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Jason Albright frowned at his boss, Stanley Williams, in the expansive office with the smog’s eye view of Houston, Texas on an uncharacteristically cold February day.  Williams, sitting back in his swivel chair with cowboy-booted feet crossed carelessly on his desk, was regarding his security head disdainfully.  The contrast between these two powerful men was acute—the pudgy, slouching executive and the athletic, crewcut section head in charge of security for A.D. Bezdyk.

“I still don’t agree with monitoring phone conversations or mail of our employees, Stan,” Albright said disapprovingly as he waved a handful of copies of letters and telephone recordings at the truculent executive.  “This isn’t the first time you’ve pulled this kind of crap.  And look what it got you—zip.  What this phone conversation and letters we picked up between our Corey Porter in the Boston office and that guy who called her—a Richard Zacharias—mean is that he is interested in learning about what we might be doing in energy development related to alternative energy—and from a political aspect at that. 

“Energy research is his field, and it sounds like he’s just looking for information he can use to help him evaluate a potential research program—he teaches at the University of Washington and does a little research.  I say forget it, there’s nothing here we need to worry about.  Hell, as far as I know, we’re not even into alternative energy, unless something came out of that hush-hush meeting you had a couple of weeks ago with all those oil and coal execs.  Mrs. Porter did call him back, but she wasn’t able to come up with the kind of information he was looking for.  Best as I can tell, she stopped looking further.  And another thing,” he added, “I found out that this guy served in Vietnam the same time I did.  He’s a decorated vet—Silver Star—and they don’t give those things away to just anybody.  Leave them alone.”

“Screw him,” retorted Williams, “hell, I’m just as much a patriot as you think he is.  You don’t have to risk your life or your health in the military to be a patriot.  See this flag pin in my lapel?  It means I’m a patriot, supporting my president and our troops.  My work was too valuable to the nation’s good to waste my time in the military when I might have served in Vietnam.  If those niggers and wetbacks that were drafted hadn’t been off fighting in the military they’d have been selling drugs on some street corner, or on welfare.  Hell, they did them a favor, drafting them and getting them off the streets.  Anyway, even if you can’t find out any dirt on this Zacharias person, our friends in AGRA (he was referring to the American Gun Rights Association—the gun lobby) and over at WanChem have some stuff on him that goes back to Vietnam—we can use that if we need to keep him quiet.”

Quiet about what? The security chief was wondering.  What is he worried about him finding out?  As Williams was delivering this rant, Jason’s eyes strayed over his head to the mount of a magnificent white-tailed deer with a huge rack hanging on the wall—the de rigueur macho fixture in oil exec’s offices in Houston.  He remembered the weekend Williams “bagged” the buck at a posh hunting club south of San Antonio.  Williams had insisted that Jason come along as his personal security—“I’ve made a number of enemies here and there and I don’t want any accidents,” had been Williams’ justification. 

Arriving at the “ranch,” Jason had been stunned by the extravagance of the “lodge.”  Every guest room had a thick shag rug, designer furniture, a fully-equipped bar, a hot tub, and a large TV.  Every evening, if desired, the guests had access to “bag bunnies,” girls who would show up at night for whatever favors were required.  Jason remembered that Williams had availed himself to the bunnies every evening, asking for, and getting, a different one each of the three nights he was there.  For Jason, the kicker had been the “deer hunt.”  At dawn, the “hunters” were driven in ATVs to the blinds—air-conditioned boxes 20 feet above the Texas scrub.  After the hunters climbed ladders to get inside the boxes, at regular intervals a ping would sound, and several pounds of food pellets would be dispersed from feeders to the ground in a circle under the box.

Trained to the chow call, deer of all sizes would come running.  All the hunters had to do was select their trophy and “bag it” when it stopped under the box to feed.  Most deer were killed at a distance of 25 feet or less.  On the morning of his hunt, Williams had been so hung over from the night before that the guide actually had to shoot the deer for him.  And Jason remembered with disgust how Williams had crowed with pride when he had his trophy hung on the wall behind his desk months later, regaling his co-workers with an outlandish tale of how he had stalked the deer through the Texas bush for hours, then made an incredible shot that astonished the guide.

Jason was brought back from this recollection by Williams’ wrap-up to the conversation.  “And regarding whether this guy’s interests are harmless, maybe yes, maybe no,” Williams grunted as he uncrossed his legs and swung his feet off the desk, planting them on the floor.  “But I want you to make sure.  Keep monitoring any contacts he has with Mrs. Porter —I’ll make arrangements to have his phone and mail monitored.”  Discarding the soggy unlit cigar he had been chewing, he took another out of a humidor on his desk, stuck it in his mouth and bit down on it.  He didn’t disclose to Jason that he knew Zack and Corey very well, from high school days.

“What are you, nuts?” exclaimed a peeved Albright.  “Monitoring communications between one of our employees and another person who doesn’t even work for us?  I can’t even begin to tell you how many laws you’re breaking.  There’s nothing either of them can find out that can hurt us.  What do you think you are, some kind of private investigator, trying to catch them in an affair?  We don’t do that kind of stuff."

“We do if I say so, and I say so.  Your major concern is preventing security breaches, and that includes information.  You aren’t privy to everything that we do, and if I say there could be information we don’t want out there, your job is to make sure it isn’t.  Understood?” he added, slinging the unlit stogy around in his mouth with his tongue and scowling.  “You just make sure I know everything that goes on between them, and I’ll decide if what you find out is important and needs attention.  Got anybody up to the job?”

“Stilton would do,” the security chief replied sardonically.  “He works out of the Boston office and I don’t think he has much in the way of scruples.  He’s always fancied himself as a G-man type.  He doesn’t have a military or law enforcement background, but I don’t imagine spying on a couple of innocents would present much of a challenge.  He does look sort of nondescript—no one could possibly mistake him for even a gumshoe.  You’d better let me screen the info he provides though, or you’ll be buried under a pile of meaningless drivel.”