The rose colored glasses had begun to come off. All that had seemed to be idyllic was now no more than a dream, long past and fleeting. Hardships, though both girls were still shielded from them, were becoming harder for Michael to hide. But he was determined to keep his business and his family afloat, no matter what the cost. He was determined to fight French Industries tooth and nail.
Hell. He was willing to fight until he destroyed them monetarily. Dirty pool, though, was not his way. An honest man always won in the end. That was his philosophy. And to a certain degree, he was right.
Though it drained the honest man’s reserves, he always came out on top. The dishonest man usually got caught in his foolishness. And the Frenches were suffering worse than his family. Mr. French had poured billions into a losing battle. He had invoked the McCarran act.
Yes, they had begun investigating Michael. But he had nothing to be afraid of. He had nothing to hide. These witch hunts were stupid. They only proved that the populace could be thrown into mass hysteria easily. As was the case with the ridiculous drills they held in the schools.
“Duck and Cover”, they called it. Had the architects not watched the films of Hiroshima? What about the films documenting the destruction of a simulated city? The one they built to study the effects of a nuclear bomb.
“Duck and Cover” would be useless. Papa Venechek would have said that ‘they are as useless as tits on a boar.’ Every child in a school in a city where a bomb was dropped would be instantly vaporized. So would any fool in a half-baked ‘fallout’ shelter.
Hell. Everything for at least fifty miles radius from ground zero would be vaporized. Some even estimated the instant ash area to reach approximately one hundred to two-hundred miles in diameter, in every direction. Everything beyond that would be poisoned by fallout. Building shelters and stocking up on provisions was useless. If you weren’t killed by the bomb, you would die in the chaos that happened afterward.
But Americans, in general, were foolish enough to listen to the rhetoric. Greg and Charles had admitted as much. Mislead the people, make them feel safe or unsafe, and you-as a politician-could control them. Inform them of the truth, and you were screwed. The McCarran Act and ‘Duck and Cover’ fed upon that.
But he was not the only one French was after. Many of those who made up the community posed a threat to the French family, either through business or through knowledge that would destroy them. Most of the children from those families hung out together. Played together. Were friends.
Iris, Maddie, Stacy–these were just three. All hung out with Natalia. The Macklers had been neighbors to the Morrows since Michael had been a child. Iris’s father had been his best man. Hell. They had been best friends growing up.
Maddie Dennis’s father had also been one of Michael’s support team at his wedding, as had Stacy Falco’s father. Torrance McCrae, Samuel Callum, and Roger Fykes were also part of Michael’s inner circle. Hell. Half the town was behind him.
And all were pooling their resources to fight French together, as a single force. Together, they believed they could destroy him. At least, that was their hope. And it seemed to be working.
Every day, more allies began filing in. Those who remained distant, did so out of ambivalence. Or apathy. Many were just too scared to take a stand. These, French would make examples of. They would be the first to fall.
Michael knew this. It didn’t matter whether you were a judge, a priest, a lawyer, or a doctor. If French perceived you as a threat or an obstacle, you were going to fall. His greed outweighed his common sense.
If you were a Jew, an African American, or any color but white, he went after you. Hell. If you were Irish, he hated you. That was how the Frenches were.
Hateful. Greedy. Selfish. Conniving. Evil.
The list of words that described them went on without end. Michael knew that if they did not stop him, Des Moines would have very few people left. And they could not have that. The Frenches had to be stopped, no matter what the cost. They had to fall. Hard.
As French built momentum, it seemed his boy was at the center. Anyone who had sense enough to stand up to Tobias was summarily ripped to shreds and fed to the inquisition board formed by French and what few allies he had. Charges were created to match the outcry against communism. The trials were farces.
Soon enough, though, French even began feeding upon his allies. Those who had sought to avoid being preyed upon, were also beginning to find themselves as prey. One small word out of place and they became suspect. French had become paranoid. And that paranoia built to a fever pitch. Mr. French was swiftly becoming the very thing he ‘sought’ to abolish. He had usurped the mayor’s office. He had jailed those who opposed his will, those who had been in office just days before.
Those who’d imposed higher taxes upon him, or served his with fines found themselves being accused of trying to implement communist agendas. Slowly, his allies began becoming enemies. And a man with a lot of enemies has very little power. Or very little time left.
Those who forsook French secretly came to talk with Michael. Secretly, they all wrote and signed a letter both admitting their guilt and exposing French for the coward he truly was. The evil little man’s time of power was just about over. But not yet.
This was only the beginning. Michael only feared that there would be no one left by the time breaking French was necessary. At the moment, he hoped that the man would trip himself up. He hoped for a miracle. Something to teach Toffer French a lesson. But how was another matter.