The building which housed Richard’s office went up for sale, and he purchased it along with the two adjacent houses that comprised a corner lot. The Candlerock ordeal had sharpened his hunger for real estate, and it was the first of what he hoped would be many future acquisitions.
The corner property consisted of a small office building, two houses and a parking lot. While tidying up the two houses with landscape tools and paint, he decided the best use of the parking lot would be to build a third house upon it. He applied for a permit and was denied: it was just shy of the lot size required by law. If he could only have moved one house slightly closer to the other, he’d have had enough land. He applied for a special exception, and requested a hearing. One was granted and held, and he allowed to make his case. He was denied again.
He thought it over for the weekend, then Monday went to city hall. He learned that two seats on the Planning and Zoning Commission were on the fall ballot. The filing deadline to register as a candidate was that very day, September first. Without hesitation he filled out the paperwork on the spot, and before the end of the day was an official candidate for one of the seats.
He immediately placed signs announcing his candidacy around his property, and planned a campaign kickoff picnic for that coming weekend. He then spent most of his days out in his yard, introducing himself to every passerby and inviting them all and their friends to the picnic that coming weekend; while in the evenings he took to exploring the bars and restaurants about town, presenting himself to strangers and buying drinks and extending ‘come one come all’ invitations to his picnic.
He had the event catered, and spared no expense in supplying food, beer, wine and refreshments. Several hundred people came and went, and the party lasted for hours into the night. The political event disguised as a picnic was a smash success, and after his huge splash into the public eye Richard campaigned effortlessly and cruised to an easy victory in November.
The first meeting of the new board was early January. The other new member was a woman named Missy Dieter. She was an attractive woman, dark and alluring, and a few years older than Richard, about thirty. While acquainting himself with his fellow members, he also sized them up. He had been refused the special exception to build a third house on his property by a six to three vote. He’d need to win over Missy or to change at least one mind. But he didn’t know how the two people who’d been replaced had voted. And protocol dictated that he not be allowed a vote on his own matter, and that in the event of a four to four vote, the mayor would cast the tiebreaker.
The meeting adjourned early, and afterward Richard asked Missy if he might take her out for coffee. She consented and off they went. She explained that she’d lived in Ivington for two years, and had relocated there several years before. “So why did you run for a seat on P and Z?” she asked.
He selectively revealed enticing details. “I get a thrill competing in elections, and wanted to see if I might win, which I did. And you?”
“I’m a retired real estate agent, and maintain my interest,” she answered just as enigmatically.
They unspokenly agreed not to pry that point any further, and changed the subject to insignificant chit chat. He told her a few vague details about his practice, and she encouraged him to talk while she mostly listened. They said good night, and that they’d see each other at next week’s meeting.
As she came to Richard’s mind throughout the next few days, he was confident he’d be able to sway her vote however he liked. He also thought she was quite pretty, and that he’d like to get to know her better for that reason as well.
The following week he readied for the meeting by grooming and dressing himself more dapper than he had for the first, and set out for the evening greatly looking forward to seeing her again. She was there ahead of him, and they sat together. Several applications had been submitted to the board for review. It was all rubber stamp stuff, like additions and minor improvements, until they came to the final item on the evening’s agenda: The Wyndham River Expansion Project Proposal. It was a lengthy plan. They discussed a summary of it, then each took a copy home to study. It had been submitted by a man named Omar Mertinto. He owned substantial acreage alongside the river, just two blocks below Main Street. His home already existed at the edge of the land, and he wanted to construct a twelve room inn with an attached open air restaurant overlooking the water. He also wanted to incorporate a small water park into the project, including a three storey slide, along with a dock and boat and raft launch, for potential fishing charters and downriver explorations, as well as a place for boaters to dock should they wish to stop in and dine. It was an ambitious plan, but Mr. Mertinto already had financing in place, and was using his increased tax payments as a selling point to the commission.
The initial feelings were decidedly mixed. Several thought it was a good idea, that it would improve the quality and vibrancy of Ivington’s downtown life by creating an upbeat social environment; while several raised a variety of concerns, legitimate and frivolous. They all agreed to carefully scrutinize the proposal before reconvening to make a recommendation the following week.
Afterwards it was Missy who approached Richard and said: “Would you like to go for coffee again? My treat, this time.”
He couldn’t have been more pleased to receive the very invitation he’d been about to extend. He held the door and followed her out. He decided to let her lead the conversation, though keenly feeling out where she might stand on his upcoming request to build.
“That was an interesting first night,” she casually remarked.
“It seemed like pretty routine stuff until that last proposal,” he answered.
“Yes, I agree. What did you think of that one?” she asked.
“Well, I have to look it over more closely, but I aspire to be a wheeling, dealing free market capitalist, so I appreciate such ventures. I could be persuaded otherwise, but right now would tend to vote for it,” he said. “And yourself?”
She paused and studied his eyes; then slowly said: “I brought you here to confess something to you, and if you seemed to be who I hope you are. You seem so, so…Omar Mertinto is my husband.”
Richard was momentarily dumbfounded. “I had no idea,” he finally replied. “You don’t wear a ring.”
She removed her wedding ring from her purse and slid it on. “I hide it.”
“You’ve got to tell everyone,” he said. “There are rules regarding disclosure.”
“And I’m starting right now, with you,” she answered.
“I’m sure they won’t allow you to vote,” he said.
“That’s fine,” she answered, eyeing him seductively. “I hope I can take comfort having yours in my pocket.”
“At this moment I’d say you do,” he replied. “Although I wouldn’t mind a little piece of something like that myself…a waterfront bar and grill.”
“We already have plans for something like that,” she replied, “though nothing’s stopping you from opening your own nearby. And what about you? A wheeling, dealing free market capitalist didn’t run for P and Z for fun. There must be something you’d like to see done.”
“I do want to tear up a parking lot I own and build a house,” he admitted.
“I think that’s a fantastic idea, and resoundingly vote yea!” she replied emphatically, then suddenly demurred. “Thank you for allowing me to unburden myself. I feel so…relieved. I really hate to cut this short, but Omar is waiting for me…I’ll see you next week.”
Richard escorted her to her car, then took a long walk from the café into the night. He could not distract his thoughts from Missy. She was all he could think about; everything he loved in a woman: slightly dark and devious; still soft when outspoken; and gorgeous. He did not know who Omar was, but immediately started fantasizing about stealing his wife.
It was just a mile to the river from Richard’s house, and the next day, after carefully reading Missy and Omar’s application, he walked there and surveyed it closely. They had an amazing and very ambitious vision for a phenomenal plot of land. Then he came to their lavish home, and in that moment coveted everything that belonged to this unknown Omar.
The P and Z meeting the following week was a comedy of errors. Two other board members revealed secrets pertaining to their own agendas, in turn leading Richard to broach his wish for exemption, and Dierdre to confess that she was married to Omar Mertinto. Each was aligned with various others in a cockeyed spider web of relationships, and all realizing that everyone in the room was vested in the outcomes, decided as a group to make everyone happy, and voted unanimously to approve everything.