Friday, April 27, 2012

Resurrection -- Chapter 5

Resurrection Chapter 5

Richard settled in patiently to wait, and prepared himself for the worst--that the legal process would painstakingly grind his dreams to a halt. Meanwhile he continued studying eminent domain while attending his classes. About a week later, on Friday morning, Paddy approached him on campus, to inform and invite him to another party at his family’s house that night. “My father said he’s expecting you.”

“And I will be there,” Richard replied.

“Great! Until then,” Paddy said, then went off.

Richard was home preening himself for the party when a knock came on the door. It was Fredo. Fredo tried to appear relaxed, but his impatience with the process quickly became evident. He noticed Richard’s sharp attire and fresh scent, and said: “Why are you dressed up?”

Richard didn’t want to invite him along, and lied: “I have a date.”

“Who is she?” he asked.

“Just a girl,” he answered, “and I have to be off to meet her right now. I’m already running late. We won’t hear anything for a few more weeks at least.”

“I understand that,” Fredo said. “But I’m still pushing forward with my plans. This past week I incorporated a construction company called Gromelli Contracting. All aspects of the business will filter through that. I’ve got several blueprints of house designs to use, and wholesalers lined up to supply all building materials. We just need to get in there.”

“And we will, just not yet. There won’t be any word from the court until next month, and that may well be just to schedule a hearing, a hearing which could easily be delayed at a later date. It might be a couple years before all the lines are signed and we can get out there. You do understand that, yes? I do appreciate what you’re doing on your end, and would love to hear more details when I have more time.”

“Right. Well, then,” Fredo answered abruptly. “I’ll be out there all weekend if you need me for anything.”

The moment darkness had fallen Richard hurried off to the party. He arrived full of anticipation and hope for a great night. It was not to be.

There were less than half the people there than at the first event, and while they were drinking and mingling, it was much more low key and somber. There were no players and instruments, just background music, and Rory was nowhere to be seen. Nor was Fiona. He was on the lookout for either when he ran into Paddy, who informed him that his cousin would not be coming, and that his father had requested a meeting with Richard in five minutes. Richard and Paddy were chatting about school when Rory came upon them and took Richard aside. The judge didn’t offer him a seat, but led him out a side door and said: “The case is going forward, and soon.”

“That’s fantastic,” Richard said.

The judge’s demeanor was markedly different than on either of the two previous occasions they’d met. He was very curt and pointed. “Judge Meyers is going to schedule a public hearing this week. I’m going to be very direct. He is a friend of mine, and if he recuses himself from the case it reverts to me. Five thousand is his fee for recusal. Just reckon it the cost of creating a necessary conflict of interest. The first ruling is scheduled to be handed down Thursday afternoon. If you could bring it—‘it’ being the money--to my office before then, it would make all the difference.

Richard didn’t want to protest, and wanted to measure his words before he spoke them, and so paused.

“It was you who flashed the cash and talked the talk,” the judge reminded him.

“That won’t be a problem,” Richard answered, then asked: “is there anything else?”

“No, did you have any legal questions you’d like me to address?” Rory replied. Richard thought best not pursue any further conversation, and shook his head. “Very well, enjoy the party,” the judge said. “I’ll see you downtown this coming week?”

Richard replied that he would then returned indoors and had a beer and a chat with Paddy. He felt no cheer, and could force none with beer, and so discreetly slinked away from the party.

Richard dreaded approaching Fredo for the money, but decided that sooner was better should more time be needed to come by it. He went out to Candlerock first thing the next day. Fredo was nowhere by the water, so he searched and found him at a picnic table reading.

“There was a development last night,” Richard said.

“Which was?” Fredo answered.

Richard proceeded to tell him everything exactly. He had a notion to say six thousand dollars, to give himself an extra grand to play with, but considered and thought the deceit could trip him later, and so was level with everything.

“So, to sum it up,” Fredo said, “Your friend’s father will be the judge, he’s announcing the date of a public hearing on Thursday, and he needs a five thousand dollar bribe by Wednesday.”

“There’s no other way forward.”

“I’d like to pay the judge with my own hand,” Fredo declared.

“That won’t be possible, for obvious reasons,” Richard answered.

Fredo pondered, then said: “Very well. You haven’t yet done or said anything to raise suspicion, and a public hearing will be published in the newspaper. I’ll bring the cash out to your house Monday or Tuesday evening.”

“That’s fine, I’ll be there,” Richard replied. “You haven’t found any more gold yet, have you?”

“I haven’t been looking, I’m waiting to use the big shovel, the one at the business end of a gas powered payloader,” Fredo answered. “Have you?”

“I’m going to have another look about right now,” he stated. “I’ll let you know if I do when I see you this week.”

He waved with three fingers and went off toward the stream.

Richard received the money from Fredo and brought it the next day to Rory. Following that a public hearing was scheduled for a month later. With weeks in between events in the case, each in their own way settled in to wait as the legal process continued its arduous plod. Richard breezed through his classes while obsessing over every eminent domain case he could root out. He also periodically met with Fredo, both as a way of reassuring him and to discuss their developing plans for Candlerock, which meetings were made increasingly tense by their each becoming gradually becoming subject to all devouring greed.

It was the spring, and the public hearing was scheduled for the Monday evening after Richard’s final exams. He and Fredo agreed to attend together, and to neither speak a word. Twenty or so locals gathered at the town hall to discuss the Candlerock land proposal. A surprising number in attendance actually supported the plan, and the concerned and dissenting voices weren’t particularly loud. There were a few who still made use of the park, but their objections were blunted by the plan’s intention to keep it open to the public, and in much improved upkeep. Many of the rest were more interested in how they might obtain a parcel. The hearing concluded with the scheduling of a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting two weeks later.

Upon discussing and assessing the meeting afterwards, Richard and Fredo came away cautiously optimistic with the seeming lack of objection; but then Richard talked to the judge a few days later, who warned him that there was still a potentially more rigorous planning and zoning commission hearing, and a necessary study and clarification of various points of law, and that after his ruling the strong potential for a prolonged appeal, and to temper their enthusiasm with continued patience.

Fredo kept close tabs on Richard, and as the weeks wore on they grew impatient--with the whole matter, and each other. Neither had given the other reason for mistrust, yet both found cause.

The appointed hour for the next Planning and Zoning meeting arrived. Richard and Fredo again went together and again said nothing. It lasted for over two hours, and focused mostly on legalities regarding the rights of the owners of all adjacent properties. It concluded with the board’s agreement to verify all names and records and reconvene in two weeks.

Standing out front of the town hall afterward, Fredo said: “I didn’t like any of that.”

“It’s too early to start worrying,” Richard replied. “There’s no need to fret prematurely. We do have the judge.”

“Well, we could use one or two of those board members. Why don’t you try and get to know one of them, size them up?” Fredo suggested.

“There’s one right there,” Richard said, pointing out a woman walking to her car. “I recognize her from the meeting. I’ll just go introduce myself, point out you, my associate, and explain that we’re trying to buy influence in the Candlerock matter, and if she’s interested, to name her price; and if not, could she recommend another board member who might be susceptible to corruption while promising to keep her mouth shut.”

He mockingly took a step in her direction. Fredo said, “Okay, that’s stupid, I apologize. This whole thing is starting to stress me.”

“And you’re starting to stress me. We’re holding a powerful hand, and there’s nothing we can do in the meantime, so just relax and let it play out and we’ll be victorious. I’m going home. I’ll see you soon.”

Fredo said good night and departed into the darkness. Richard muttered: “I’ve just about had enough of this fool.”

Beneath his outward self confidence, Richard was also suffering with anxiety and doubt. He longed for the judgment to be rendered and finalized, and phase two of the master plan entered and begun. He determined to start pondering for ways to more quickly advance their cause.

The next morning when he awoke, Fiona came to his mind, whom he hadn’t seen her in some time. He wondered if in her travels around the courthouse she might have access to the Hall of Records. He decided to call on her, and that the call should be social. Then he realized it was Friday of the Fourth of July weekend, a legal holiday, and that he would have to wait until Monday. So he fixed some coffee and sat down with a seventy five page ruling of an early twentieth century British eminent domain case he’d found in the law library.

It was standard interpretation of law until a certain detail jumped out at him. One man involved in the case had been tried and convicted of contaminating a large pond with a toxic solution. He had used a compound called Sodium Bromalide, which he’d mixed himself using ingredients purchased from a hardware store and an apothecary. The chemical concoction contaminated the waters for roughly a year, then dissipated naturally and left it clean.

Richard took inspiration from the pages of the case study. He reasoned that all the people who currently voiced objections to the project would be less likely to maintain them if the water was unfit for humans. And after a year, when he and Fredo were ready to build, the water would become conveniently clean for them.

He went to the Science library and researched Sodium Bromalide, and after a couple hours managed to locate a similar recipe made with common ingredients. They were readily available at local stores and he assembled them that Saturday. He stirred together a five gallon batch, then set it aside while deciding what to do with it.

The weather forecast was for heavy rain starting Sunday afternoon and continuing into the night. He reasoned that dumping it following the rainfall might be best, when the lake waters were still after being agitated. He thought it over then resolved to do just that, and so Sunday morning he strapped his tent on his back, along with a small pack of necessaries, picked up the bucket and started walking toward Candlerock. It was a beautiful day, and when he arrived, several hours later, it was to find the park bustling. There were people in the water, families on the beach, and stragglers wandering in the trees. He stopped and stared and took the scene in.

He put them out of mind and went to the upstream place where he had planned to pitch his tent. When that was done he returned to the lake and walked among the people. At every moment his eyes were on the lookout for Fredo, but never saw him. He did see the faces of the people who were unknowingly in the park for the last time that summer. About four thirty the sky darkened suddenly. Raindrops began to dot the lake, then to pound it. The people hastily packed up and fled while Richard dashed into the trees. He crawled into his tent and zipped himself in for the storm. It poured for hours, late into the night. Then about three it halted. Richard peered out and saw the moon high in the dry sky. The forest around him was calm, though scattered insects were beginning to chirrup. He climbed out and stood up, then picked up the bucket and carried it to the rushing stream. It was bulged with rain and moving fast. He took a seat on a rock beside the water, and using an old coffee cup ladled a few drops out of the bucket and into the stream. He was in no hurry, and was more concerned with making certain it mixed in thoroughly.

In this manner it took him about an hour to empty the bucket. Then he rinsed it in the stream and took it back to his campsite. He put himself back to bed, but couldn’t get to sleep—not from any guilty conscience, but from discomfort and insomnia. He broke camp, packed his things, and started walking home by the moonlight. He trekked through the rest of the night and into the morning, when he finally climbed into the comfort of his own bed and slept all afternoon. His plan to visit Fiona had to wait another day.

He awoke early Tuesday morning and was preparing for a trip to the courthouse when he fetched the newspaper, which stopped him in his tracks. The headline read: Candlerock Fishkill. He brought it indoors and read the story. Several hundred fish, mostly bass and trout, had turned up mysteriously dead in the lake Monday evening. He canceled his plans for the day. He didn’t want to face anyone. He remained locked indoors, with his mind a racing dither of paranoia. He wondered if anyone who’d seen him over the weekend might be suspicious. He started rehearsing responses to the authorities, in the event that they for some reason knew and planned to pay him a call. His thoughts twisted a thousand possible turn, deep into the sleepless night.

He again arose early the next morning, and after setting the kettle on to boil, went straight to the step for the newspaper. He held it warily, unfolded it, and felt like it punched him in the gut. The headline read: Three Local Men Dead. He sat down on the stoop and read the story in shock. In two separate incidents three local men had been found dead in their homes. The symptoms appeared to be food poisoning, and authorities were investigating a possible link to the Candlerock Fishkill. A friend of one of the deceased, Fredo Gromelli, said that Gromelli had gone fishing there the night before, and always ate his catch fresh. One of the other two, brothers Jaime and Philip Jarno, was also seen walking away from Candlerock the previous day carrying fishing gear. Anyone with any information was to contact authorities immediately.

He staggered indoors and collapsed in a chair. His reeling mind began to process three counts of murder. He hadn’t thought things through thoroughly enough, and now they had gone way too far. At length he composed himself, ate some breakfast, and was able to string together some thoughts. He would add successful murder defense cases to his legal studies, in the event that he had to one day defend himself; but in the meantime would carry on innocently, assuming no one knew a thing, while continuing to push forward with the Candlerock development plan.

He had no intention of going out in public, and planned to spend the day reading. But in the early afternoon there came a knock. Preparing for it to be the police, he asked through the door: “Who is it?”

“It’s me, Paddy.”

Richard opened the door and invited him in. “What brings you out here?” he inquired.

“My father sent me,” he replied. “He wants to see you at our house, today.”

“What’s the occasion?” Richard asked hopefully.

“I don’t know,” Paddy answered, “but he’s in a terrible mood. You did hear about the fishkill at Candlerock, didn’t you?”

“Yes, I did,” Richard said, with all the feigned nonchalance he could muster.

“I think it has something to do with all that, but I’m not sure. Anyway, that’s why I’m here,” he explained. “Do you want to head back with me?”

“No, I’ll be along shortly,” Richard said; “and I will be right along.”

“Very well, see you then,” Paddy answered, and left.

Richard was at the O’Maddy house an hour later, arriving just a few minutes after Paddy. The judge was awaiting him, and took him at once alone into his office.

“Have you heard what’s going on?” the judge asked.

“About the fishkill?” Richard answered.

“And the president of your Candlerock Conservancy turning up dead. Did you have anything to do with either, or both?”

The judge stared with hard, cutting eyes.

Richard turned to ice. “Nothing,” he lied. “I’m learning the details as they emerge, just as the rest of the public, I’m sure.”

“And the eminent domain?” the judge asked. “What do you suggest I do on that?”

“Well, we have come this far….”

“And how would you finance it?” he inquired.

“I will,” Richard answered.

“The government attorney formally withdrew the request this morning,” the judge informed him. “Whether ill timing, bad luck or stupidity, the case is dead.”

Richard was shocked and speechless. “I don’t know what to say,” he yammered.

“Well, I know what to tell you,” the judge replied. “We must never be seen together-- ever again. And we should start this instant, with you departing my home.”

The judge abruptly left the room. Richard was stunned, and gripped by a terror of the unknown. He composed himself as best he could and hurried away unseen.

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5

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