Docstoc

Excerpt - Eadonbooks.com

Document Sample
Excerpt - Eadonbooks.com Powered By Docstoc
					            Hello:
 Welcome to the serialized prologue of A
CONSEUENCE OF GREED.

If you’ve read HEAD TRIP, you know that
Marcus and Roger Ramsay have grown up
together as “super twins.”

A CONSEUENCE OF GREED actually
starts years before the end of HEAD TRIP
and the two stories even “share a scene” in
this prologue. If you want the full effect of
the two stories “sharing time” make sure to
read HEAD TRIP first. It’s a short,
powerful read!

Aer you read this prologue, and care to,
share your impressions by emailing me at at
jeadon2@gmail.com. I’ll send you chapter 1
in about a month!

anks for joining the Dra 37 Novel Club.

                      1
2
       Prologue – The great James Post




A CONSEUENCE

      OF GREED



           by Jack Eadon




 Book #2: e American Drama Series


                     3
        PROLOGUE
Corsicana, Texas January 10, 1959

        Ten years before the end of HEAD TRIP




   The setting sun just about touched the silhouette of
trees on the horizon as Reginald Waverly drove his
taxi toward it into the secondhand Texas town. He
skidded to a stop on the shoulder of the road and
adjusted his big glasses again—always slipping off of
his nose.
   How was he going to find his “fare” once it got
dark? Where is Golf Estates, anyway? he wondered.
Wait! Maybe there’s a store on this street that has
repair kits for my specs, he thought. He started down
the road again, and looked ahead on Beaton Street.
But he couldn’t see clearly because several big drops of
water had just spattered cross his windshield. Rain?
He looked up and saw some moisture-laden clouds
with lit-up edges from the setting sun.



   Lloyd Banner, a pudgy man with short, curly,
graying hair, stood behind the cash register inside the

                                       4
              Prologue – The great James Post


Rexall drug Store on Beaton Street.          A lifetime
resident of Corsicana, Lloyd recalled how the revelers
from Coyote Brand Chili had come in to his store
earlier that evening acting so depressed; except, that
is, wise-cracking Harold Hudson, who had apparently
forced his humor on the sullen cadre. They had only
half-laughed when Harold joshed about Allied
Corporation—that Chicago conglomerate that had
purchased Coyote Brand the year before. That Yankee
conglomerate was supposedly going to blow James
Post’s little Coyote Brand Chili to smithereens.
    Just then, Lloyd looked up when he heard a pick-up
truck swerve to a stop out front, spraying gravel.
Seconds later, a big cowboy with a mustache and
macho swagger shoved open the squeaky front door
and announced importantly to Lloyd, “Hey, ol’ man,
y’all got Copenhagen, don’tcha? He took a hard swig
from his beer can.
    Lloyd had seen this good ol’ boy before whenever he
stopped for smokes, tobacco, or beer. Everybody knew
Guy was an active member of the Corsicana chapter of
the Ku Klux clan—the regional chapter for the entire
Southwest. Lloyd reached to the back of the counter,
but kept an eye on the cowboy.
    “The kind in the black tin with all the words,” Guy
said.
    “I know. I know. Here it is.” Lloyd handed a tin to
the cowboy. Lloyd tried to be friendly to avoid any
trouble with the grizzly-looking man. “They call you
Guy, ain’t that right?”


                            5
              A CONSEQUENCE OF GREED


   “So, what about it?” In a dry, gravelly voice, Guy
answered provocatively. He threw his empty beer can
on the counter. “Here, make it go away.”
   Lloyd tensed at Guy’s threatening tone.
   The cowboy tossed a wrinkled bill on the counter.
“Thanks, ol’ man.” Guy said. He turned and strode
toward the front door.



    Just then Reginald pulled his taxi into the parking
lot of an old-fashioned Rexall drug store and parked
next to a running pickup truck with a shotgun slung
across its rear window. It seems these Texas people
hang shotguns from rear windows of trucks, he
thought. Fluorescent lights shined through the plate-
glass window. Reginald merely looked at his taxi’s
ignition; it turned off. Then he got out, walked to the
door, and pulled it open.
    A tall cowboy, about twenty-five, with long oily-
looking chestnut hair, a sweeping handlebar
mustache, and a straw western hat, strode past him.
The cowboy stuffed his cheeks with tobacco using his
right hand. He slammed into Reginald, not really
accidentally.     “Hey, watch it, “Blinky-Fuzzy,” the
cowboy snorted a laugh at his own mocking humor,
and pointed at Reginald’s black, oversized glasses and
crew-cut.       “Y’all look like an damn owl!”      He
snickered. He stuffed the tobacco tin into his front
jeans pocket with his left hand.
    Reginald chilled at the man’s eyes, which seemed


                          6
              Prologue – The great James Post


to glow as they caught the light of the fluorescents
above.     Where the eyes would normally be blue or
brown or green, the cowboy’s eyes were all black. Not
just dark eyes—coal black. Stunned by what he saw,
Reginald straightened his shirt and stroked his crew-
cut as the cowboy pushed past him.
     “Never mind him, son,” a man drawled from
behind the counter. “Just Guy. One of them tough ol’
boys in town.”
     “But those eyes were a tad strange,” Reginald said.
     “Don’t know what you mean, fella,” the man said.
“What about them eyes? Tad? Say, you ain’t from
around these parts, are you?”
   “That’s right, I forgot only I—” Reginald could see
many things mortals couldn’t. But it was the first time
he had seen those kinds of eyes in many years. There
was no doubt about it. They were unabashedly pure
evil.
     “Name’s Lloyd, by-the-by,” the man smiled from
behind the counter. “That’s just Guy, one of them
Klan fellas here in town,” he said. “Better not fuss
with him.”
     “I say. The Ku Klux Klan? ”
     The man nodded. “What else?”
     “Maybe that explains his eyes.” Reginald put his
index finger to his lip in thought. “He certainly looked
a bit flustered,” Reginald said and nervously laughed.
“Perhaps he’s going out to burn some crosses?”
     Lloyd shrugged and scanned the lot a bit
tentatively. “Been known to happen. Say, you from


                            7
              A CONSEQUENCE OF GREED


out of town? Another country maybe?”
     “Oh, I say,” Reginald said with a small chortle,
“Where might the little boxes of mint candy be? I
think you call them junior mints.”
     “Yep. Aisle two,” the man said. “You?” He looked
at his worn old watch and at Reginald as he passed.
     “Appreciate it, uh, Lloyd.” Reginald picked up a
little box of Junior Mints, and walked back to the
counter.
     Reginald felt the man’s eyes study his clothes and
crew-cut.
     “Be fifteen cents,” Lloyd said.
     Reginald reached into the right front pocket of his
beige wash-and-wear slacks, pulled out a quarter, and
put it on the counter. “Here you go, mate.”
     “Mate?” Lloyd quickly looked up, clearly
suspicious. “Say, y’all aren’t from around here, are
you?” He scratched his matted, curly hair and
squinted his eyes.
     “Oh, right. This is my first time in this town,”
Reginald said. “Oh, I need one of these kits to repair
my specs. They’re ready to fall apart.” He laughed.
The man didn’t.
     “Specs? Hmmm. Help yourself, pardner.” Lloyd
pointed at the kits hanging adjacent to the counter
and looked away.
      “It’s a bit of a quiet town, eh?” Reginald said.
     “Yep. Unlessin’ you count Oscar Sanchez’ annual
holiday shindig for them Coyote Brand folks,” Lloyd
said. “They were in here earlier.”


                           8
              Prologue – The great James Post


    Reginald laughed.
    “What’s so funny?” Lloyd asked.
    “Half Coyote, half human?”
    “Don’t know nothin’ about that.” Lloyd frowned.
“Say, you mean you ain’t never heard of Coyote Brand
Products? It’s the best darn canned chili in the whole
state of Texas, if not the world. Everybody knows
that.”
    “No, I’m afraid I haven’t heard of it,” Reginald
said.
    “Better ‘n homemade.”
   “Perhaps I ought to purchase some, then,” Reginald
said. “The least I could do for the folks in the office is
bring back a souvenir of my visit here.”
    The main office had sent Reginald to Corsicana to
“pick up a fare,” jargon for verifying that a soul passed
successfully into the afterlife. It was a job Reginald
had done for many years, since he had died from a
premature heart attack at age thirty. He hadn’t aged a
day since then.
   “The Coyote chili cans are right over there, fella.”
Lloyd pointed.
   “Just call me Reggie."
    Lloyd pointed. “Aisle three,” he said. “Bet those
Yankees go and spoil the damn company.”
    “Yanks?” Reginald asked, surprised the clerk had
used the term, and he walked over to Aisle three.
    Lloyd nodded. “That’s what I said, Reggie. Some
fancy corporation up there in Chicago bought Coyote a
year ago. Still the hot news around town. Made Mr.


                            9
               A CONSEQUENCE OF GREED


James Post, the president and owner, a pretty penny,
that’s for sure.”
    “Post? Indeed.” Reginald remembered that Post
was the name on the small piece of paper he had in his
pocket. Then he picked up a can and studied it as he
walked back to the counter. “Coyote Brand, eh?
Named after the founder’s pet—quite clever.”
    “Sure,” the clerk said stoically. “Be all, mister. . . ?”
    “Just Reggie.” Reginald pulled out the scrap of
paper and looked at it. “Oh, I say, I meant to ask:
Where might Golf Estates be?”
    “Be $1.05, Reggie.”
    “Right. Golf Estates?”
    “Be north o’ town. Take Second Street to the
wooded road with the sign. Can’t miss it.”
    “Turn right or left?” Reginald asked.
    “Be a left. Only way you can go.” The clerk looked
over the top of his glasses at the old cash register. His
finger-pecked a few keys and the drawer opened with
a ring. He looked up at Reginald with only his eyes,
not lifting his head. “Why Golf Estates this time o’
night, Reggie?”
    “Oh. my assignment, you see: gather a fare.”
Reginald pointed out to his taxi.
    “Course.” Lloyd eyed him and the car suspiciously.
“Not many cabs around these parts no more.”
    “Thanks, mate, uh, Lloyd.” As Reginald picked up
his bag and change, he felt studied.
    “Y’all come back,” Lloyd drawled unconvincingly.
    “Right, mate.” Reginald strolled out, whistling


                             10
              Prologue – The great James Post


“God Save The Queen.” He felt Lloyd’s eyes burning
all the way to his taxi.
    He glanced back, a little spooked by Lloyd’s strange
reception: a indiscriminate mixture of friendly and
cool.
    He unlocked his car door with only a look, pulled it
open, and got in. He held the steering wheel and
stared at the ignition switch. Without so much as
touching his keys, the car’s engine roared. He opened
his kraft paper bag and took out the glasses repair kit.
He used the little screwdriver to tighten the screws on
his glasses, then he replaced one.
    He looked at his watch. Almost time, he thought.
Reginald always got to dislodgments on time. He
backed out of his parking place and drove down
Beaton Street, bumpy with inlaid brick. He looked
around the strange little town: a diner, a Salvation
Army store, a currency exchange, and lots of boarded-
up storefronts; forties/fifties architecture, same as the
architecture in Manchester when he was a boy.

    Minutes later, about 6:15, the thunder cracked.
    “Is that the blasted drip again?” Across town,
James Post looked up from his desk in the Coyote
Brand Compound on Main Street, one block west of
the tracks.
   Drip. Drop. Drip. Drop.
   Across the hall from his office in the little one-story
building, the faucet dripped again in the ancient
bathroom next to Mary’s stainless coffee stand. Alone


                            11
              A CONSEQUENCE OF GREED


in the Coyote Brand offices on a Friday night, there
was no chatter to mask it like there was during the
week. So, even with the dull thud of the rain on the
old roof, Post could hear the annoying splat of the
faucet echo throughout the five rooms that comprised
the little building—even over the intermittent rattling
of the heater. I wish someone would fix that blasted
drip? Bob or Willie or Oscar.
    The thunder boomed again outside. The rain was
definitely starting now. As he studied Coyote Chili’s
sales results, Post puffed on his favorite Meerschaum
pipe. After all, what else was there to do on a rainy
Friday night in Corsicana? Go to Oscar’s little holiday
party? Instead, as the president of Coyote Brand
Products, he had worked late, something he had done
each Friday since the Chicago-based Allied Food
Corporation had acquired the company a year ago and
made it part of their massive foods division.
     Seeming to ignore the rain, evening birds still
played outside the office in the fading orange dusk and
increasing drops. Between the drops, the heater, the
sink splats, and the occasional squawking of the birds,
Post mused that he had himself a kind of symphony.
Maybe, for a change, it would serve as a dramatic
backdrop for some kind of breakthrough during his
Friday night thinking session.
     The loud jangle of the phone made him jump.
    Now, who’s that calling me on a Friday night?
Margaret? He picked up the phone. “Hello, Dear?”
     “Not really. Is this Jim Post?” a low, important


                          12
              Prologue – The great James Post


voice asked on the phone.
     “Yep, that’s me. Sorry, thought you were my wife.”
He cleared his throat.
     “Ken Burghoff here.” It was the Food Division’s
president of Allied Corporation in Chicago and Post’s
boss since the acquisition.
     “What can I do for you, Ken?” Post said.
     “Been looking at these numbers, Jim. I’ve been
following your O.I.,” he said. “Still down since just
after the acquisition.”
     “Damn bottom line?” Post answered.
     “At Allied we call it Operating Income or O. I. for
short.”
     “Right, I knew that,” Post said shakily. He knew
Burghoff was in his forties and, at fifty-three, Post
resented feeling intimidated by the younger man.
     “Seems to be your merchandising spending. Those
billback trade deals,” Burghoff said. “It’s like you’re
giving the product away.”
     “Really? Well, shoot. Your man Hickman added
‘em right after he became our sales manager. But I
haven’t approved any for a while. I wonder—”
     “Funny,” Burghoff said. “Our reporting system
shows that they’re absolutely killing your O. I., now
more than ever.”
     “I know our bottom line’s been shaky,” Post said,
“but I never thought it could be it them deals,” Post
said.
     Burghoff continued, “And, Jim?       I thought we
agreed you’d advertise some other products, too, like


                            13
              A CONSEQUENCE OF GREED


that chili hot dog sauce.”
    “Wait a second now. How can I do that if Hickman’s
spending the budget on them fancy billback trade
deals?” Post asked defensively.
     “Hmmm,” Burghoff said, “maybe I can send
somebody down to help you trim the deals and revise
the advertising. Lot of sharp MBA’s up here know
how to cross their t’s and dot their i’s as far as trade
deal spending is concerned.”
     “Nobody ‘round here’ll take real kindly to that.”
     “Jim, come on. I don’t want to get off to a bad start
with Coyote Brand.”
    “Wait, Ken. Can’t I just sort out this billback deal
thing over the weekend?” Post asked. The thought of
surrendering to the Yankees within a year of the sale
made Post quiver. Next they’ll be making the damn
day-to-day decisions, he thought.
     “Sorry, I’ll need to put your last payment in escrow
until you turn it around down there. A pretty penny
too—two million. It’ll have to stay there however long
it takes you to work things out.”
     “Shoot,” Post said dejectedly. He felt cornered.
     “Listen, Jim. I can send somebody down, just for a
few days.”
     “I guess. Sure.” Post really didn’t want any help
from the Yankees.
     “There’s always an expert in those areas on the
Brand Management side. We make sure of that.”
     “Right.” Post said sarcastically and clutched the
phone hard. Post decided then that he needed to look


                            14
              Prologue – The great James Post


into this whole deal thing; find out what was going on
—really take control.
      “I’m trying to be civil here, Jim,” Burghoff said.
“How about if somebody got down there late Monday?”
     “Fine, then, Monday. G’night.” Post hung up. He
had skipped Oscar’s party rather than attend his plant
manager’s predictable holiday bash. That Yankee
sales manager, Earl Hickman, would be standing in
anyway—quite the social climber—and his wife,
Sheila, would undoubtedly be flashing her jewelry
around.
    Post thought back to how Hickman had started at
the company humbly the year before: He drove an old
Plymouth and wore clothes from Sears. Now, less
than a year later, the man drove a Mercedes and wore
custom silk sports jackets made by some fancy tailor
up in Dallas—pretty strange. It’s like he inherited a
ton of money? But I know both his folks have already
passed.
And now these billback deals are hurting the bottom
line? I should definitely check them out.
     Thunder interrupted Post’s thoughts. The
lightning was getting closer. He glanced out the
window opened a smidgeon behind his desk. Between
the rain drops, he heard strange sounds like metal
cutting and gravel scraping.
     He stood, cupped his hand against the window,
and peered out, but saw nothing in the faintly-lit
courtyard.
     He walked over to the scratched-up metal cabinet


                            15
                A CONSEQUENCE OF GREED


where he stored his red vinyl binders. He pulled out
the Budgeting Manual, walked back to his desk, and
sat. He opened to the “Trade Deal” account, thumbed
through a few pages, and studied the rows of numbers.
With a flick of his old Zippo, he relit his Meerschaum.
    He did a double take at the account ledger.
Starting with the Dallas market, Post remembered
how the billback deals—paid to each of his sales
brokers after they submitted a performance certificate
for approval—began just after Earl Hickman had
started as Sales Manager, transplanted by Allied from
Baltimore.
    The first of the deals on the list had been approved
by Post himself. He specifically remembered that
because it was a new approach. For every case sold on
“deal,” an allowance was paid. A check was cut by Al
and mailed to the broker who endorsed and passed it
on to grocery trade accounts like Safeway, Tom
Thumb, or Kroger. Post studied the ledger:

            DALLAS MARKET

$/cs # cs     product     approved by    date
1.504 102   Plain Chili   James Post    4/2/58
2.003 676   Plain Chili   James Post    5/30/58
2.003 011   Plain Chili   James Post    6/12/58
1.503 388   H.D. Sauce    James Post    7/31/5858


   Then, still in the Dallas market section, Post
noticed that at the end of September, the approval
signature changed. Hickman had begun approving the
deals without Post’s OK. That was a change.

                              16
                  Prologue – The great James Post


$/cs   # cs    product        approved by    date
1.50   1860   H.D. Sauce     James Post     8/7/58
1.50   3392   H.D. Sauce     James Post     8/30/58
2.00   2126   Chili/beans    James Post     9/10/58
2.50   5923   Plain Chili    Earl Hickman   9/30/58
2.00   5016   Chili /beans   Earl Hickman   10/7/58
2.50   4925   Plain Chili    Earl Hickman   10/23/58
2.50   5128   Plain Chili    Earl Hickman   11/15/58
2.50   5431   Plain Chili    Earl Hickman   11/29/58
2.00   7936   Chili /beans   Earl Hickman   11/29/58
2.50   7009   Plain Chili    Earl Hickman   12/15/58
2.50   5127   Plain Chili    Earl Hickman   12/30/58
2.50   6203   Plain Chili    Earl Hickman   12/30/58


    All these deals in the last three months? Post
quickly flipped to other markets and saw no similar
deal activity. He flipped back to Dallas. Hickman had
been approving all these deals just for the Dallas
market. That was mighty peculiar.
    When the allowance per case paid by Coyote Brand
was multiplied by the number of cases sold “on deal” in
Dallas, thousands of dollars worth of billback deals
were being “earned” by the Dallas broker, and
supposedly were being paid to trade accounts after
they built end-aisle displays of Coyote Brand chili
cans. That was assuming that the billback check,
approved by Hickman and made out to Frank
Benedict, the Dallas broker, was endorsed and
properly forwarded to the trade account.
     Post had been suspicious of that loosey-goosey
payment scheme, but had never questioned it. He
figured it was just more Yankee nonsense he’d have to
live with.

                                 17
              A CONSEQUENCE OF GREED


    He looked at the list of deals again and shook his
head.
   Wait a second! How could Benedict’s band of
salesmen have done such a great job that they
suddenly earned thousands of dollars from Coyote for
having put up displays? Frank and his boys couldn’t
physically set up that many displays, he thought. With
no safeguard to guarantee that the retail trade account
was actually being paid, Frank could be pocketing the
deal money, or kicking back part of it to, say,
Hickman. Fishy, he thought.
    Post felt himself flush. He regretted not ever
having before seen this major loophole. He realized he
should have been co-signing the checks to verify that
the deals had his approval, but he admitted to himself
that he had done everything possible to avoid all that
bureaucratic Yankee nonsense.
   Wait, this could be the explanation for why Coyote’s
merchandising expenses had been so high!
    Post figured that if Frank Benedict and his broker
sales team were doing such a great job, sales ought to
be way up.
   I’ll just double check sales, he told himself. That
would reassure him that there was no hanky-panky
going on.
    Post looked at the sales chart that laid on his desk.
He followed his index finger down the overall sales
column and found Dallas. Sales were up, all right, but
only modestly.
   Shoot. This here’s pretty convincing proof. All these


                           18
             Prologue – The great James Post


displays and no change in sales? Something seems
wrong! Suddenly it was hard not to conclude that
Post’s long term Dallas broker was somehow in
cahoots with Hickman, maybe giving the Yankee a
kickback. Sure, it was circumstantial evidence, but it
was real convincing. Post shook with anger and fear at
the same time.
    Is Hickman capable of this? As Post thought back,
he recalled that, since the acquisition a year before,
Hickman had taken every opportunity to meet alone
with broker Frank Benedict. Post had considered that
relationship positive!
     Now the picture looked completely different.
Hickman must’ve been scheming with Frank Benedict
for several months.
     Post slumped in his chair. He felt the very
foundation of his company crumbling since the Yankee
takeover. And as he reveled in the new-found wealth
from the acquisition, he admitted to himself that his
own relationship with Frank Benedict had cooled over
the previous year: short executive-style lunches,
perfunctory phone calls, and canceled golf rounds due
to clogged schedules. Benedict had also attended only
one of the quarterly broker review meetings, which he
had normally never missed. Post had thought all along
that the man was just put out because Post hadn’t
awarded him the Houston market with all its
commission.
    Maybe that’s why he’s felt the need to cheat! More
damn evidence, Post thought.


                           19
              A CONSEQUENCE OF GREED


    Now, wherever he looked, he found substantiation
for his fears. It seemed obvious now. Irritated and
wanting to be distracted from his negative thoughts,
Post sat back and roughly flipped through the pages of
his latest copy of “Agent,” a local periodical that
tracked the real estate market in Navarro County. He
had begun receiving the little magazine after he
moved into his big fancy white house in Golf Estates.
    The cover story got his attention. It explained how
all the Northern folk now moving into Texas were
diluting the growth of Texas products. Per capita sales
for Texas products actually declined as these
transplanted Yankees chose not to purchase the same
shopping basket as Texans.
   Post sat up. Lord, that must apply to chili because
chili’s such a Texas staple. To tap into the Yankee
population explosion, he would have to emphasize a
new product mix and not assume Yankees would
purchase the same things Texans did. Maybe Burghoff
was right about pushing other products like chili hot
dog sauce, a chili with a lower meat content
formulated to make great chili dogs.
   Shoot, even Yankees must like chili dogs, Post
thought.
    Come Monday, with or without that person
Burghoff was going to send, Post vowed to himself to
reconsider what products were appropriate for his
changing customers. Those would be the products he’d
push. He’d also get a handle on the Hickman-Arnold
connection; maybe he’d try to catch either man in the


                          20
              Prologue – The great James Post


middle of his scheme.        Maybe Cecil could help,
although he was such a loyal man he would do little to
implicate Earl, even if the man was as guilty as sin!
    Post tapped his pipe in the gold-bordered ashtray
that he had received for service to the Corsicana
Rotary. He looked outside and watched the darkness
spread across the company’s parking lot.
    Again he heard that scraping noise, then a noise
like something sliding through the gravel. He peered
out the window into the dark but saw nothing. Being
alone in the office on Friday nights wasn’t usually a
spooky experience, but this night seemed peppered
with weird sounds. He sighed as he looked out the
window again and thoroughly scoured the courtyard.
Nothing.
    Even though he felt shaken by his discovery of
Hickman’s potential malfeasance and the need to
change Coyote advertising to adjust for the Yankee
population boom, Post figured his Friday thinking
session had gone particularly well. He sat down and
leaned back in his chair, plopped his boots on the desk,
and clasped his long spindly fingers behind his head.
In fact this whole day had gone well.
    He glanced at the orange and black type on the
Grady Davis Garage receipt for new brakes the boy
had installed over lunch—after months of his own
procrastination! Post would certainly surprise
Margaret when they drove to church that Sunday with
quiet brakes. That darn squeaking had bothered her
and most of Corsicana for months! But, not anymore,


                            21
              A CONSEQUENCE OF GREED


thanks to Grady.
    Post sat on the edge of his chair and sorted his
follow-up memos into piles. A small, folded page torn
from a spiral notebook fell off the pile onto his desk.
He picked it up and unfolded it. What’s this?

    Dear Mr. Post,
    You must be careful. This is not a joke.
    A friend


    That’s odd, Post thought. Is Harold playing his
jokester games again? For a second, he thought about
calling the sheriff immediately, the note sounded so
ominous. On the other hand, maybe he could call
tomorrow. Tonight, he would focus on summarizing his
revelations, then head for home. Outside, storm clouds
blocked the last traces of the setting sun. The birds
had stopped their singing, conceding to the beat of the
now-steady drizzle. Suddenly, lightning cracked and lit
up the blinds.
     Post sat up and reached in his drawer for the
impressive silver fountain pen Margaret had given
him for their anniversary. He smiled fondly as he
studied the “Dearest J.P. Love, M.P.” which was inlaid
in black oxide around the heavy barrel. Post pulled out
his crystal ink bottle and filled the pen with his
favorite royal blue ink, and tested it—perfect as usual.
That pen was the nicest gift his little darlin’ had ever
given him. He would treasure it forever.
     In a sweeping blue script that was his style, Post

                           22
              Prologue – The great James Post


documented Hickman’s probable culpability and
Coyote’s need to take advantage of the Yankee
population boom by pushing hot dog sauce. Having
scrawled the better part of a page, he reached for the
telephone, buried it in his shoulder for support, and
dialed home.
     “Why, hello there,” a dainty voice answered.
    “Margaret!”
    “I knew it’d be you, James? You sound so excited.”
    “I am, sugar. I am.” Post tapped his pipe and
picked up the summary he had just written.
    “You coming home?”
    “Wait, Margaret, I have news,” he said.
    “What is it, Darlin’ ?”
    “For once I’ve had a wonderful Friday night
session. I think it’s that damn Yankee, Earl Hickman.”
He tapped his pipe particularly hard.
    “What about him ?”
    “I had a feelin’ all along and now I’m pretty darn
sure. Looks like the polecat’s on the take.” He sat up
straight.
    “My Lord, James. Earl Hickman?”
    “Yep. It’s pretty clear he’s been getting a kickback
from them damn billback deals he’s always pushing.”
Post laid his pipe down and adjusted the phone.
    “I thought he promised those billbacks would save
the day,” she said.
    “Looks like he’s in bed with Frank Benedict.”
    “That Dallas ruffian,” she scolded. “Is he still
bothering you about handling Houston?”


                            23
               A CONSEQUENCE OF GREED


      “Well, he would get a three hundred thousand
dollar increase in commission, Darlin’,” Post said.
     “As if the man weren’t well-off enough with his
fancy rings and all those diamonds on the face of his
gaudy watch. Shame!”
     “Oh, don’t fret. Frank’ll get tired of hearing “no” on
Houston. Fact, now he’ll probably lose 100% of his
Coyote business!”
     “Why can’t he just leave you be and do his job?”
she asked.
     “It’ll be OK soon. I caught both them foxes in the
hen house,” Post said.
     “I never did like that Hickman, James. Thinks he’s
a southerner because he’s from Baltimore—such
nonsense. It’s sad that both his parents were deaf,
and it must have affected him, but I don’t think they’d
like his sneaky ways. It’s nothing short of embezzling
if you ask me.”
     “Have to let him go is all.” Post picked up his pen
and tapped the back end lightly on the desk. “Then I’d
cut those billbacks and have enough money to push
other products. Burghoff likes hot dog sauce. Thinks
the Yankees movin’ down would go for it,” he said.
     “James, why don’t you forget about all this
nonsense and come home. Henrietta’s making her
Chicken Florentine. And Perry Como’s got Rosemary
Clooney on tonight. And, most of all, I have a mighty
big surprise.”
     “Your tests?”
     “I’m not sayin’, Darlin’,” she said.


                            24
              Prologue – The great James Post


    But Post heard a smile in her voice. She had just
received the results of tests that monitored the status
of her breast cancer. The doctor had been optimistic
and ordered the tests to see if the disease had been
arrested after she had been through a battery of
radiation.
    “OK. I’ll be home in a few minutes. Oh, and
Margaret?” he said.
    “Yes, my Darlin’, ” she said softly.
    “I do love you.”
    “Oh, James, you sweety.” She giggled. “I love you,
too.”
    “Did you bathe in that rose blossom scent today,
Sugar?”
    “Yes, James.” She giggled.             “Part of the
celebration.”
    “Good.” He smiled. “Soon then. Just need to jot
some notes for the boys.”
    “You and your silly notes! I swear! You run that
place with those silly notes.”
    “I’ll be quick about it, Darlin’. I promise. I always
use that beautiful pen you gave me, you know! G’bye.”
    They hung up.
    Before he left, Post picked up his pen, looked over
his revelations once more, and added a few more
flowing remarks. Then he reached for his little white
notepad. He routinely used it to send instructions to
each of his managers so they would take specific steps
to improve the company’s performance. By jotting the
notes, which they all hated, he found he could


                            25
              A CONSEQUENCE OF GREED


communicate with each of them in the most effective
way. For instance, Harold Hudson, the Quality
Assurance Manager, had a rowdy sense of humor. So,
when the company had experienced a product recall
the year before, Post rallied Harold’s enthusiastic
support by implying that the recall was inevitable
because Coyote Chili was such a wild-tasting
concoction to begin with.
    But Oscar Sanchez, the Plant Manager, was a
proud man, so talking about the recall in grave terms,
had given Post a certain power over him. It
encouraged Oscar to put in extra effort to save the
day. And it worked.
    Post realized that his note-writing bordered on
manipulation of the boys, like chess pieces on a board.
But he undertook it with the best of intentions so, over
the years, he began to view it as his secret weapon for
managing Coyote.       He became quite good at the
technique. Throughout Corsicana James Post was
lauded as a great man because he was so sensitive to
each employee’s needs. His use of the notes bordered
on a personal, magical communication he had with
each of the boys.
    After he finished his notes, Post stabbed them onto
a long nail pounded through the center of a four-by-
four-inch piece of half-inch plywood. Lenora knew to
look there first thing Monday to gather the notes for
distribution to each manager.
    Post carefully laid his pen back on its wooden
carrier in his middle desk drawer, and stood. Large


                           26
              Prologue – The great James Post


drops now spattered the north-facing windows as he
switched off the heat and turned out the last of the
office lights. Monday, with Puritan’s token help, Post
would begin to weed out the effects of Hickman and
the billback deals. With a little luck, whoever Burghoff
sent could actually help. At least Burghoff seemed to
have a lot of faith in the MBA expertise from the
marketing folks at the Mart, as they called
headquarters.
      Post’s boots thumped over to the wooden hat rack.
He picked up his black felt hat and stuffed it under his
arm. He left the office, pulled the door shut, and
locked it.
      Outside, rain spattered the dust-covered asphalt
and Post’s thinning hair. He put on his hat. Suddenly
lightning zapped only a block away.
      He knew that Margaret would want to hear about
his ideas for the company. She would be supportive,
but would also infuse him with skepticism, gently
challenging him as always. Post smiled. He loved his
dainty Margaret so.
     He looked around the company courtyard, lit only
by the eerie blue of mercury vapor light. Allied
Corporation might own this place now, he thought, but
it’ll always be mine in spirit.
     Crack! The thunder made him jump.
      He stopped and looked up at the sky. The stars
struggled to show themselves through intermittent
puffy storm clouds.
     How beautiful this is! Post felt exhilarated by his


                            27
              A CONSEQUENCE OF GREED


discoveries. Earl Hickman would get the ax for his
fool-ass, money-skimming ways. Cecil, who had been
there for a decade, would stay, always mister reliable.
Al, the backbone of Coyote, would also stay. Maybe
Oscar too, if he could douse his career obsession and
focus on his job. Coyote’s Dallas sales broker, Frank
Benedict, would have to be reassessed. Man’s gotta
prove that he and Hickman aren’t schemin’ together.
    Post beheld his massive yellow Cadillac with its
cruise control and automatic windows he had
purchased just after the acquisition. It sat there,
bathed in the blue light. Looking up, he stretched out
his long arms, catching the rain drops. The car worked
perfectly now that Grady had fixed her up. Margaret
will be so pleased.
    Shoot! His retirement of leisure was only a
heartbeat away now. He dreamed of it being an idyllic
adventure, maybe even in the South Seas. His twenty-
five years of hard work had finally paid off, and no
cheatin’ Yankee was going to spoil it. Instead, Post
wanted his last five years as president—part of the
Allied deal—to be the best of all.
    He rubbed his belly, realizing how famished he was
after his long day. He couldn’t wait to get home to
Henrietta’s scrumptious chicken dinner. It sure is nice
living in that big white house with the breezy porch, he
thought. A might pretentious, but thank the Lord it
isn’t one of those boxy tract homes across the field
from Golf Estates.
     Post opened his car door. He heard gravel crunch.


                           28
              Prologue – The great James Post


He looked left, then right. Not a sound.
   I must be goin’ nuts, Post thought as he got into the
automobile. Putting his keys in the ignition, he
thought about how Collin Street Bakery over on
Seventh Street, there since 1896, makers of the world’s
finest fruit cakes, seemed to operate successfully year
after year.      He knew Gus Weidmann and Tom
McElwee had personally stopped supervising
production of the famous Christmas cakes years
before. Maybe things worked out for those boys because
they didn’t have any know-it-all Yankees spending
their money. Post decided he would ask Gus and Tom
at the next Rotary meeting if they ever had to deal
with a Hickman. Maybe they could give me some
advice.
    Suddenly a young man jumped up from the
shadows in front of the car. The intruder turned and
ran out the open chain link gate toward the field
across Main Street.
    “Hey, you!” Post blurted out as he jumped out of
the car. He shook his fist at the escaping interloper.
His heart pounded.
    The young man, probably in his twenties, was tall,
muscular, and quick. Long brown hair flopped under
his straw, western hat, which he held as he ran across
the dimly-lit field, thrashing stalks of weeds and
kicking loose stones. He sped toward the railroad
tracks a block away.
    Post stared at the disappearing form. As the boy
passed under a streetlight on the edge of the field, he


                            29
              A CONSEQUENCE OF GREED


glanced back, revealing an obvious mustache. Post
squinted, but still couldn’t recognize him.
     His stomach relaxed as the patter of the boy’s
boots faded. A distant engine revved and tires
squealed.
    Sounds like a truck, Post thought. Then he sighed.
The trespasser was gone.
     Post glanced back at the distribution wing next to
the chili plant. As was the usual custom, the large
door had been left open. He looked over at the plant,
then back at the sales office that used to be the old
men’s shower building—the same size as the little
main office building. They were all lit by one purple
mercury vapor security light. Everything looked
normal around the compound.
     Post got back into his car, closed the door, turned
the key, and revved the mighty V-8.
     After a dusty exit, he rolled down Main Street
through deserted downtown Corsicana. His wipers
pushed away the increasing raindrops. He hoped he’d
run into the boy at some stoplight. Then he could at
least get his truck’s tag number and report it.
     When Post got home he planned to tell Margaret
all of the details of his crazy day. How the strange boy
had leapt from the shadows. How that Yankee
Hickman had hurt Coyote’s profits with the billback
deals and was undoubtedly getting a kick-back from
Benedict. How the company could push hot dog sauce
to take advantage of the Yankees moving down.
     He calmed down as his car approached Second


                           30
              Prologue – The great James Post


Street on the east side of town. As he turned left,
passing the road to Pioneer Village and the cemetery,
he noticed his brakes were quiet, all right, but they
felt a little mushy. He had to press his foot halfway to
the floor before they engaged.
    Not good. Better have Grady check ‘em out again.
Maybe he can do that tomorrow morning if he’s open.
Post rolled out of town to the sign that marked the
wooded road leading to Golf Estates. When he turned
left there, his brake pedal depressed too easily and
didn’t slow the car effectively. Post gulped. “Hmm.”
     He pumped the brakes several times before he got
a response. He decided he would definitely take the
car back to Grady’s in the morning.
    Unlike that boy to foul up.
    Anticipating the winding road ahead and shielded
from the rain by the old trees, he lowered his window
and proceeded carefully. He whiffed the faint odor of
manure. Fresh country, all right. Enjoying the
moment, Post lost himself in thought.
    Then freshly painted lines appeared on the asphalt.
They signaled the curving road that led into Golf
Estates. The road’s sudden changes reminded Post of
the way Coyote could now focus on a new future
despite being owned by Allied. Maybe they could help
get things cleaned up. Post promised himself he’d try to
be receptive to any new ideas.
    Meanwhile, he gently swerved down the winding
road. He noticed that with the momentum of each
turn, his large car rocked from side to side, gaining


                            31
              A CONSEQUENCE OF GREED


speed uncomfortably. As he approached the entrance
to Golf Estates, he saw the long entry marker, a
freestanding brick wall. Post pressed on his brakes.
    Nothing.
   What?
   He pushed the pedal to the floor three times. No
response! He downshifted and the gear broke cleanly.
He was in neutral. He pulled on the emergency brake
—nothing. Post’s heavy Cadillac lurched into the dip
just before the entrance and gained momentum. “Holy
Lord!” The long wall and the words “Golf Estates”
loomed at him in apparent slow motion. He pumped
the brakes again. The car swerved to the right, out of
control.
   “No-o-o!!”



    Margaret Post was standing beside Henrietta in
the kitchen of the Post home when a loud explosion
rocked the neighborhood.
    “Oh, my. I wonder what that was, Miss Margaret?”
Henrietta asked. They both turned away from the
chicken on the stove and ran to the front door.
    Outside, Margaret Lassiter Post rushed through
the rain to the end of the street. Other neighbors were
running to the entrance to Golf Estates. There she
pushed through the growing, murmuring crowd.
Henrietta followed close behind. Empty eyes and
shaking heads greeted them. Margaret approached the
bloodied body by the brick wall, surrounded by bits of


                          32
             Prologue – The great James Post


broken glass. Her James had been thrown from the
car. His head was bloodied. His eyes remained wide
open; his still body was lifeless and slumped against
the brick wall. She dropped to her knees next to him,
splashing the mud. Behind her, Henrietta hugged
herself as the crowd around her jabbered in low,
serious voices.
     Margaret reached forward and closed James’ eyes.
She dabbed the side of his bloodied face with the arm
of her housecoat. She traced his still cheek with her
fingers.
     “Oh, my James.” She shook, straining to control
herself. She leaned over and kissed him, only
partially-aware of the ever-growing crowd around her
—and the approaching sirens and flashing lights. In a
broken voice she prayed, “Dearest James, may the
Lord keep you.”
     Then the voices faded and Margaret disregarded
large drops of rain that splattered on her housecoat.
“Dream sweetly, my love,” she cried in a whisper. The
first lady of Coyote Brand rose to her knees. Her
bottom lip shook uncontrollably as she looked up and
saw the silhouettes of what seemed like a hundred
heads framing the stormy sky.
     Then Margaret’s muted cry joined Henrietta’s and,
with the others’ voices, sounded an eerie siren.



    At the same moment, barely visible in the faint
illumination of porch lights, a taxi was parked down


                           33
              A CONSEQUENCE OF GREED


the road. The driver, Reginald Waverly, sat there,
eating candy from a little white cardboard box with
green letters. He shook his crew-cut head. “Too much
—this death. The hateful ones must pay.” He popped a
little minty chocolate circle into his mouth and
chewed.
     He scoured the crowd and stopped when he eyed
his “fare,” lying there against the wall, surrounded by
neighbors. At Post’s side, his wife Margaret knelt and
cried.
     Then Reginald gasped as he saw the spirit of the
great James Post suddenly rise from the lifeless body.
It grew into a multi-pronged swirl of colored sparkles
—beautiful, yet terrifying. “My Lord!” Reginald
exclaimed. “I will never get used to this part!”
     The vapor shot from Post’s body, flew throughout
the area, and surged into the sky. In an instant it
occupied all the heavens and manifested as colored
lightning; in another second, it returned and entered
all the plants, animals, and bystanders—all living
things.

    Just then Reginald looked around; he felt eerily
watched from afar. He became aware in his mind’s eye
that untold miles away a young boy, no more than nine
years old, stood in a dark alley. The young boy had
just witnessed the same glorious colored lightning
event. He was then completely and lovingly caressed by
the sheer power of Post’s spirit, which would ignite in
him years later.


                          34
              Prologue – The great James Post




   “I say!”     Reginald clasped his hands together,
bowed his head briefly, then let out a long purposeful
sigh. “This is one of the most spectacular dislodgments
I have ever seen!” As quickly as it had come, the
sparkling swirl disappeared.
   He recorded a few notes on his clipboard. Popping
another Junior Mint, he thought about how he loved
his job, particularly the part about avenging wronged
spirits. He knew he was the best in the office at
handling those particular kinds of assignments
perhaps because he had been robbed of a long life. So,
he considered himself lucky when such an assignment
came along for the creativity it demanded of him. He
smiled. “Rest now, spirit of Mr. James Post. In time,
with a little help from your flowing pen, you shall have
your day.”
   Then, by merely glancing at the ignition switch, his
car’s engine roared. The taxi slowly turned around and
headed down the road into the woods.




                            35
  Part I
The Greed
             transition to Chapter 1

   Coyote Brand Products did a metamorphosis
of sorts after James Post’s tragic death in his
1959 auto crash. Fred Benedict, the influential
Coyote Brand broker for the Dallas market,
shared his vast experience of the Coyote Brand
business with none other than Allied Foods
Division president Ken Burghoff. As a result of
Benedict’s bombastic urging, Earl Hickman,
previously Coyote Brand’s sales manager, was
named president of the company.        His wife
Sheila became the self-proclaimed “first lady of
Coyote Brand,” taking Margaret Post’s place
after her husband’s sudden death. Margeret still
lived in the breezy Golf Estates home with
Henrietta.
   Shortly thereafter, it wasn’t much of a
coincidence that Earl Hickman, just having been
made the president of Coyote, immediately
awarded the giant Houston broker territory to
Dallas broker Frank Benedict, who received a
concomitant billings increase of nearly $300
thousand per year!
   Nobody could explain why it happened, but,
about a year after Post’s death, Sheila began
having periodic “shock treatments,” electro
convulsive therapy, to rid her mind of strange
nightmares she started having shortly after the
great James Post met his tragic end.


                        2
                       Part I – The Greed




 1   Sheila’s Shock
     Navarro County Medical Center, Corsicana, Texas July 6, 1979


            20 YEARS AFTER JAMES POST’S DEATH




   Once every generation someone comes along who so
perfectly exemplifies a basic human weakness that
their own life becomes a template of it. To document
how their life unfolds shows the world how that
human weakness forms and it helps define the subtle
nuances of having it. Sheila Hickman was such a
person and the human weakness she so perfectly
exuded was greed.




   Sheila lay on the hospital bed as it clattered
down the corridor while her husband Earl uselessly
walked alongside her. She watched the familiar row of
fluorescent rectangles flash by above her on the
ceiling. She heard the hard rubber wheels click as
they hit hit every depression of grout between tiles.
Her mild headache throbbed as the orderly, who had
such incredibly bad breath that it permeated the air,
pushed her bed and sang out of tune in a squeaky
voice that seemed to go with the bad breath. Yes, it all


                                3
              A CONSEQUENCE OF GREED


somehow fit together: the headache, the wheel-
clattering, the bad breath, the dreaded singing.
    Sheila felt sick to her stomach: Her auscultation
signaled her that gnawing guilt was about to take her
over again. It was something that happened during
every procedure or every time she had the dream. No
matter how many times she had electroshock therapy,
she never got used to the discomfort she predictably
experienced.
    “You’ll be fine, honey,” Earl Hickman purred in his
low voice. He slump-walked next to her with one
flaccid hand splayed on her thigh as the rolling bed
noisily clicked down the hall.
    Ray hoped that maybe this treatment would be the
one that, once and for all, would scare away all the
demons that occasionally dominated Sheila’s dreams.
Maybe it would finally be a new start for her and for
them: no depression, no anxiety, no guilt, no pills, no
booze nor provocative anger cast his way.




   By the time the orderly pulled her up to the
operating room door, the warmth of the sheets that
covered her near-naked body had faded. Certain parts
of her head felt naked, too. Earlier that morning, the
nurses had shaved two bare spots, one on each temple,
where the electrodes were to be placed—her perfect
blonde country club coiffure would have to disguise for
a few weeks the imperfection of her hastily-shaven


                          4
                    Part I – The Greed


temples.
   Because she would be unconscious from a general,
the anesthesiologist pointed out last night that she, as
usual, wouldn’t feel the full magnitude of the shocks
themselves. How does he know that, anyway? she
wondered. After all, she thought, he never had the
treatments, did he?     Boy, doctors think they know
everything—and he’s even new here!



    The orderly pushed open the procedure room door
with the bed. Once inside, the room exploded with the
blinding brightness of all the surgical lights. Voices
chattered with the latest nurse gossip.
    “Good luck, honey. You’ll do fine,” Earl purred like
a bored old tomcat. Also in the feline tradition, he
cleared his throat in several short bursts as if he was
evacuating a hairball. He stopped and, suddenly like a
chicken, shot quick glances about the room, inspecting
as he clenched his flared nostrils. “I love you,” he
called out to no one, without feeling, then walked
away. With a casual wave, looking absently to the far
corners of the room, not directly at her, he said, again
to no one, “I’ll see you in a few hours.” Then he looked
at his watch and scoured the room impatiently once
more.
    The orderly rolled her bed next to another. Several
nurses gathered. “One, two, three!” they said as they
transferred her from one bed to the other. Feeling
exposed, she quickly gathered her hospital gown


                            5
              A CONSEQUENCE OF GREED


around her. A nurse covered her with a sheet and
light blanket.
    “Hi, Mrs. Hickman,” the nasally male voice said.
The doctor was dressed in scrub-green, head to toe.
“I’m Dr. Carter.      Remember, we talked last night
about your anesthetic?”
    She remembered his pompous voice from last
evening when she had checked in. “Doctor, I forgot to
ask you last night, this isn’t your first time, is it?
You’re sort of new here.” Sheila knew better but
wanted to teasingly provoke him.
    He laughed. “No, I’m just new here. I’ve done this
for years, Mrs. Hickman, I assure you. I’m going to
put one of these IVs in your arm and insert another
permanent IV in case we need it along the way. Then
you’ll count backward from ten.”
    “All those damn tubes. That’s different.”
    “The latest technology,” he said. “You’ll be fine.”
    The Demerol the nurse had given her back in her
room was settling in. Sheila felt rosy all over.
    “Then you’ll be asleep. Simple as that,” he said and
smiled. He had a friendly manner because he was new
at Navarro and probably wanted to impress everyone.
    “So, where’s Dr. Lockhart?” she asked, then a bit
arrogantly: “Why don’t we get this show on the road?!”
    “He’ll be right down,” Dr. Carter said.
    Dr. Lockhart was to administer the electro -
convulsive therapy, as usual.
    The IVs went into her wrists with only a prick. The
Doctor taped them down. That hurt, the way he


                           6
                     Part I – The Greed


applied the tape. Not like the old guy.
   “There a problem, Mrs. Hickman?” he asked.
   “Just hurts.”
   “Here, I’ll loosen them.” He pulled off the tape and
reinserted one of the needles, then reapplied tape.
“Better?”
   She nodded.
   Dr. Lockhart walked in and all the chatter stopped
suddenly. “How’s everyone this morning?” he said
quietly. Then, even though he talked in hushed tones
against the sudden quiet, the nurses responded to him
as if he was barking at them like some drill sergeant.
He almost whispered his orders to the nurses like he
was a confident patient general, but their friendly
relaxed, nurses’ banter instantaneously changed
anyway to a silent, methodical deferential scramble.
   From Sheila’s left side, the head nurse inserted in
her mouth a small, oval, rubber mouthpiece. She put a
headband dripping with wires in place. This was the
point at which Sheila always began feeling
apprehensive.
   Dr. Carter stepped forward and poked a needle into
one of the IVs that hung from her wrist. “Now, just
start counting to yourself, Mrs. Hickman, from ten
down.” Sheila took a panicky, shallow breath.

   Ten, nine, eight, seven . . .

   First, Sheila saw black all around as the nurse put
on her an eye shade, which always made her feel


                              7
              A CONSEQUENCE OF GREED


claustrophobic and afraid. The noises around her faded
as people seemed to be talking in a cave. She felt the
band tighten around her head as it was adjusted, then
abrasive scraping on her temples, then pin pricks
there—the electrodes.
    Time suspended for a few seconds.
    After a few more minutes, she heard buzzing, then
a loud hum. Then everything sounded muffled: like
she was in an echo-y cave but with her fingers stuck in
her ears. Each time the buzzing started, she saw
white light all around her in her mind’s eye, sort of
emanating from the center of her head, outward to her
skull. This was always the scariest part—surreal.
    Then colored memories raced by, like pages rapidly
flipping in a space-age catalog. Sheila drifted away
and tried to relax, but couldn’t. She hung onto each
snapshot image as it flew by in her head . . .

   It was her life: Her father; her son; her daughter; a
football field; a bar; a cowboy. Her in a car.

   Wait. Stop there.

   It was a cool sunny day a few weeks after the
Hickman family had first moved to Corsicana, this
God-forsaken Texas town.
   Sheila saw herself drive past the Navarro County
Historical Society in Pioneer Village into miniature
downtown Corsicana.         She remembered how
unimpressed she was with the wanna-be town. She


                           8
                    Part I – The Greed


felt cynical and judgmental about the sensibility that
must have driven the city fathers to so desperately
dream of a better life for the little city: “ joke.”
    Earl was at last supposed to finally be getting a
real career opportunity as the sales manager of Coyote
Brand Products, a division of Allied Foods in Chicago,
from where they had moved. Sheila felt like she had
no choice but to move her family to Texas but now that
she was here, she needed to assert her independence,
like in the old days when she was in her twenties and
hung out at the grungy docks in Baltimore, looking for
love.
    For two weeks Sheila had left little Bryan with
Erlene or Earl, if he was in town, for a short time and
made trips to the Cat’s Meow, a rustic old bar just
outside of town on the access road along Interstate 45.
There she danced and danced, but mostly drank with
local good ol’ boys who downed their shots and beers.
     “Eventual promotion to president, ya know?” Earl
had said about the move to Texas. Right! The Allied
big shots in Chicago were probably putting Earl out to
pasture. She sensed that, and she was usually right
about those things.
    The other day Earl Hickman had gone on a trip to
the fall broker review meetings around the Southwest:
Shreveport, Houston, San Antonio, Albuquerque, and
New Orleans. So, while Earl sipped mint juleps and
told nigger jokes with the outspoken New Orleans
broker sales force, Sheila figured it was the perfect day
to investigate Earl’s real situation at the office. Sheila


                            9
              A CONSEQUENCE OF GREED


thought that her daughter Erlene was old enough to
care for baby brother Bryan for a little while, even if it
meant she’d have to struggle with changing his diaper
—good training.
    Sheila drove through downtown Corsicana with the
car windows rolled down, air blowing against her face.
She turned right on Seventh Street, then left on Main
Street, over the tracks, and pulled up to the chain link
fence that surrounded the Coyote Brand compound,
like it was some kind of prison. The gate was open.
She slowly turned into the compound.
    There were two little, boxy buildings on her left, a
larger plant building on her right, and a massive
warehouse straight ahead—all painted a hideous dirty
ochre. She pulled over to the right and parked in front
of the plant.
    God, That smell! It was the distinctive Coyote
Brand spice odor: heavy cumin notes that seemed to
go with the orange buildings! She walked across the
orange dust that was the courtyard, snickering at the
two little office buildings that had been painted over
and over until they looked like dirty, mustard-colored
adobe. It all looked rusty.
    After Sheila took two steps, the screech of brakes
interrupted her silent ridicule of the courtyard. Then
a loud, melodic car horn cut through the thick, parched
air that characterized most late summer afternoons in
Corsicana. A pale yellow Cadillac with two rear
vertical fins, each topped with two tiny red lights,
rolled through the chain link gate into the compound.


                           10
                    Part I – The Greed


Its massive whitewalls crunched over a new patch of
snow-white gravel, the only thing around that wasn’t
orange or rust.        More squeaks brought the car
lumbering to a stop in front of the first little office
building.
    Seconds later, a small, elegant lady emerged from
the noisy Cadillac, wearing a flowery dress in shades
of yellow and rust, so she matched her surroundings.
She carried a frilly, out-of-date parasol, presumably to
protect her fragile skin from the sun. The woman
tossed Sheila a pert wave and a little grin as she
floated on delicate white sandals (which were sure to
get dirty) toward the first office’s door.
    At that moment—as if on cue—a tall handsome
man pulled open the very same door. He removed his
large black cowboy hat with his right hand, bent over,
gently cradled the lady’s cheek with his left hand, and
tenderly gave her a minuscule kiss on her pursed lips.
Then, rising to fully erect, he turned and formally
escorted her into the little office building.
    Could they be the Posts? Even their “greeting” is
royal! Sheila thought as she straightened her own
wrinkled, jean skirt and tucked in her twice-worn
blouse. Looks like the first thing I need to check is who
that lady is and if that man is her husband—the great
James Post I’ve heard so much about from Earl.
    Sheila reached the office door just as a short, jolly
woman pushed it open.
    “Well, hi there,” the woman bellowed in a
surprisingly clear voice as her jowls shook. “What’s the


                           11
              A CONSEQUENCE OF GREED


hurry, ma’am?” She crunched her brow and held up a
pudgy hand that poked out of her frilly white blouse.
    Avoiding direct eye contact, Sheila looked past the
chubby woman into the office, and said importantly,
“Well, I’m Mrs. Sheila Hickman. You must be Lenora.
Lenora Cooper? The receptionist, right? Even though
I didn’t make it to the Coyote Christmas Party in
December, Earl told me about y—”
    “And I’m Mr. Post’s secretary,” the woman puffed
her chest and pronounced proudly. “So nice to make
y’all’s acquain—”
    “Lenora, who was that woman anyway?” Sheila
insistently whispered, looked into the office, and
urgently pointed.
    “Why, that’s Mrs. Margaret Lassiter Post, of
course,” she rang. “Isn’t she just lovely now?” As
Lenora spoke, her stubby fingers formed an
involuntarily praying posture. “We call her the first
lady of Coyote Brand, you know.”
    “How cute,” Sheila said sarcastically.
    “So gracious an’ all,” Lenora said. “Why, we all
think she’s the best of the best, being from
Chatsworth, o’ course.” Lenora nodded, punctuating
her conclusion with a long, nasally C-h-a-t-s-worth.
    Sheila said brusquely: “That’s actually the kind of
role I pictured for myself . . . being Earl’s wife.” She
peeked into the office again. “Introduce me, OK?”
    Just then the dainty lady emerged.
    “Mrs. Margaret Lassiter Post?” Lenora said and
bowed faintly. “Please meet Mrs. Sheila Hickman,


                          12
                      Part I – The Greed


Earl’s wife.”
    Sheila grimaced at Lenora’s obvious deference to
Mrs. Post. Her hand felt gentle and smooth compared
to Sheila’s red, irritated, dish-pan grip, which she had
been trying to remedy with all sorts of moisturizers.
Sheila tried to mimic the way Mrs. Post propped her
hand in the air: like she was about to receive a royal
kiss on the hand instead of a handshake.
    “I am most delighted to meet you, Mrs. Hickman.”
Margaret Post smiled up at her. “I’ve heard ever so
much about your wonderful husband, Merle—how nice
it is that the Allied Corporation sent him down here to
help James at the company.”
    “First of all, it’s Earl, not Merle,” Sheila said, trying
to disguise the disgust she began to feel.
     “Oh, of course, how clumsy of me. I do apologize.”
    “Right, I’m sure you do,” Sheila said, wiping her
hands on her jean skirt. “So, where do you people live?
In town, I suppose?” Sheila fidgeted. Boy, I sure could
use a drink about now. She licked her lips.
    “Not in town anymore,” Margaret Post said with a
tone that bordered on haughty, especially when she
said the ‘anymore’ part, like she had just left slovenly
poverty behind and exchanged it for incalculable
wealth. “After the acquisition last year, James and I
up-graded to a won-derful home in Golf Estates.
Across the field from—”
    “Our house?”
    “Why, yes,” Margaret Post said. “I do remember
searchin’ for your li’l’ ol’ home: three bedroom, two


                             13
               A CONSEQUENCE OF GREED


bath ranch, I believe. Best on the market at the time,
if I remember correctly.”
     “So cozy for me, Earl, our teenaged daughter, and
baby boy,” she said. “You and James live alone, I take
it.”
     “Why, yes. Almost. You see Emma and Chelsea are
away at school in the East, Smith and Radcliffe, you
know. Now it’s only James, Henrietta, and myself at
home.”
     “Henrietta?” Sheila asked.
     “She’s our housekeeper and cook. Makes the most
exquisite chicken dishes.”
     “I bet.” Not like the tough beef stew I threw together
last night.
       “You’ll have to come over some evening for a
marvelous southern supper. And ice-cold Sweet Tea
over rummy out on our breezy veranda.” She laughed
and bent her wrist as she lightly touched Sheila’s
shoulder. “A custom at home, you know.”
     “That would be just lovely.” Sheila laughed as she
whisked off the spot Margaret had touched and hid a
grimace. So would getting my hands on some of your
money.
     “We’ll have to chat, then,” Mrs. Post said with what
looked to Sheila like a condescending wink.
     Margaret turned as her husband flung open the
office door. Mid-stride, he carefully laid Margaret’s
hand atop his forearm. With a little grin, he flicked the
front bill of his black hat with his index and second
fingers toward Sheila and said, “ma’am,” as if he had


                            14
                   Part I – The Greed


met her before, and then escorted his diminutive wife
to their car, passenger side first.
    After Margaret Post climbed in and the heavy door
thumped shut, Lenora let out a sigh. “Such a fine lady.
Originally from C-h-a-t-s-worth, you know.”
    “Uh-huh, you said that,” Sheila said, bored.
    “It’s the next town north,” Lenora said. “Where all
the gracious southern ladies come from.”
    “Lenora?” Sheila asked as Lenora winced at the
Posts’ squeaky departure, “where’s Earl in the scheme
of things around here?”
    “Scheme? What scheme?” Lenora asked as she
watched the large, yellow car squeak intermittently as
it crossed the white gravel, and the air clouded with a
powdery tan dust. “Mr. Post should get them brakes
fixed. Awful noisy for such a fancy car.” Lenora pursed
her lips.
    “About Earl?” Sheila asked.
    “Margaret’s always ridin’ the brake pedal, you
know.”
    “Lenora!”
    “Sorry, ma’am. Earl? Oh, he’s the sales manager.”
    “I know that.” Sheila answered in restrained
staccato grunts. “Where does he fall in the order of
progression? The pecking order?”
    “Earl is Cecil’s boss,” Lenora said.
    “And?”
    “And Mr. Post is Earl’s boss. So Earl’s right up
there.”
    “Oh, then what happens when Mr. Post, uh,


                          15
              A CONSEQUENCE OF GREED


retires?” Sheila asked.
     Lenora studied the sky, and thought for several
seconds. Sheila puffed on a newly-lit cigarette.
     Lenora continued: “With the Allied purchase, he’ll
be staying on—”
      “I know about the five-year thing. What if he, say,
retires earlier? Hypothetically, that is. You do know
what hypothetically means, right? Who would take his
place?”
     “I guess Earl or Al, or even Oscar might-could be
the president then.”
     “Now who’s Al and Oscar?”
     Lenora laughed. “Al Bishop’s the Controller and
Personnel Manager— almost everything ‘round here, I
guess! And Oscar’s our Plant Manager . . . always
movin’ on up.”
     “So, Earl could actually be the next president? That
is, if Mr. Post weren’t around anymore.”
     Just then a squat dwarf-like man with twinkling
eyes, permanent sun-etched smile, and swept-back,
dark red hair walked toward them from across the
dusty courtyard. “If Mr. Post weren’t around
anymore?” he called. “What’s this all about, anyway?”
     Sheila glanced up at him and blushed.
     Al walked closer and said to Sheila, “Ma’am, Earl
can be the damn president if he wants to be. Not me!”
     “I’m afraid we haven’t had the pleasure,” Sheila
said, a bit caught.
     “Al Bishop, ma’am. What’s up anyway?” He reached
out his right hand, squinted over the top of his half-


                           16
                    Part I – The Greed


glasses, and swept his hair back with his left hand.
     “I was just trying to understand where Earl fits,
Mr. Bisher,” Sheila said.
   “It’s Bishop, ma’am—sure, you are,” Al said. “See,
Earl’s the Sales Manager sent to us by Allied after the
acquisition.     Gerhardt Strehl just went and died
suddenly. And Mr. Post loved Gerhard.”
   “So? What does that have to do with my Earl?”
   “Nothin’ ma’am. Just how things have changed a
mite fast in the past couple of years. Allied buyin’ out
the operation an’ all,” he said. “Don’t know about
Earl’s damn bill-back trade deals, neither.” He
shrugged. “Jury’s out, as they say.”
   “I see,” she said contemplatively.
   “Guess I best take up the bill-back garbage with
Earl, though,” he said. He started to walk past her.
   “Makes sense, Mr. Bisher,” Sheila said
   “It’s Bishop, ma’am.” He shook his head. “And
Allied’s a mite pushy, if you ask me. Y’all need to talk
to Earl if he calls in, ma’am?”
   “No need. He’ll call if he’s running late.”
   “Yes, ma’am.”
   “Thanks for the info, Mr. Bisher.” Sheila waved and
sashayed to her car.
   Al Bishop shook his head and groaned.



   As Sheila rumbled through town on the inlaid brick
of old Beaton Street, she assessed her situation. If
Earl played his cards right, he could eventually have


                           17
              A CONSEQUENCE OF GREED


James Post’s job and her dreams might actually come
true: perfect sandals, elegant country parasol, custom
home, live-in cook, and her children at Ivy League
schools. She could indeed become Coyote Brand’s next
“first lady.” It was the best she could hope for after
being stuck in this hellhole of a town.
    This Al guy seemed like he knew what he was
talking about, too. She wasn’t surprised Earl was
already screwing things up with his hair-brain bill-
back deal ideas. He would probably get fired or
something. Then he’d never be president and she’d
never be first lady or achieve the rest of the endless
dreams she had. Since her later teen years, Sheila
had struggled to obtain what her high school friends
had attained through their marriages. It was now her
turn to cash in. If only this Mr. Post guy could
magically go away!
    Her car bumped over the cobblestone through the
fifties-esque town. She licked her lips. No way is Earl
going to mess this up for me.
    She swung into the old Rexall drug store parking
lot and skidded to a stop. She saw a gray-haired gent
sweeping the entry of the place like it was his own
private shop. He waved; she waved back obligatorily.
She got out of the car, walked over to the old phone
booth, pulled opened the door, and dialed home.
“Erlene, now take care of little Bryan, OK?”
    “I will. I will, Mama. It’s just that—” Her daughter
had started calling Sheila “Mama” since they had
moved to Corsicana. It was a local custom Erlene had


                          18
                    Part I – The Greed


picked up from her new friends and one that Sheila
hated. “Remember, it’s Mother, Erlene,” Sheila
protested.
     “Yes, Mother,” Erlene drawled.
    “And make supper for your father if he gets in
early. The beef stew’s fine. Tough, but it’ll do! It’s in
the fridge. I’ll be home later.”
    “Awww, you going out agi-in?” Erlene asked with
that annoying two syllable twang.
    Ugh, she’s already picked up that sing-songy
pronunciation! “None of your business, young lady! I’ll
be home later.” She hung up and jumped back in the
car. Last thing I need is a helpless teenager!
    Sheila sped off and, after driving out of town,
turned left onto the access road with woods on her left
and Interstate 45 on her right. She skidded to a stop in
her usual parking place once she turned into the Cat’s
Meow, marked by a red and blue blinking roof sign.
    The rustic wooden building sat on a lot that was
carved out of the woods. There was a large, grassy
field in back and a dusty, gravel parking lot in front.
    Minutes later, sitting at the end of the bar, Sheila
breathed a sigh of relief. “Double G and T, Sonny.” She
knew all the bartenders by name. She also knew a few
of the cowboy patrons, who she threw a wave to as the
happy hour crowd grew noisy.
    Sheila sat on a stool at the end of the bar, sipped
her drink, and pondered her situation amidst the din.
Earl is in a good position at Coyote Brand, she
thought, and so was she, if they could hold out until


                           19
              A CONSEQUENCE OF GREED


James Post’s retirement. But that was five long years
away and by then Earl could mess everything up. Even
get fired. He was already pissing off this Al Bisher
guy. So, Earl being the president of Coyote wasn’t at
all a shoe-in. And Bisher said that Allied was pushing
for better results, too! Greedy bastards. Bound to get
Earl in trouble. Big fancy corporations were always
like that. That’s what she remembered from the
stories she’d read. Corporations had insatiable greed.
    As Sheila puffed her cigarette and sipped her drink,
she looked across the room at some noisy cowboys
starting up a two-step with some nice-looking girls as
the juke box blared. She cringed as she pictured
dancing the precise little dance while she was tipsy.
Tonight, instead of dancing, she wanted to figure out
how to fix her cruddy life.
    “Howdy ma’am. ‘Member me?” A tall cowboy with a
permanent scowl, handlebar mustache, and long,
wavy, chestnut-colored hair grumbled low into her ear.
“Lemme buy your next one?”
    “Huh?” She pulled away. “Who are you?”
    His perfect mustache reminded her of someone. He
looked like he was in his late twenties, maybe thirty.
His chestnut hair fell from under his straw cowboy
hat. Then, she noticed the ugly scar on his face. Now
she remembered: She had danced with him the week
before.
    “Come on, the least you could do is lemme buy,” he
said.
    “Now I remember you,” she said. Her head was


                          20
                    Part I – The Greed


already spinning from her first drink. “One more, I
guess,” she said, “under the circumstances.”
   “Circumstances, ma’am?         That sounds mighty
serious. You’re lookin’ down, sittin’ over here all alone.
Every body else is havin’ a good time. Somethin’
wrong?” He straddled the stool next to her.
   “Oh, nothing special. My life is only fading away
before my eyes. You’re too young to understand.” She
sipped.
   “You’re one helluva pretty lady to be talkin’ all
negative like that. Most ladies ‘round here would love
to have your looks. Your body, too, if you don’t mind
me sayin’ so.”
   “Watch your mouth, son,” she said.
   “Hey, really sorry, ma’am.” He toasted her and
smiled. “But you are voluptuous, iffen you know what
I‘m talkin’ about.”
   “What did you say your name was?” Sheila asked
the cowboy, who was squinting at her through the
smoke from his thin cigar. He’s cute in a nasty sorta
way, she thought. She found herself staring at the
scar on his cheek.
    “Oh, that’s from a fight last year with one of my
clan bro’s,” he said and pointed to it. “Name is Guy,
ma’am. Just Guy.” He tipped the front of his straw
western hat.
   “Guy? The Clan?”
   “Yep,” he said, “Shelly . . . Cheryl . . . no, Sheila,
right?”
   “You remember my name . . . after a week? You do


                           21
              A CONSEQUENCE OF GREED


know how to flatter a lady. I remember your pretty
hair and that wild mustache, I guess. All spiky at the
ends. But it was different last week.”
    “Tryin’ to grow a handlebar now. You like?”
    “Oh, yeah—this one. The other one looked
Chinese.”
    “I always aims to please a lady. Especially the
pretty ones.” Guy moved closer and stood.
    Tipsy, Sheila wobbled on the bar stool as he stood
close to her and pressed his crotch lightly against her
hip through the rungs of the chair. “I could solve any
kind of problem for a lady like you,” he hummed into
her ear. “Just name it.”
    “You coming on to me, sailor?” Sheila tossed her
hair back and said.
    “I ain’t no sailor, Miss Sheila. Ain’t never seen no
ocean ‘cept down by Padre Island. Saw that once on a
trip to Houston. Nope, I’m just a good ol’ boy livin’ in a
run-down shack back o’ my mama’s, up in Ennis.”
    “North of here, right?” she asked.
    “Ten miles up I-45. Mama still lives there with my
latest step dad, Paul or Peter somebody—a plumber.”
    “What you do up in Ennis, cowboy? Punch dōggies?”
    He snickered. “Actually, I fix air conditionin’
mainly.”
    “And cars in your spare time, right? Surprised I
remember?”
    He smiled and puffed his thin cigar.
    As she and the cowboy rocked against each other to
the two-steppin’ music, Sheila began to drift away. She


                           22
                    Part I – The Greed


closed her eyes, listened to the music, and leaned
against Guy, thinking about Sven the sailor, her first
lover and Erlene’s real father.
    Ah, the docks and old times! She had never told
Earl all the details. She remembered how surprised he
looked when she accepted his first marriage proposal.
Child needs a father, she had thought. Not some
sailor, cruising the seven seas. Then she picked the
perfect name—Erlene—designed to stroke Earl’s ego.
    “You’re taking me back to another time,” she said
wistfully to Guy, “when I didn’t have a care in the
world except—” Then she flinched.
    “Except what?” he asked.
    “My asshole daddy,” she mumbled.
    “Why asshole?”
    She stared straight ahead and hesitated, took a sip,
and said: “He did it to me a bunch of times when I was
a kid—the bastard.”
    Guy hung his head. “Shoot. Sorry to hear that,
ma’am. Rape?”
    She nodded. “Late at night.”
    “Wow.” He shook his head.
    “Until the night my mom gave it to him,” she said.
    “Gave what to him?”
    “She shot him dead right when he was on top of
me.” Sheila felt the smoke stream out of her nostrils
extra hard.
    “Man. Shoot-Howdy.” Guy cringed. “Your mama
shot your daddy whilst he was doin’ you? What a
picture.”


                           23
               A CONSEQUENCE OF GREED


    “Dead.” She rubbed her index finger across the
bottom of her nose and sniffed. “Although, if I
wouldn’t’ve screamed, she wouldn’t have shot him.”
    “No need to blame yourself, Miss Sheila. Son of a
bitch raped you!”
     “I just got fed up that night. So, I yelled real loud.”
She shrugged. “They sent Mom to prison for a few
years, but, because he use to beat on her, they went
easy. Even let her out for my high school graduation—
big deal—I barely graduated.          I hardly knew my
prisoner mom anymore and they even had a lady cop
that looked like a man supervise the visit—fun
graduation.”
    Guy shook his head. “Man. Incredible story.”
    “To this day the whole thing bugs the crap out of
me,” she said. “Feeling the weight of him slump dead.”
    “Don’t knock yourself out, ma’am. Sounds awful,
but the dude deserved it. That’s not your problem
now, though, huh?”
    “No, sir. Now my problems are too tough,” she said
and sniffed again as she pounded out another
cigarette, “for anybody to solve.”
    “Wanna bet, ma’am? Just try me. Maybe I can help.
Swear,” he bragged, hand up, palm open.
    “Oh sure. What are you gonna do? Be a tough
cowboy for me? Beat up my old man?” She put up her
dukes and started hitting his raised hand.
    He dodged her hits.         “Ma’am, you are gettin’
seriously drunk.”
    “You just never mind. You think you can solve my


                            24
                     Part I – The Greed


problems? OK. Go ahead, then!” She punched his
shoulder hard. “Prove it.”
    He leaned close and put his hand up to promise.
“Like I said, ma’am, I aims t’ please. If we can come to
an arrangement to solve your problems, you and I will
have a roll in the hay out back. Fair?” he said.
    “We will?” she asked. “You mean the hay? Here?”
She laughed and poked at his long mustache. “You’re
coming on pretty strong, aren’tcha cowboy?”
    “I’m one ol’ boy known for bein’ straight.”
    “So?” she said and leaned against him. “Be straight,
then.”
    “Later, Miss Sheila.” He snickered. “Well, I don’t
mind sayin’ you turn me on, ma’am. You really do.”
    “Hmm.” Earl hasn’t said that to me in years.
    “I really like your bushy blonde hair, too, Miss
Sheila. And y’all got a nice bod. Big ones, too.”
    “Naughty, naughty.” She rubbed against him. The
room was spinning.
    “Is your hair for real?” he asked her.
    “As real as that pretty mustache,” Sheila joshed.
She poked at it again.
    “Well, ma’am, is it a deal? I help y’all out; we get it
on? Say, out back?”
    “Ooo, my. I can see I’ve gotten to you.” She looked
down at his bulging jeans and grabbed the bar to stop
it from moving. Then she blurted, “Aw, what the hell,
cowboy. You’re on.”
    It wouldn’t have been the first time, she thought.
Hell, both my kids! Sheila laughed as she felt herself


                            25
              A CONSEQUENCE OF GREED


slipping fast toward fooling around, not an altogether
unpleasant nor unfamiliar place to be, she thought.
     “Come on, Miss Sheila, spit out those problems.”
Guy moved closer to her again.
    “Well.” She hiccuped. “I have two of ‘em. Both
men.” She waved two fingers. “One is my wimpy
husband. The other is his boss: the only man in this
whole damned world who will forever keep my Earl
from reaching the peak of his career . . . with me as
his first lady.”
    The bartender slapped the next round on the bar
and eyed Sheila as she reached for her glass and took
a big gulp.
    “Well, ma’am, I don’t think I can put balls on your
screwed-up husband. What about his boss?”
    “Oh, you’ll never be able to help me with him,
neither.” She laughed. “Hell, that man’s gonna live at
least another five years. Earl’ll never get his job. Nope,
I betcha Earl dies a shitty sales manager or gets fired.”
    “Who might his boss be?” Guy asked.
    She watched him sip his latest beer. Then, he
tossed back his shot.
    She said, “James Pos—”
    Guy coughed out his shot with a powerful spray.
    Sheila dodged the blast.
    “You mean the James Post?” He coughed again. He
quickly scanned the room and whispered. “You mean
the president of Coyote Chili? That tall, good lookin’
gent with the black hat?”
    “You got it.” She shoved his shoulder. “That uppity


                           26
                   Part I – The Greed


rich cowboy with the fancy-ass car that squeaks. Man
thinks he’s a god. I can tell.”
    “Well. Ain’t that somethin’,” Guy said slowly and
grinned with a slit of a grin, like Sheila had just
unlocked a secret he had.
    “Guess everyone knows Post, huh?” she said. “Son
of a bitch big shot.”
    “They say he really cleaned up by sellin’ out to
them Yankees.”
    “Just fell in his lap,” she said.
    “Been top of the heap around here for years,” Guy
said.
    “I heard that.” She picked up her purse and pulled
out a brush. “But I’m pretty new to these parts.”
    “Well, fear not, Miss Sheila,” he said.
    “What?” She started brushing her hair.
    That slit of a grin appeared under Coy’s mustache.
“He ain’t no problem.”
    “What?” She suddenly stopped brushing. “What
the hell do you mean?” She cleared her throat and
almost guzzled the rest of her drink. Her eyes watered
from his cigar smoke, and she whisked it away.
    Guy stared at her deadpan. “If y’all are having a
problem with Mr. Post, consider him gone.”
    Sheila pounded her glass down. “You aren’t
serious.”
    Coy’s eyes pierced through her and he grinned
slowy.
    “How?” she asked. “You don’t mean— ”
    “May cost you a little,” he said and chewed on his


                          27
              A CONSEQUENCE OF GREED


thin cigar. “But I don’t mean temporary.”
    “No, you’re kidding me.” She laughed uneasily.
Another bar patron looked over.
    “Ten thousand,” he whispered, barely audible above
the jabber, his snake-like eyes flashing from
reflections of intermittent disco lights.
    “This is nonsense!” She pounded out her half-
smoked cigarette. “Besides, cowboy, Guy, whatever
you’re name is, I don’t have that kind of money.” She
squeezed out the words between clenched teeth.
    “Make it five, then,” Guy said in a monotone, not
moving a muscle, except his mouth.
    “What?” Her whispers were shouts.
    “Come on, ma’am,” he said. “Easy does it. After all,
My mama needs the money. My stepfather, Peter or
Paul whoever, been slow lately. Same with my air
conditionin.’ ”
    “That’s not my problem.” Sheila fidgeted. “I better
go.” She started to get up, but wobbled.
    “No, you better wait, Sheila baby,” Guy said. He
yanked her back. She stumbled to her bar stool. “Have
a heart, Miss Sheila.”
    “No.” She stood again and started to walk away.
    He clutched her shoulder and turned her back.
“But, I could solve your problems, right?”
    Sheila leaned over and whispered. “Five thousand
dollars? That’s it?”
    “And he’s gone. Yes, ma’am. Plus one roll in the
hay, too out there, remember?” He pointed with his
thumb.


                          28
                    Part I – The Greed


    “You shameful boy!” Sheila pulled away. Her eyes
flashed around the noisy room and met the eyes of a
few patrons.
    God! Suddenly they were all glaring at her like
they could read her mind. She tensed, terrified at what
she suddenly had the potential to do . . . and right now:
like going from zero to sixty in a second! She picked
up her drink, slurped, and slammed her glass down.
“More, Sonny,” she said.
    “You’ve had plenty, ma’am,” Sonny said.
    “Just gimme a fresh one then!” she said.
    Sonny shrugged and made her another G&T. “As
long as it’s your last one.”
    Suddenly, through her numbness, it all became a
game. She lit another cigarette and blew smoke. She
pictured her future with this tall guy named Post gone
from it. She pictured herself as Margaret Post in all of
her country elegance, floating across the Coyote Brand
courtyard. Sheila could be the first lady of Coyote.
She would have the prestige, the club membership, the
mansion, the cook, the east coast schools, and even
iced tea and rummy on her veranda. It would all be
hers, depending on her decision right now. One word is
all it would take. Just one. And she deserved it all.
    “Well?” Coy’s eyes glared.
    Pressure gripped Sheila’s heart. This is impossible!
    One word and the entire future she had imagined
would materialize, just like that. All it would take was
five out of the seven thousand dollars her mother had
left for her. “Spend it wisely, “ her mother had said. “I


                           29
              A CONSEQUENCE OF GREED


swear, you’ll push your man to the top of some big
company. Not like your drunk pervert of a father.”
    Sheila sighed deeply. She exhaled hard. With only
her eyes she looked around the dark room. This is too
easy! How could I?
    Then, almost involuntarily, like someone else said
it, she heard her voice say, “Yes.” She clamped her lips
shut and swallowed the end of the word. She turned to
the cowboy. His eyes were dull and cold. She had said
“yes” quickly enough to minimize her connection to the
word, yet loudly enough to make her intention clear.
She whispered through her smoke, “How do I know
you’ll do it?”
    “Easy. 2,500 up front. The rest after,” Coy said.
“That’s it. Done.”
    “Shhh!” She shot glances back and forth at other
bar patrons. “How would I know?”
    “Ask yourself, Miss Sheila. “Is 2,500 dollars worth
the gamble? Would you miss it?”
    “Well . . . “ she said and admitted to herself she
wouldn’t. It had been in storage for years.
    “Besides. You have my word.” He stared at her.
    She leaned close to his ear and spoke through
clenched teeth. “How?”
    You’d eventually find out,” he said in a grizzly
monotone that sizzled through the bar noise. “But
don’t worry ‘bout that part, ma’am.”
    Sheila looked away. Her eyes rolled to the right,
then to the left. Shifting, assessing.
    “Well, Sheila baby?” Coy Duncan grunted.


                          30
                    Part I – The Greed


   “Don’t call me that. Daddy called me that.”
   “Sorry, ma’am. So, what’s it gonna be?” he asked.
   She glanced around the room. She squinted her
eyes and took a deep breath. She slapped her hand on
the bar.
   The cowboy said:       “Does that mean yes, Miss
Sheila?”

    In total darkness, Sheila blinked her eyes. The
movie had flickered to an end, like film being cut, and
was now flapping violently. Suddenly eye-shattering
light burnt into her eyes. The gabbing voices of a
million nurses blasted into her ears. The head nurse
roughly tugged the saliva-covered mouthpiece from her
mouth and yanked off the headband of wires.
    “Mrs. Hickman? Mrs. Hickman! Come on now;
time to get up,” she said way too loudly.
    Sheila thrust open her eyes. She felt like she’d been
sleeping for hours and had been grossly tussled awake.
    “There, there,” the nurse said, laughing, “how are
we feeling now, Mrs. Hickman?”
    “Oh, my God, fine, I guess,” Sheila sighed. “Is it
really over?”
    “Yes, Mrs. Hickman. You did fine. A little rough at
the end.”
    “Wait,” Sheila said abruptly. “Did I talk? Did I say
anything?” She looked around nervously, suddenly
wide awake.
    The nurse smiled. “With that mouthpiece it just
sounds like a bunch of mumbles, ma’am.”


                           31
              A CONSEQUENCE OF GREED


    “Good. Oh, God. Where’s Earl?” Sheila asked.
    “Still in the waiting room.”
    Doctor Lockhart walked up. “How do you feel, Mrs.
Hickman?”
    “I had that same awful dream,” she said. It was
rough at the end.”
    “Not surprised,” he said. “Although, remember
what I told you? It’s memories that normally flash by,
not dreams.”
    “No. In my case it was definitely a dream.
Definitely. It’s the same one I always have, too.”
    “Whatever you say, Mrs. Hickman.” Dr. Lockhart
smiled and patted her on the shoulder. “Just rest here
a couple of minutes. You may find bits of memories
flashing back occasionally. Nothing to worry about.”
    “I know that,” she said. “Damn, I’m exhausted. This
one was heavy.”
    “That’s because of your convulsions. You did fine.”
    “What time is it?” Sheila asked.
    The nurse looked at her watch. “Eleven o’clock,” she
said. “How are you feeling?”
    “Better, now.” Sheila stretched. “I feel like moosh,
though.”
    The nurse patted her shoulder. “You just lie here
for now.”
    A few minutes later, the nurse came back. “You
ready to get up now, Mrs. Hickman? Can I help?”
    Sheila sat up, a little groggy, and swiveled her legs
over the side of the bed. She tried to stand, but
wobbled in place.


                           32
                    Part I – The Greed


    “Easy does it,” the nurse said.
    Sheila slipped into her jeans and top. “God, I feel
like I was away for a long time. Some long vacation.”
    “Strange, huh?” the nurse said. “Had the
treatments once myself.”
    “Whew!” Sheila stretched again. “This was a real
kick-ass zap.”
    The nurse laughed. “First time I ever heard that
one,” she said. “Transportation, please!” she called
out.
    An older Latino man rolled a wheelchair up to
Sheila.
    “Hop aboard, Miss Hickman,” he said. She
recognized his bushy gray hair and kindly smile.
    “Adolpho. It’s you,” Sheila said. “I don’t need the
chair, really.” She waved her hand.
    “Better let me give you lift, just to the front door,”
he said.
    “Adolpho, we always go through this!” Sheila sat
down in the wheelchair and put her feet in place. “As
long as you won’t take advantage of me on the way.”
    “Might-could, Señorita Hickman,” the old gent said.
“You’re my favorite, you know.”
    “Adolpho. Now you’re flirting with me.”
    “I try my best, but I’m too old. Couldn’t flirt if I
tried.”
    She laughed. Then he pushed her out of the
recovery room, down a long hall to the waiting room.
    “Sheila!” Earl called, standing, stretching, and
tossing a magazine down. “Hi, Adolpho,” Earl said as


                           33
              A CONSEQUENCE OF GREED


he walked up to the wheelchair, leaned over, and gave
Sheila a peck. “They told me you were all set,” he said.
“Went OK? How do you feel?”
    “Real tired,” she said. “Had that weird dream
again. Seemed so real. Glad it’s the last zapping.”
    “We’ll see,” Earl said as he helped Adolpho turn the
chair around.
    “What?” she looked up and asked.
    “Nothing, let’s just get you home,” Earl said.
    Old Adolpho rolled her into the elevator, then down
to the first floor of Navarro County Medical Center,
out the front door, and down the temporary covered
ramp to their waiting car in the first parking place.
    “Here, let me start ‘er,” Earl said and ran around to
the driver’s side of the Mercedes. He got in and revved
it up.
    Adolpho pushed her closer, then held the car door
while Sheila got in. “Bye now, señorita,” he said and
winked. “See y’all next time!” He shut the door.
    “Won’t be one!” Sheila turned to Earl and laughed.
    “Depends on how you do,” Earl mumbled. “We’ll
have to see what Lockhart says.” He patted her thigh.
    “Shit, Earl.”
    “It might be over, Sheila,” he said, “We’ll just have
to see.”
    Sheila hung her head for a few minutes and
muttered. “Oh, damn.”
    “I had that conference call with my new boss . . .
John Childress,” Earl said.
    “Really?” Sheila said and looked up. “You’re the


                           34
                    Part I – The Greed


president here now. You don’t need a new boss in
Chicago. What do they know?”
   “He says I should replace Gerhardt Strehl as soon
as possible.”
   “But he just died,” she said. “Why so fast?”
   “Childress is thinking about giving me a marketing
manager from Chicago, maybe a little younger. And a
pure-blooded American; not like Strehl.” Earl
stretched and pointed his thumbs to his chest. “Let el
presidente kick back and rest a little,” he said.
    “Terrific,” Sheila said. “All we need is some smart-
ass Yankee kid nosing around. That Kraut was flakey
but still drove you nuts with all his annoying second-
guessing. Now a nosy kid?”



   That night Sheila lay in bed, still feeling dizzy from
her treatment. As she drifted off to sleep to Earl’s
snoring, many images flew by, the most vivid were the
cowboy and the Cat’s Meow:

   She slapped her hand down on the bar.
   “Does that mean yes, Miss Sheila?” the cowboy
asked.

   Sheila moaned and tossed in her sleep:

   Outside the Cat’s Meow, Guy Duncan pinned Sheila
Hickman against his rusty old pickup under twinkling
stars. He breathed his beer-breath all over her face.


                           35
              A CONSEQUENCE OF GREED


She had forgotten that promising him her body was
part of the deal.
    The December night chilled as he pulled up her
skirt and pulled down her panties. She kicked them
free. He growled as he kneaded her breasts, bared
from beneath her peasant blouse. She cringed.
    “Nice ones,” he mumbled as he twisted her erect
nipples.
    Uninterested as he fumbled with his jeans, Sheila
scanned the dark meadow behind the Cat’s Meow.
“Hurry,” she said.
    He hoisted her by her thighs and, balancing her on
his bent legs, jabbed his penis inside her. “Ah, that’s
good,” he said.
    She closed her eyes.
    Again Guy entered her. “I ain’t never seen no lady
who don’t help or fight back,” he said. “Don’t moan,
don’t do nothin’.”
    “Just do it,” she snapped and looked away.
    “But that ain’t no fun less you’re hootin’,” he said.
    “I said, just do it!” She suppressed her struggle and
gritted her teeth as she gazed up and watched the
stars spin. All the while he was pumping, she felt like
she was going to puke. He kept slapping her hips and
panting steam, like some dog.
    Then Sheila stared ahead, imagining it was over.
When he finally climaxed, she felt a little flush, but
restrained any other physical response.
    After Guy finished twitching inside her, she put her
feet down and pushed him to the ground, his jeans


                           36
                   Part I – The Greed


wrapped around his boots. He lay there cackling a
good ol’ boy laugh.
   She looked down at the cowboy. “So, when’ll you do
it—Post?” The snappy breeze chilled her.
   “Next few months. Bring half the money here at
noon next Wednesday. Got it, Sheila baby?”
   “Don’t call me that, asshole.” She wiped herself
with the inside of her skirt and then staggered away.

   Sheila felt like she was falling, then shook awake
in bed. She sat up in the dark, listening to Earl’s
snoring. No cowboy? No beer breath. No rusty pick-up?
No stars?
   “What’s the matter, Sheila?” Earl muttered in a low
voice as he rolled over and yanked at the blankets.
   “Nothin’, Earl. “Another weird dream,” she said.
“Go back to sleep.” She sighed and slumped back on
her pillow.
   Barely awake, he mumbled. “Just memories, like
Lockhart said.”
   “No way,” she crabbed. “Big help you are.” Sheila
lay there with her eyes open. The dream seemed so
real, she thought. They always did.




                          37

				
DOCUMENT INFO
Shared By:
Categories:
Tags:
Stats:
views:0
posted:10/4/2013
language:English
pages:72