Resurrection -- Chapter 4
Richard lay most of the next day in bed hungover. Late in the afternoon he made a light meal then spent the evening reading. The following day he cycled out to Lake Candlerock. His desire to go was so strong he felt drawn. He decided to enter from the side opposite he and Fredo had been on one week earlier, and walked his bike in through some trees. As the water came into view he noted the man leaning against a tree trunk with a fish line in the water. He recognized Fredo, and went straightway and greeted him, saying: “Hey amigo. What are you doing on this side? Did the fish swim across this week?”
“Hello Richard,” Fredo answered. “What are you doing out here? You didn’t come to fish, you didn’t bring a pole. Did you come out here to look for more gold?”
“No, not at all.” Richard stumbled on the words; “Actually, I was hoping to find you out here.”
“You found gold out here last weekend, didn’t you?” Fredo accused, backed by a cold, blank stare.
Richard was taken aback. “How did you know?” he finally answered.
“I didn’t. I guessed right and you confessed,” Fredo revealed. “You came to hunt gold.”
“I had some inspiration, and a dream, and have a feeling I’ll find more,” Richard explained. “I was hoping I’d find you here; I want to talk to you. Remember we talked eminent domain?”
Fredo eyed him with suspicion. “I remember,” he answered.
“I went to a party Friday night, and met Rory O’Maddy. He’s the father of an acquaintance. He’s also a high judge. We had some beers and got chummy. He confided in me that he’s down on his luck and fallen on hard financial times. I think money might influence his judgment.”
“Do tell,” Fredo urged, listening intently.
“I’ve been studying eminent domain, and working up a petition to file in court. It would delineate the many reasons why the state would be better off parceling this land privately. I could even file it this week to find out what happens—if I had cash for the filing fee.”
“How much is that?” Fredo asked.
“Only fifty to a hundred bucks, but I don’t even have that, I’m that broke,” Richard answered.
“I see,” Fredo said ponderously. “And the judge?”
“Judge O’Maddy is interested in my fledgling law career, and invited me to call on him at the courthouse any time. I thought I’d stop by for a visit when I file the petition.”
“Do you think you can interest him?” Fredo asked.
“Very much,” Richard confidently answered. “I suspect there is a reasonable price wherewith he might be bought. That’s why I wish I had a little money to offer when I see him. To test the water, so to speak.”
Fredo paused and thought hard for a long while. “How much do you think, to start? What if I ponied up a few hundred?”
Richard looked at him squarely. “I was thinking a grand. We’re going to have to cut the judge in anyway, and for a lot more than that to corrupt him, so there’s little point starting with small potatoes. Let’s show him a piece of the pie or keep our hand hidden.”
Fredo reeled in and re-cast his bait. “I’ll tell you what,” he began slowly. “I’m camping out here for a few days.” He motioned to the tent camouflaged in the brush, that Richard hadn’t noticed. “You bring me out a copy of the brief or petition you plan on filing, and if I like it I’ll bankroll some exploratory funding.”
“Really?” Richard replied. “That would definitely start things rolling. I have a number of thoughts and know exactly how to articulate them. Do you have the cash handy here?”
“Show me a brief,” Fredo answered with a severe look.
Richard moved to leave. “Let me go get my thoughts together, and I’ll be back, maybe even tomorrow. I’m going to take another wander back upstream.”
“To look for gold?” Fredo suggested.
“Always,” Richard answered. “And to think things through. This all may be ours someday soon, so don’t worry--anything I find I’m sharing equally with you here on out. I’ll try and be back tomorrow.”
He hastened to get away before Fredo could change his mind, or alter the offer with stipulations. He took slow steps alongside the stream while staring hard into the water, but saw not the least glimmer nor gleam. He circled around two miles or so through the trees and back to where he’d left his bike, which he pushed to the road and pedaled home.
He made a pot of tea, fetched pen and paper, organized his books and immersed himself in eminent domain. For a night, a day and another night he studied dozens of case files and pondered many decisions. Then he cleared his head with a twelve mile walk, returned home, sat down and wrote:
A Petition To Develop Candlerock Lake Park.
May it please the court to present a detailed plan for the rejuvenation of Candlerock Lake Park, and the preservation thereafter. In recent years the park has seen a steady decline in use, in part as it suffers under budget constraints. It is overrun with weeds of neglect, and in the eyes of many is become a burdensome sore. The lawns are deep and shaggy, and the inlet become swampy from the silt clogged stream that empties in. Murk, decay, disorder and disrepair rule the grounds.
Therefore does the newly formed Candlerock Conservancy hope the court finds its proposal acceptable. The revitalization of the Candlerock land will be a two pronged project. First will be a complete renewal of the landscape. This will include but not be limited to pruning trees and planting new ones, replacing weeds with flowers, and mowing the grass, as well as polishing and painting the existing facilities. These improvements will be done on the west side, where the picnic area and other public grounds are currently situated. Additionally, once the heavy equipment has been located out there to dredge the inlet stream, that the lake may be sweetened with clean water and a freer flow, the plan proposes to move the equipment one hundred yards down the west shore to excavate a beach, which will be blanketed by an importation of silky white sand.
To fund such an endeavor, the Candlerock Conservancy proposes to establish a fund by opening the east shore for the building of private homes. If zoned for five acre building lots, the two mile stretch of the east shore would accommodate approximately twenty homes, which if tastefully adapted to the land, would be more complement than corruption. Much like monthly condominium fees, the home buyers would be obligated to join a Candlerock Association, and their fees would fund the maintenance of the whole lake, including the public areas. Being prime real estate, the naturally high property values would provide a much needed and healthy infusion of tax dollars to the town.
When taking this petition under consideration it is also of import to consider the Monhauk casino, situated precisely 19.5 miles northeast of Candlerock. When it first opened eleven years ago, traffic spiked by 27 percent along the Interstate 97 corridor in the first year, and has increased an average of nine percent every year since. That is unsustainable; the highway was not designed for the capacity it is rapidly approaching, wherefore also is quickly approaching a time when some measure will have to be taken to alleviate the flow of motor vehicles. The proposals to widen the interstate are unrealistic. To close the roadway is impossible, to shrink it to two and three lanes while making the necessary improvements would take too many years to complete. The alternative that has been suggested, and which is receiving the most support because it seems most viable, is to construct an arterial connector between Interstates 97 and 89. Being ten miles apart and running roughly parallel, the most logical and effective place to install such a road would be to lay it through what is now the Candlerock Park lands.
Legally this could be easily achieved using an eminent domain seizure. Therefore the Candlerock Conservancy suggests that the court preemptively exert eminent domain law now against a future employment of eminent domain law. That is to say, to utilize eminent domain now, to open the Candlerock land to development as outlined herein, to prevent the inevitable eminent domain seizure in the near future. With homes on the land, and high property values yielding proportionately high tax revenue, along with public grounds restored to their former vibrant glory, any court would be more reluctant and thoughtful before approving an eminent domain seizure for highway construction; and if such were to be approved, the sale to the state would be at a much higher rate than if the land were taken as it stands this moment.
May it please the court, this petition is submitted by the Candlerock Conservancy this twentieth day of November, 20--. Fredo Gromelli, president; Richard Sleitzer, vice president.
The next afternoon he folded a copy of the petition into a pocket and rode his bike out to Candlewood Park. He started for the spot where Fredo’s tent was pitched, and was almost there when he heard a voice from above say: “Have you got a petition for me?”
He stopped and turned back and up and saw Fredo sitting on a lower limb. “I didn’t even see you up there. Yes I do.”
Fredo grasped the branch and swung himself down, landing directly before Richard. “Let’s have a look.”
Richard handed him the petition, and as Fredo began to read it, said: “What were you doing up that tree?”
I just came down from the top. It’s the highest tree out here. I was studying the area from above.”
He said no more, and gestured Richard to be quiet till he’d finished reading it. When done, he read it again. Then he smiled and said: “Fredo, President. I like that. It’s very interesting, and seems well written to me. If we developed the idea, we might sell the courts on it.”
“Or buy them,” Richard remarked. “Did you notice the mention of dredging the inlet?” he asked.
“I did, but what of it?” Fredo answered.
“That’s a cover. When we bring the heavy equipment out here to start dredging, we’ll actually use it to start digging up the land looking for veins of gold. If we keep it parked near the water, no one will suspect what we’re really doing.”
“I like that too,” Fredo replied. “That’s very clever. So what do you do now?”
“Pay a visit to the judge,” Richard answered. He said nothing more, and there was a pause.
“And that’s where I come in,” Fredo suggested.
“We discussed it yesterday,” Richard said.
“That we did.” Fredo looked at Richard, then around at the trees, then back at Richard. “Okay, we’ll do it. Will a grand do to get things going?”
“I’ll go see him in the morning,” Richard replied. “And if he turns it down, I’ll bring it back to you here tomorrow afternoon. If not, I’ll come to tell you about my meeting.”
“Go to the stream and look for your gold and I’ll catch up with you there within an hour,” Fredo said.
He went as instructed, and Fredo met him there soon thereafter. He handed Richard the cash without reservation, and said: “I do want to know how much you think you should get.”
“Like I said, share it equally,” he answered. “If this place turns into even half my dream we’ll both have more than we could ever spend.”
“And one more thing: I’d like to meet you at your house tomorrow,” Fredo instructed. “I’d like to know where you live.”
“But of course,” Richard replied. “I live at Seven Millcrest Road. You’re welcome to follow me home and see it now, if you like,” he offered.
Fredo thought it over a moment, then answered: “I’ll come by tomorrow.”
“I’ll be there from four on.”
“I’ll see you then,” Fredo said, and turned and headed back toward him encampment.
Richard thumbed through the money, pocketed it, and rode home.
He spent the evening refining his petition, woke up early and revised it one last time, then took it downtown to the courthouse. He debated whether to submit the petition to the clerk, or to visit Judge O’Maddy first. He settled on the latter course of action, and went to his office. He was greeted by Fiona, who was minding her uncle’s secretary’s desk for the day.
“What a pleasant surprise,” Richard said with a smile. “How are you today?”
Her delight was undisguised, and she smiled and replied: “I’m great, and it’s great to see you. Are you here for me or my uncle?”
“I’m glad to find you both here,” he answered. “Your uncle is here, yes?”
“Yes, I’ll get him for you right now.” She opened the door, got her uncle’s attention, then showed Richard in.
Upon seeing him the judge said: “Welcome lad! Come in, come in! To what do I owe this honor? I hope it’s both social and some point of law. I have a light day.”
Richard grasped the brown envelope from under his shoulder with one hand and shook the judge’s with his other. “I’m glad to see you, and that you’re glad to see me. First let me thank you again for the marvelous party. You must throw another soon, and I’d be happy to pitch in any way I can.”
“Hopefully soon,” the judge answered. “I was a few pints deep, but I still remember telling you my situation. It hasn’t changed in just these few days. What’s in the envelope?”
“I’ve been thinking more about eminent domain, and wrote some thoughts down,” Richard replied. The moment of truth had presented itself, and he faced it boldly. “Take a look and tell me what you think.”
The judge took the envelope, told Richard to help himself from the teapot, then sat down at his desk and read Richard’s petition. “That’s very interesting,” he said, when finished. “Very…indeed. But what is it? Is it some hypothetical case you’re contemplating?”
Richard eyed him squarely and replied: “No, I’d like to submit it to the courts, win a decision and develop the land. That’s why I came here today. I’d like to file this afternoon. I even brought cash for the filing fee.” He removed the hundred dollar bills from his pocket and let them be seen.
“I see,” the judge said slowly. “Well, you wouldn’t just hand it over to a clerk with a fee to initiate a case. The papers on eminent domain cases are normally filed by the government’s attorney.”
Richard noticed that the judge kept returning his glance to the money, and seized the moment. He flipped through the bills and asked: “What’s the fee to file with him?”
Judge O’Maddy couldn’t tear his eyes away from the money. “There is no fee. The government doesn’t pay itself to file a case.”
“Then take it and throw another party,” Richard encouraged, thrusting the cash. “I’d love another one soon, and to be the first invitee. Or do whatever you like with it. Keep the house if that’s enough to do anything to help.”
The judge did not take the money, but neither did he pull his hand away, nor avert his eyes. “I’ve been going to Candlerock since I was a boy. I used to fantasize about one day having a house out there.”
“And maybe one day you shall,” Richard suggested. “C’mon. Let’s have another party, my treat.”
The judge lightly touched the money, then received it. “I have a couple weeks vacation starting Saturday. I’ll have the government attorney slip the filing in as the last order of business Friday afternoon. That’ll give it a couple weeks to simmer, and to gauge what reaction might come. I’ll be out of town for a few days, but there may be time for a party. You’ll be sure to know. You’re a sharp kid, pointed upward. Let me look this over more closely, and give it some thought, and peruse some other eminent domain decisions. Paddy knows how to contact you.”
“He does,” he answered.
“I’ll be in touch soon,” the judge promised. “Very soon.”
Richard returned to the reception area where Fiona was putting on her coat.
“Where are you getting off to?” he asked.
“Lunch,” she answered. “Care to join me?”
“I was about to ask.” He offered his arm; she took it and they went.
After lunch he walked her back to the courthouse and was home by three. Fredo showed up just after four. “Well?” he asked.
“He took it.”
“How do things look?” Fredo asked. “What’s next?”
“It looks very good,” Richard answered. “It will be filed late this Friday, then we have to wait at least a couple weeks before there’s any further action.”
“And in the meantime?”
“I continue studying and working the legalities, and we start on preliminary plans for the excavation and development of Candlerock.” He flashed Fredo a sinister smile.”And I know you know precisely where the gold is buried.”
“Indeed I do,’ he replied, “as do you.” He turned to leave. “I’ll see you soon—if not out there, then back here.”