful lack of empathy.
All the internal walls, floors and ceilings are made of opaque frosted glasslike material and the panels are glowing in soft pastel colors. They illuminate the room so well there are no shadows.
The most amazing aspect of the lighting is that, while the panels appear to be in color, the light emitted is white light. I wonder how they can look as they do and emit only white light.
Eats, Buggs and I go to one of the tower elevators and take it to floor number one hundred fifty six.
The elevator stops on the seventh floor long enough to allow a small mousey man to get onboard.
“Even the elevators are spectacular” I quip.
The stranger looks at us and says, “You seem nervous. Are you new to the Village?”
“Yes” I respond.
He bristles with pride and suddenly seems to stand about three inches taller.
He proudly proclaims, “I designed these elevators. They are perfectly safe. They have no cables, but run using rails and linear motors, so they can go a thousand floors without needing skyway lobbies. This entire building only needs four elevators with forty eight square feet each.”
I notice that the elevators are located deep in the central core of the building.
The last thing I expect stepping into the elevator is a full outdoor panoramic view of the village all around us.
As we move upward, the village sinks beneath. It feels like we’re standing on an eight foot by eight foot platform without walls and being shot skyward without anything to keep us from falling off the edge.
Ramsey says, “You could have at least put some damned railings around this thing.”
The mousey little man says, “Railings for what? There is nothing at the edge of the floor but walls. The surround scene is just an ultra-high definition 3D video.”
For a moment I feel some vertigo and a fear grips me, but that soon passes.
It is now I realize this view of the outside world is not a recording. I can actually see our taxi rounding the corner onto the next block.
My knees are getting a little weak.
From the outside of the buildings there are no windows. The outside of the buildings are peppered with rugged solid state 3D cameras built right into the exterior panels. The exterior cameras capture the outside images in real time.
Inside of the building, you can select window locations and size with a coded control consol.
You can place your furniture and then place your windows, even if your room is deep inside the building and not near an exterior wall.
Every room appears to be an exterior room; every office appears to be a window office.
The odd little man exits the elevator at floor number ninety eight.
The elevator resumes its journey skyward.
By now I realize that the sights are combined with the sweet smells of the village and a soft wind downward from above, as though we are really outside and not in the core of the building.
I ask Ramsey, “How long is it before all this all seems ordinary to the residents here?”
Ramsey just shrugs.
The doors open on the one hundred and fifty sixth floor and the dizzying panorama that is the village below gives way to a full view of the floor we are about to exit onto.
For a new visitor it’s unsettling, because with every turn you’re never sure which vision is real and which vision is only a virtual image.
Four stout men stand at the exit of the elevator and the biggest one says, “Follow us.”
It was only in that moment we realized that the view of floor number one hundred fifty six is not just an image.
We step out and start to walk. I can’t help but notice the slight bulge under the left arm of each of the four men. It’s obvious that these men are armed body guards.
We are led through doorway into a hallway that has a robotic sentry.
The sentry says, “Halt and surrender your weapons.”
A drawer opens on its own.
The largest of the four men says, “You have to surrender your weapons before you can enter the office area. You will get them back when you leave.”
We reluctantly surrender our 38s and are led into a large room.
The room is spectacular with a desk made from the same luminous glasslike material as the walls.
Even the book cases and all the office furniture, with the exception of the leather cushions are the same matching illuminated material.
Octave Coderre is seated behind the desk and looks small in proximity to the massive furniture.
The four men don’t leave the room, but stand beside Octave Coderre as though they are awaiting orders.
These men are a bit rough around the edges and frankly, they give me the creeps.
I’m a bit nervous and start to spew out a steady stream of jabber, “Mr. Coderre, we need to work out a deal on next month’s rent.
Just until we get our Credit Union fully operational.
Our money is tied up in a trust for the construction of the institution.
I want to be fair and up front with you. I’m counting on you to be as fair in return.”
He sits for two full minutes and appeared to be considering a solution. The four men standing guard unbutton their jackets.
Then he breaks the silence with a smile and says, “Call me Octave, not Mr. Coderre.
Since you are nice enough to come to me and let me know that you have a problem I will return the favor and will be just as fair and honest with you.”
His usually deep resonant voice has a new timbre. It takes on a softer and mellower quality.
Octave continues on, speaking softly, “Any attempt to evade rental payments will result in your death. You have a contract to live up to and I expect you to do just that.”
It’s no small wonder that suicides are up six hundred percent, after bankruptcies were eliminated by the Council of 12.
The courts have also ruled that there is no such thing as a threat against a debtor if they are not paid up to date.
What may be perceived by the debtor as a threat is simply an explanation of consequences which are imminent in the event of a contractual failure.
Since a contractual failure is an illegal act, the possible declaration of consequences becomes nothing more than a warning.
If the contract is violated, any debtor attempting to sue the creditor for damages would enter court with “dirty hands” as nonpayment is an illegal act.
The concept of entering court was a notion that became less significant with each passing month.
Criminal courts are replaced by panels of three judges.
Criminal lawyers are put to work doing other tasks.
The three judges will hear anything the defendant wants to say and return a fair verdict.
The process is fair because, even if one judge rules unfairly, the other two would overrule.
The death of a debtor at the hand of a creditor is regarded as a suicide because the debtor has decided not to pay.
The courts are really cracking down on deadbeats saying that to not pay a debt is a form of robbery. Robbery is a felony. Felons killed in the act of committing a felony are not victims.
The rich have had enough with the poor’s unwillingness to honor their debts. It doesn’t get much clearer than that.
As we exit to the elevator, one of the four men says, “Don’t go far. We don’t like to look for people when they default on a debt.”
We made our exit from the building with some haste even though Octave would be angry if we are killed before we defaulted.
He wants his money. If we are killed, he loses.
As we already realize, getting Socco off our back wasn’t really a magnanimous gesture.
Ramsey whispers, “As beautiful as this place is, it gives me the willies.”
I turn and grab Ramsey’s arm and say, “Why are we whispering? We’re acting like this place is somehow sacred.”
Our taxi is waiting, but we can’t leave because we have a mission to complete.
Ramsey suggests that we walk around and appear to be enjoying the park area just inside the main entrance to the village.
I reply, “Yes, I want to find out where these white trucks and black 4X4 vehicles with the C12 license plates are headed.
We are moving around just enough to avoid suspicion.”
“You’re right, Ramsey.”, I quip, “Things have a way of being discovered when you’re not looking too hard Now that we are inside the village, I mean to find out what these trucks are about.”
We have our tracker beacon and it’s hot with signal from the implant in Leo’s back. All indications are that he is within a mile of our location.
We head toward Leo’s beacon. It takes us to a square just outside the Ritz Village Hospital. The square is actually round and surrounded with several marble pillars.
Ramsey says, “It looks just like the photos I’ve seen of Saint Paul’s Square at the Vatican.”
I am startled while glancing at the beacon locator. I look at Ramsey and say, “According to the beacon, Leo is somewhere under the square!”
Nothing in this village was put there by chance. Unlike all the other windowless pastel colored buildings, this one is white marble and mirrored glass.
Now it occurs to me that these two buildings, the hospital and the black tower, are not luminescent because they have the embedded cameras in their outside facade.
My best guess is that the hospital rooms would appear to have no exterior walls. It would be like bedding down in a room open to the outdoors, but that would be the result of the ultra high definition video walls.
These hospital rooms are just an extension of the overall Ritz Village illusion with soft summer breezes and floral scents.
The Hospital entrance is made largely of ramps and also has an apparently large underground complex. You can’t see inside from any angle.
We walk down a slope ending up underground and sit on a concrete bench near the lower ramp entrance. It affords us some privacy and yet allows us some visibility in the direction of the massive gates to the Village.
“There is no outward part of the building that’s luminous like the others in the village, the embedded cameras must be everywhere here”, I remark.
I’m silently hoping there is no audio monitoring going on out here, but I don’t mention it to Ramsey.
Ramsey is already nervous enough.
Nothing has ever fazed Ramsey before, so it’s a bit disconcerting to see him this way. Maybe it’s just the fact that this place reeks of power and wealth.
Maybe he’s just a little intimidated.
After a while we feel vibrations in the ground. This time we know what they are.
Ramsey and I leap to our feet and move behind a nearby pillar to watch the entrance area.
Four black 4X4s round the corner and come down the ramp, followed by the two white tractor trailer trucks.
Glass sliding doors open in the Hospital’s underground entrance and the sides of the tractor trailer open to reveal that familiar greenish glow from within.
A ramp slides out and down to form a gentle slope to the ground.
Two gurneys roll down the ramp with IV’s attached. Clearly, there is a person on each gurney covered by a sheet right up to their neck.
Perhaps it’s because we’re inside of Ritz Village that no outward appearing precautions are taken to prevent them from seeing an intruder.
They want it to appear that they feel safe here, and no one remains with the trucks. The doors are left wide open.
I look over at Ramsey and his eyes are like saucers. Ramsey says, “They must have us on video in there somewhere. I’m convinced we’re just lucky no one took notice of our presence here.”
Obviously the level of security inside of Ritz Village is twice as rigorous as outside. Crime in this luxurious setting is nonexistent.
Oddly enough, I say, “Ramsey, have you noticed there are no children here?” I make a mental note to examine this fact later.
Ramsey is riveted on the scene that’s unfolding before us. I’m not sure he even heard me.
Ramsey and I make our way to the doors of the big white semi-trailer and look inside.
One whole interior wall of the trailer is electronics and in the center of the trailer is a steel operating table with the characteristic operating room lighting above.
At first I wonder why the operating table looks unusual, but then I notice the restraints for arms, legs, head and torso.
We check to make sure the coast is clear and then we go inside and take a quick look around.
There are stainless steel pans on the rolling carts which have what appear to be dismembered sex organs.
There are X-rays of human heads on the lighted wall.
Looking over at Ramsey, I speak, “I’m no Doctor, Ramsey, but I think they are performing orchidectomies and frontal lobotomies.”
We look at each other for a moment and then both of us move as one. We are like sprinters responding to the starter pistol.
I almost trip over one of two plastic tubs on the floor. They each contain someone’s crumpled street clothing.
Ramsey speaks as we exit the doors to the trailer, “Get me the hell out of here, NOW!”
We make our way to the edge of the double doors at the underground entrance and peek inside.
There are ten men and two women coming out of the elevators.
We duck behind two nearby pillars to avoid being noticed.
The two women and two of the men are dressed in surgical scrubs; they are headed for the trailers, while four of the men dressed in white coveralls climbed into the two tractor cabs.
Each of the other four men dressed in black suits climb into the black 4X4s.
We watch from hiding as they drive out of the underground area as though they are headed somewhere with great urgency.
Ramsey and I agree that there must be a medical emergency somewhere that will require the mobile surgical facility. Ramsey and I look at each other quizzically and then our faces fall.
There are no lights or sirens, and what about the orchidectomies? When do orchidectomies, brain alterations or frontal lobotomies become an emergency procedure? This is alarming to say the least.
It is now that I notice that the hospital entrance doors are not under the hospital, but are actually offset and just under the parking lot above us.
Since elevators don’t go sideways, they have to be going down. It’s obvious that they are entering the top floor of an entirely underground facility.
I pull out the beacon locator and check on Leo’s signal. It’s still beneath us and it has to be in the underground facility, not in the actual hospital.
I motion to Ramsey to follow me as we head for the entrance to the underground facility.
The foyer inside looks deserted, so we slip inside and explore the area. There is very little of interest on this floor, save a huge elevator.
Once inside we look at the control panel and it is showing twenty levels below this one. The only other door in the foyer is a door labeled “laundry” and there is a pair of rest rooms.
Not sure what kind of laundry room this is, we decide not to try the door. It would never do to surprise anyone or a room full of laundry workers.
At that moment a blank wall slides aside.
We duck into the men’s room, hold the door ajar slightly and watch as a small man in a hospital gown, accompanied by two big burley men in white hospital uniforms walk to the elevator and presses the button.
It is then that I notice the man in the hospital gown has an ugly scar on his forehead just above the bridge of the nose. His eyes portray a distant stare and he moves as though he is in a trance.
We wait until they board the elevator and then we step out of the rest room.
“Tell me we’re not going any further,” Ramsey says. “There is something going on here and I mean to find out where Leo was taken and why,” I continue my response, “It doesn’t look like the man had a lobotomy done on him because lobotomies are done up through the eye socket with a special wire whip.
“There is something bigger going on here. What kind of brain surgery was that?”
The elevator indicator stops on the twentieth level labeled as “B20” and remains there. The wall that mysteriously opened is back in place.
“It cost a fortune to build this hidden entrance. Why do you suppose they went to so much trouble to hide a corridor from the hospital?” I ask.
Ramsey says, “At a glance there are three things about this huge underground facility that seem obvious.
It’s not part of the hospital’s main medical treatment facility. It’s made to look seemingly unimportant, because there is no apparent security at the main entrance.
The entrance isn’t hidden, so it obviously isn’t designed to look like a secret facility. It’s the perfect example of the best hiding place being in plain sight.”
Considering the sinister purpose of the facility I say, “If there are 20 levels underground then there will probably be twenty guard stations.
No matter what level you chose, there will be a guard to greet you when the doors open.”
Ramsey is a gem under pressure. He says, “We need to look legitimate when we go down there or we may end up being permanent residences.”
“Sometimes you amaze me, Ramsey,” I quipped, “You’re right. Sometimes the best place to hide something is right in your face.
“You know, I wouldn’t be so insistent on continuing except that Leo is somewhere beneath us when he’s supposed to be buried in the cemetery back in Boston.
“Another kicker is the blank concrete wall opening. How can this place look so ordinary and yet have the blank walls open into doorways?”
We go to the laundry storage area and find the door locked.
“We need to see what’s in this laundry room. I have a feeling all the levels are secured and we won’t be able to gain entrance without some sort of disguise”, Ramsey noted.
I pull out my wallet and produce a flexible steel shim.
I slide it easily between the door jam and the door, but the lock is a deadbolt.
Ramsey reaches into his back pocket to pull out his wallet and produces a set of skinny steel feeler probes.
He carefully slides two of them at once into the keyhole and starts fishing around in there.
The lock made a click and Ramsey quietly slips the door open about half an inch.
Ramsey and I cautiously look inside and see that it’s dark in there, so we open the door far enough to see inside.
We turn on the lights and go in.
The room is quite large with a huge service elevator covering the entire wall area in the back.
Another whole wall is covered in large laundry machines, while half the other wall is covered with hydraulic laundry pressing machines.
We do a quick search through the baskets of dirty laundry and see about five different kinds of uniforms in various sizes.
None of them are hospital uniforms, but are either security uniforms or blank jumpsuit type uniforms in pink, blue, black or white.
Over on the other side, we find the same four kinds of uniforms cleaned, pressed and on hangars. Unsure of what the uniforms are for, we decide to risk wearing the white ones. We decide that white jump suits would be worn by medical staff with the broadest clearance.
If badges are needed for the security uniforms, we would never be able to get very far. We have to hope there are no badges needed.
We pull out white jump suits, put them on and tuck the collars and cuffs from our street clothes out of sight.
I look at Ramsey and share my amazement. “You notice that there are no variations in any of these uniforms?
“They are truly one-size-fits-all. You wrap the garment and select the row of zipper that fits your girth. Then you wrap the legs and sleeves and they tuck in place.
“Always a perfect fit.”
Ramsey looks my way and scowls, “We’re about to be killed or worse and you’re thinking about garment design?
“For crying out loud, man-up and pay attention.”
I smile and relax for the first time since we entered this village. It’s good to have the old feisty Ramsey back on the job.
We enter the elevator and find a directory of floors, but the information on the placard is sparse.
Only about four of the floors are labeled.
We push the button for “B2” for cafeteria services, and wait. The floor falls beneath us silently.
All the elevators at the village must be the new linear design.
The elevator doors open and a man in a security guard uniform turns to ask us who we are.
In the background I can see a man in a white jumpsuit on a ladder changing a fluorescent light bulb.
Apparently we are wearing janitorial uniforms.
“We received word that there is a critical maintenance situation on this level.
“We’re reporting for duty with the crew,” I say, trying to keep my answer as generic as possible.
“It’s urgent that we get to our post immediately, Sir.”
“According to my elevator display, the elevator originated from the outside entrance. Since uniforms of any kind are not allowed there,” he says, “Why is that your point of origin?”
“We got on at the other dining room level with someone who needed to get to the surface in a hurry; I don’t know why they are in a hurry.
“We rode to the surface with them prior to coming back down here.
“As long as we never left the elevator, I thought it would be alright.” I respond.
Turning to his control console and pushing a button a keyboard emerges from the elevator display panel.
“According to the elevator history log, it originated from ‘B20’ and went to the surface nonstop before it came back down here,” He prodded.
“We were changing light bulbs on level ‘B20’ just outside the elevator,” I say, “Look! Is there a problem here, because we have to go?
“Either report us or get out of our way.”
I waved Ramsey on and the guard steps aside.
“Whew, that was a close call,” Ramsey gasped.
“Apparently the only uniforms allowed on the surface are the Council of 12 Surface Police and the Council of 12 Surgeons from the white trucks,” Ramsey noted.
We exit the outer foyer and enter an unoccupied inner foyer.
The inner foyer is also cinder block construction with fluorescent lighting.
I sigh and throw my hands up saying, “Wouldn’t you know it, just our luck we would pick crummy janitor suits?”
Ramsey smiled and says, “Janitors and maintenance personnel probably have more security access than the medical staff.”
Surprised, I nod because Ramsey is right.
We open a door exiting the inner foyer and enter the Cafeteria Services area.
We find the rest of the floor to be that same frosted glass ceilings and walls glowing in green as the Tower.
It’s obvious that the common method of fluorescent lighting is to be used in areas where there are integrated cameras in the concrete walls.
In the event they have to apprehend anyone they can see all the entrances.
They must have 20 levels of screening rooms just off the elevator doors where security can prevent people from ever entering or leaving this place.
I nudge Ramsey and say, “With so many places to monitor I don’t think they monitor audio, so they won’t hear our conversations. They just see our movements.
“Monitoring thousands of sound channels would be utter chaos.”
Ramsey and I have made our way into the kitchen service area and we’re standing a little dumbfounded looking at rows and rows of carts with about 20 meals being loaded onto each of them.
Each blue or pink cart has a stenciled plate bearing the level number, room number and names of the occupants. Each White cart has the level number and name of the workers. Each black cart has the level number and names of the guards.
Special instruction stenciled plates have food allergies and other special dietary instructions, to include the max calorie guide for the 20 people on each cart.
Cafeteria service must also be modified to make nutritional corrections that can adjust the weight for each individual either up or down as needed.
There must be a thousand carts in here.
If Leo is down there the odds of finding his food cart are slim to none.
Then we notice the doors opening on the service elevator, and what an elevator it is.
It looks about forty feet wide by forty feet in depth.
Food carts are loaded into the elevator in rows and once filled, it is sent to the floor where the carts are destined.
“There must be thousands of people here,” Ramsey says.
I inject, “We need to use our tracker and locate Leo.
“Unless we do something pretty quick we will have to leave without him.
“I can’t let that happen after we’ve come this far.”
Ramsey made a grimace and says, “So now what do you recommend?”
I say, “Let’s go back to the elevator and go down to level B20. All the way down we can watch and monitor the tracker until it tells us what floor Leo is on.”
We board the elevator and press the button for B20. The elevator goes down swiftly to level B20.
The doors open on level B20 where Ramsey says, “Excuse us, wrong floor.”
I press the button for B19 followed quickly by the door close button.
I’m hoping the door close button actually closes the doors faster here.
Elsewhere in the world the door close button isn’t connected to anything. The door close button is just there to allow the rider to believe that they are in control.
We start back up as we monitor the tracker.
We’re only up to the next level, B19, where the indicator tells us Leo’s transmitter is on the same level with us and the indicator points in the direction of the elevator doors.
The doors open on B19 and we go carefully into the room. The guard there looks in our direction, checks the source of our ride, sees it is the cafeteria and waves us on.
The lighting here is conventional fluorescent lighting as well. We continue on as though we belong here and enter the door at the far end of the room.
Once again we are in the frosted glass illuminated architecture.
We walk purposefully through the corridors looking for Leo with our locator. We ultimately locate him and Leo is doing some kind of work out on an exercise machine.
Funny, but Leo doesn’t look too much the worse for wear, except, his eyes looked a bit vacant and he’s not wearing glasses.
Other people are also working out on similar machines, but the pink and blue jumpsuits are missing something.
There are no bulges in the area where men and women would normally have them.
Leo looks at us as though nothing out of the ordinary is happening. “Hello, Clark. Hi, Ramsey,” he says.
His lack of expression was somewhat remarkable, but maybe not, in light of his apparent lobotomy and brain surgery.
The scar above his right eye is fresh and ugly.
“Hi Leo,” I respond, “Ready to go home?” Leo did not directly respond to the question.
“Lunch is coming,” Leo says, “Always avoid sustenance abuse.”
I grabbed Leo by the arm and attempted to pull him off the machine. “You’re coming home with us!” I shouted.
Leo’s expression didn’t change, but his mouth opened wide and he started making a loud screeching sound as though he were a siren.
“Damn it! Shut up, Leo!” I yelled. Leo kept up the screams until I let go and say, “O.K. Buddy, Have a nice day.” And we took off running.
Ramsey smiled for the first time since we came down here. “Weight Watchers should come down here and clone this program, whatever it is,” Ramsey wisecracked.
“You and I had better beat feet on out of here,” I then noted the obvious to Ramsey, “I think he’s not Leo anymore.”
We go briskly making turns and remembering which way we came. We are noticing strange things on our way back to the elevator.
On the way we see people in medical uniforms giving injections to the people in pink and blue.
I pass close to one of the medical carts and slip a vial of the drug into my pocket.
The gathering of evidence must be instinctive, because all I should be consciously thinking of is getting the hell out of here.
What’s left of Leo will just have to stay here. It would be impossible to escape with Leo in tow.
Even if we manage to get back to the office with him, we would never undo the damage they have done to him.
Brain damage and neutering are irreversible.
It’s a sure bet that we aren’t perceived as a threat yet, or the security people would be intercepting us by now.
We manage to get to the elevators, enter, and press the button for level sixteen. We decide to take a chance and check random floors on the way up.
On the one hand you have to be crazy to do what we’re doing right now, but on the other hand, maintenance seems to have the run of the place in this facility.
As we move up to the sixteenth level we find people dressed in black jumpsuits that are much more alert, walking briskly and carrying on conversations with one another.
In fact, wherever they are walking two or more abreast, they maintain a cadence and walked in military style parade step. It has become clear that these people are getting some sort of military training.
Try as you might, you can’t see any sign of gender. I notice they have no scar above the right eye. It seems they have gotten cosmetic surgery.
The government apparently wants them to look as superficially normal as possible. It must be that they are going to be used to work in public.
I turned to Ramsey, “What are these people, or are they people anymore? They look like some kind of Goon zombies.”
As the doors open on each level the plaque on the wall identifies the purpose of that level.
As we move to the fourteenth level we find groups of Goons engaged in simulated combat. They fight hand to hand and some have weapons. One Goon moves across in front of us.
I elbow Ramsey and say, “It’s Peggy from our office building, but now she’s a Goon. She didn’t recognize us at all.”
Levels ten through twelve are labeled “Life Services” and seem to have private bedrooms and eat-in cafeterias for the people in this facility above level sixteen.
We are getting a bit hungry, so we move toward the serving line. I reached out and pulled back on Ramsey’s sleeve.
“Watch how they get their food,” I say.
Each person puts a card in the card reader and they are served according to the screen projected by the information on the card.
Some people are served more and different kinds of food than other people in line. No one says what they want and no one asks.
A big sign hangs above the food line.
It reads, “FIGHT SUSTENANCE ABUSE!”
We have seen enough at this point to know there’s no way we will be able to be served.
We make our way back to the elevator, step inside and when we get near the surface we loosen our jumpsuits.
Once we get to the top and the elevator doors open we hastily enter the laundry and strip off our jumpsuits and straighten our clothes.
I remove the vial taken from level nineteen of the facility from my jumpsuit pocket and put it into my regular pants pocket.
Ramsey says, “Let’s get out of this creepy place.”
Exiting the laundry is a little scary because of all the sliding walls, trucks rounding the corner and people appearing so quickly here.
We walk briskly onto the street. We try to look inconspicuous as we get back to the black tower.
Our taxi is waiting for us along with four Ritz Village Police.
The Officer with the most brass speaks up, “Where have you been? What have you been doing?”
Ramsey speaks right up, “We found the place so fascinating that we decide to take a walk around.”
The Police look rather upset.
He says, “You are outsiders. You are not only licensed Detectives but you are armed as well.
“We don’t want you running loose in our village. We have placed you on the watch list.
“Get in the taxi and get the hell out of here before we take you in.
“If it happens again, you will be put on the no-entrance list.
“Do you understand me?”
“Yes sir. I understand you,” I say quickly.
We board the taxi and are driven away.
The taxi driver asks, “Where were you guys?” The Police showed up and I had no idea what to tell them.”
Ramsey and I look at each other with a disgusting grimace.
We both know the taxi driver called the Police when we didn’t show up after a while.
The taxi ride back to the common parking area is uneventful.
We are relieved to be back in our car and putting distance between us and Ritz Village.
“I wonder how many of the people who live in Ritz Village know what’s going on over at the hospital.
There is enough food being delivered there to feed a whole other city, not to mention the trash disposal.” I muse.
Ramsey just looks at me with a blank stare. “Must you analyze everything all the time?” Ramsey asks.
I laugh and wink in his direction saying, “It’s what I am, after all.
“Given the hundreds of people that work underground in that facility, where do you think they live?
“I think this whole village is a front for that place.”
My face goes blank and I slap my forehead.
Ramsey says, “What’s up, boss? Did we forget something back there?”
I gasp and say, “We just found the World Headquarters for the Council of 12!
“The whole damn Ritz Village thing is just a front. It’s not a village. It’s like the Forbidden City in China.
“This whole village is a palace for the Council of 12.
“It explains why everything central to the Council of 12 seems to happen there and why there are no children.”
We are looking at the label on the vial taken from the facility for the first time.
It has strange markings, a floor number, area number and another number.
Both Ramsey and I decide it’s coded much the way the food carts were back in the underground facility.
I mumble, “Ramset old buddy. We need to get this analyzed. We need to know what’s in it.”
I decide to make a stop by to see my old friend Dr. Bob.
Dr. Bob is a prominent forensic chemist.
I drop off the mysterious vial of medication for analysis at his lab and he’s glad to see me, as always.
Dr. Bob greets me with a smile and a vigorous handshake.
“What have you been up to now?” he asks.
“I can’t tell you where the vial came from” I reply.
“I’ll never figure out where you find some of the stuff you bring here.
“You’re one of my best customers and knowing you as I do, I know not to ask.”
He looks at the label on the vial and one eyebrow is elevated.
He looks up at me and shakes his head emitting a soft whistling sound.
By the time we arrive back at the office, we have a call from Dr. Bob asking, “Where did you get that vial?
“There are a mixture of hormones and steroids. It’s the damndest thing I’ve ever seen.
“These styles of steroids are used by veterinarians to treat cattle and horses.
“It’s outlawed for use on humans, but the blend of hormones looks like it may have been intended for human consumption anyway.
“The hormones are human and include replacement therapy for testosterone, progesterone and estrogen.
“These hormones are generally lost when radical surgery, such as orchidectomies are performed.”
I say, “Thanks Doc. Send us a bill.”
He laughs and says, “You can bet on it.
“I’ll destroy the vial.
“By the looks of the label no one should be caught with it.”
“Have a nice day” I say, and hang up.
Ramsey and I make the necessary phone calls needed to pull a staff meeting together and discuss the situation we discovered at Ritz Village.
In the old days Ramsey and I would have prepared full reports outlining all we discovered. Lately we have found it unwise to document anything.
Our emergency Staff Meeting is scheduled to convene the next morning.
Al Akken, Fred Eats, Marc Buggs, Ramsey and I are seated at the table in what I consider to be a critical exchange of information.
I never suspected just how critical the meeting was until Fred announced new legislation outlawing guns and revoking all gun ownership licenses due to be announced the first of next month.
“That gives us three weeks to get ready.
I piped up with, “We need to buy up all the ammunition we can without appearing suspicious.
We indicate on the tracking information form that it’s for target practice.
We also file a form to indicate that the status of Ramsey’s and my 38 Specials are stolen.”
Ramsey objects, “Such a report can get your license to carry firearms revoked for carelessness.
“On the other hand what’s the difference?
“All firearms will be illegal after the new legislation is announced anyway.”
Making gun ownership inconvenient hasn’t worked.
Making gun ownership expensive hasn’t worked.
Now they want to just give up on making the lives of legal gun owners difficult and outlaw them altogether.
I quip, “My guns are not illegal, they are just undocumented.”
On a more serious note I say, “The Council of 12 never does anything without a reason.
“If they intend to make firearm ownership illegal, then they are planning mass arrests to eliminate people from the population and they want to minimize any physical resistance.”
I verbally deliver my report to the other members of the Polygon.
Starting off with, “Throughout history restrictions on gun ownership always preceded the outrageous tactics of a totalitarian government.”
I speak of the cruelty of the captors and say, “The conversion of people into Goons reads like a sixteenth century horror story. The mass neutering of people along with performing frontal lobotomies and routine brain alterations is the stuff of gothic fiction.”
The group stirs in their seats looking somewhat ill at ease.
I note that, “The Goons are being created from both criminal and political prisoners. This information is complete and accurate.”
I talk about finding Leo and how I found him.
I make careful note of the trucks and the black license plates with C12 on them.
My report tells of how the trucks are escorted by two armed SUVs and how they drop off their post-surgical prisoners to an elevator that goes 20 stories underground.
I finish up with, “We need a way to encrypt our written reports.
“These reports will be used to inform future investigators about the methods used by our enemy.”
“Surgical conversion of citizens into zombies and then training them as soldiers suggests a lot of time, money and planning.
The fact that the secret underground training facility appears to be filled nearly to capacity is a clue that the Council of 12 is nearly ready to execute their plan, whatever that is.”, Eats comments.
Ramsey and I fill everyone in verbally with even more information on what we have discovered at Ritz Village along with the drugs we had analyzed.
There are a few things, such as the government counseling sessions being used to drug the population that are too sensitive to have in writing until we find a way to encrypt the information.
I conclude the report with the assumption that something big is about to unfold, and soon.
Buggs speaks up, “I would agree that we have to assemble our information and attempt to figure out what kind of conspiracy is brewing. There must be some kind of pattern in all that’s going on.”
Eats picked it up with, “Whenever a ruling force makes a large number of changes in the laws and in the configuration of its enforcement arm, something is usually brewing.
“For instance, I just heard yesterday that the temporary ban on the sale of alcohol is not being lifted, as promised.
“In fact the ban is being tightened and made permanent in the name of Global Security.”
Buggs chimes in again, “With the arrest and detention of so many people without due process, the business of Criminal Lawyers is winding down to nearly nothing.
“People are being routinely arrested under the guise of Global Security, questioned and imprisoned without a trial.”
Eats remarks, “Even the charges and the evidence are being considered confidential, so the accused may not even know what they have been charged with.”
I say, “Something big is about to happen. It won’t be long before we discover what that something is.”
The law firm of Buggs and Eats nearly folded because the wealthy population has their own Lawyers on retainer and the poor either can’t afford to hire an Attorney or have been denied representation or due process. So it was that our detective agency.
Metro Net Investigations took on the Lawyers Buggs and Eats as members of the Executive Staff and joined forces.
We aren’t getting any business either, but have the resources and the planning to hold ourselves solvent in spite of the public’s general financial problems.
“If we’re ever going to win, we have to find a loophole in the way money is regulated”, Al says.
Then the next domino fell. Too many of the poor were succeeding in filing bankruptcy and the wealthy were starting to lose money because of it.
We are aware that even newer bankruptcy laws emerged to prevent people from escaping their oppressive debt to their creditors, and now bankruptcy is being made illegal altogether.
Al warns, “It needs to become harder to win freedom from debt because future earnings of the oppressed are not being fully tapped. The poor are sometimes even escaping with ownership of their homes.”
Buggs adds, “If you are going to eliminate the middle class entirely, you first have to remove all hope.”
Whenever the government wants to create a decoy they declare war on a concept. The need to fight the war on drugs, poverty, homelessness and other unseen enemies have to be perceived by the masses as being achievable.
I lament, “The act of declaring war on an idea or a concept is your first indication that you’re being duped by the government.
The idea that terrorism is a physical thing that can be wiped out is absurd.
The idea that National Security can be preserved using methods executed in secret is also lame.
You can’t safeguard the nation with secrecy and oppression. Isn’t secrecy and oppression the very things you are safeguarding against?”
New laws are continuing to be passed. Making it legal for a lender to take a person’s home without court actions after decades of hard work and payments, the Council of 12 ordered all Homestead Exemptions null and void.
The foreclosure process has been eliminated and the mortgage company can simply have the Sherriff order the owner to vacate the property. In addition, the law now makes it illegal to be homeless.
The next declaration issued by the Council of 12 states that ownership of an unregistered weapon is an act of terrorism against the government. Possession of a weapon will result in arrest under the Global Security act.
New laws are passed that deem it appropriate to imprison anyone violating national security and to do so without due process.
These arrests are already going on, but the cries of the public and lawyers have forced the Council of 12 to mandate it into law.
Three weeks pass. The Police are busy sweeping people off the streets. Children wait for their dad, who never comes home.
Wives are sitting up at 3 AM never knowing why their husband never returned from the grocery store.
The National Security Police believe that prisoners will be more likely to talk if they are concerned knowing their families will never know why they have disappeared.
As we, the Polygon, are sitting around the table discussing how to pull off some form of financial recovery, there is an unusually loud knock at the door and a shout, “Police! Open up immediately!”
We secure our documents swiftly and open the door to find four foreboding figures standing there in threatening postures.
One of them has a battering ram at the ready. They are dressed in black helmets and are military looking, not the customary uniforms we are used to seeing.
Their police-like uniforms complete with gold colored badges bear the seal of the Council of 12.
They look identical to the sexless Goons Ramsey and I witnessed back in Ritz Village. The Goon Army is at our door.
One of the Goons produced a stack of papers while the other three enter the room.
The Goon with the stack of papers says, “We are the Global Police and we are here on official Council of 12 business.
Draw near and remain attentive until our business is concluded.”
They are armed with semi-automatic pistols in hand and on their hip are handcuffs along with other police paraphernalia, such as two way radios, and “O.C.” pepper spray.
You can barely hear their radio traffic as the squawking of their radio scanners are muffled inside their helmets.
They order us to produce our Citizen ID Cards which we are now required to have on our persons at all times.
They produce a list of the weapons we have registered, complete with serial numbers and demand their surrender in the name of Global Security.
I protest, “How can Detectives do their job without a weapon?”
“After today you won’t need a weapon, because we will have confiscated them all,”
One of the Goons proclaims, “The wisdom of the Council of 12 has makes it a safer world by eliminating firearms altogether.
“This confiscation is for your own protection.”
I am insulted by the stupidity of such a statement.
It’s almost as ignorant as handcuffing me while saying that I’m being restrained for my own protection.
Publisher: BookRix GmbH & Co. KG
Text: Robert Stetson
Images: Robert Stetson
Publication Date: 12-12-2014
All Rights Reserved