Episode Eight

Rebecca Takes On the Dark Side

 Rebecca is under 24-hour protection by guards she chooses herself. Chief Scalia and Hendersen both choose to stay in jail for a while. Anytown lacks the resources to provide full protection for them in their homes. From jail, Scalia is managing a team of Anytown police. This team quickly finds Frank Sarkozi, the owner of the three phones used to call Scalia. He lives in New York and is obviously connected to the mob, but he’s not talking. 

   Rebecca and Cassidy now realize it was a mistake to have Cassidy at that press conference, but she dyes her hair, dramatically changes her appearance with makeup, then heads for New York. She’s not looking for trouble with the mob. She’s looking above them, to the politicians or captains of industry who use the mob for dirty work.

   Meanwhile, Rebecca is still mayor, and as soon as the Graves Mill project comes up, she understands why they tried to kill her when they did. Graves Mill is a park that runs along the river south of Anytown. The name comes from the water-powered grain mill that the Graves family ran back in the 19th century. Jeremy Graves, the one who shut the mill down when technology passed it by, donated the whole 80 acre strip along the river to the city “to be preserved in perpetuity for future generations.” However, three years ago, a new corporation called RiverRidge began negotiating to purchase the land for a luxury home and golf complex. The deal was resisted by neighbors and much of Anytown, but it was going through as planned until Rebecca became mayor. She put it on hold until she could find out who the stakeholders were. She wanted to organize a series of meetings to explore the pros and cons and, as usual, to let the people of Anytown make a transparent, consensus decision.

    As soon as Christy brings her the file and reminds her that she promised to take this decision up before April, Rebecca knows that RiverRidge is connected somehow to the bomb. She calls Cassidy in New York and tells her to look up there for any possible connection to RiverRidge. She calls down to the jail and talks to Scalia. He says he has never met any of the RiverRidge folks. Those negotiations were going on above his pay grade, but he’s heard they're talking a lot of money, and the CEO of RiverRidge is a local named Daniel Burton. 

 

A few days later   

   “Mr. Burton, thank you for coming in today. We’re about to take up the Graves Mill case, and I just wanted to ask you a few questions before we get started. Can we plunge right in?”

   “Sure, we’ve been waiting a long time to get this underway. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have.”

   “According to the file here, you’re offering nearly a million dollars for 80 acres. That’s about 12,000 dollars an acre, when most property in this area is going for about 2 or 3,000. Seems like you’re pretty determined to have that land. Can I see your business plan? I think it’s important that we know how you plan to recoup an investment like that.”

   “I think you have the plan in the file already, don’t you?”

   “This plan tells us you’re going to build luxury housing along the river and put a golf course next to the houses and provide a public riverwalk. It shows the locations of the homes, the condominium, and the club house. It shows a tentative rough layout of the golf course and riverwalk, but it doesn’t give us any figures. How much are you going to spend on the houses and condominium? How much are you going to sell them for? How much will you spend on the golf course and associated infrastructure? How much will you charge for memberships or per round? We have no way of judging whether or not this is an economically viable plan.”

   “I’m afraid that level of detail is proprietary. We shouldn’t be required to reveal it, should we? All we need from you is the land. Whether we create a successful venture or not is up to us, don’t you agree?”

   “You’re buying a beautiful park. It’s a popular place for walking, biking, bird watching and school field trips. Before we hand it over to you, we need to know that you are competent and have a reasonable chance of turning it into an asset for our community. I don’t want to cause trouble or insult you in any way, but you personally have made your money by selling the farm you inherited from your father to developers. You’ve never actually developed anything yourself. Seems like quite a leap to jump from that to a multimillion dollar development on a prime piece of real estate. If you don’t want to show us your figures, how can you persuade us that you and your partners have the ability to do what you say you’re going to do?”

   “As CEO, I’m in charge of this development, and I have no doubt I can manage it competently. However, you’re right that I do have partners, and some of those partners have tremendous experience with similar developments in other parts of the country.”

   “That’s great. Can you arrange for me to meet the person you consider to be your best advisor in this project? Maybe that way we can find a way around the need to see your figures.”

 

A week later

Mr. Burton arrives at City Hall with Mr. Sturgiss, senior vice president of Jerseyside Development Corporation. They’re accompanied by a delegation of six, two of whom are Anytown businessmen. They’re ushered into the conference room and asked their preference for coffee or tea. 

  Rebecca arrives accompanied by her Urban Development staff, and welcomes Mr. Sturgiss. “Thank you for coming all the way to Anytown for this meeting.”

   “Nice to meet you, Mayor White. I’ve been hearing for some time about Anytown’s beautiful young mayor, and I see the reports have been understated. Let me give you some background information and a few facts and figures we did not include in the previous proposal.” With that, he begins passing around large, professionally prepared packets of information. “In this packet you will find annual reports from several of the other developments my company has done. You will also find some very rough figures we’ve been using to plan the Graves Mill development. 

   “You’re quite right to worry about Daniel and RiverRidge. They’re beginners, (no offense, Dan)” Dan smiles. “…but they're working in close connection with Jerseyside, and we know what we’re doing. We’ve successfully created similar developments around the country, especially here in Anyregion. To get an idea of what we’re planning for Graves Mill, please take a look at page 11. This RiverEdge project is quite similar.”

   As Mr. Sturgiss continues his presentation, Rebecca fixes her gaze on him. Silently chanting her mantra to calm and center herself, she waits for the words to emerge. After a few more paragraphs, Mr. Sturgiss notices Rebecca’s stare. “Is something wrong, Mayor White?”

    “Mr. Sturgiss, Mr. Burton, I would like to ask you to withdraw your request to develop Graves Mill.” Stunned silence.

   “May I ask why you’re making this request?”

   “I am not accusing you or Mr. Burton, but I have reason to believe that Jerseyside Development Corporation had something to do with a recent attempt to kill me.” A pause.

    “What makes you say a thing like that? This is outrageous. What proof do you have?”

   “I am not going to tell you what proof I have because doing so could endanger our key witnesses. However, I do have some convincing proof, which is stored in several places and will be brought out in any of the following three events. First, if anything happens to me. Second, if you file a suit against me or Anytown, and third, if you refuse to withdraw your proposal.

   “As you know, here in Anytown, we insist on completely transparent government and community decision making. If you continue to pursue Graves Mill, we will begin an open, public process to get the people of Anytown to consider your proposal and decide as a group what to do. If this process gets underway, I assure you that I will bring out every piece of evidence I have at my disposal. Remember, too, that we are not a court of law. We are a community of people deciding what to do and who to do it with. It is a little unclear to me how far we can pursue the evidence I have and how far up the ladder we can go. I’m not sure what we could accomplish in a court of law, especially since you apparently own the Fifth District Appeals Court judge, but I feel sure that when the people of Anytown see the evidence I have, they will vote overwhelmingly not to allow Jerseyside to develop Graves Mill. The next move is yours.” Silence.

   “I am shocked. I can’t believe what I’ve just heard. I certainly can’t believe you have any real evidence because Jerseyside is an upstanding company that would have nothing to do with murder or any kind of backhanded, illegal plot. As to whether we will pursue Graves Mill, I need to report to my chairman and advisors, who will decide how to respond. I have a feeling you will soon be hearing from our lawyers.”

   “As I said, I’m not accusing you or anyone in this room of anything, and I’m sincerely sorry of I’m wrong in my suspicions. I would genuinely hate for this to escalate, but I’m ready to defend this community with my life from the kind of people who have already tried to take it. Please let everyone in your company know that Anytown does not do business with anyone who stoops to violence or any other illegal tactic. Please remind them also that our website gets well over a million hits a day. Anytown is the focus of an unusual level of national and even international attention. If anything happens to me, the video of this meeting as well as all our evidence will instantly be out where it will be seen by thousands of people who just love to investigate high profile crimes. Obviously, I very much hope it will not come to that.”

   That is the end of the Graves Mill development project. Daniel Burton is fired by Jerseyside and quietly goes back to developing his farmland. Rebecca gradually relaxes, but still takes fairly extreme security precautions. She knows she’s won a tiny battle but is now engaged in a war she will be fighting the rest of her possibly-not-very-long life.

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