Historical Note: In 1348, a great mind of the Florentine Renaissance, Giovanni Boccaccio, got to live The Black Death first hand. He survived and the muse sang to him dark music. So much so that he composed a work of short stories that were told over ten days while a fictional group of survivors self-quarantined to avoid Boubonic Plague. While I’m on exile from my office, I’ll see if I can pound out some stories of my own in honor of the scholar and survivor who, along with Geoffrey Chaucer, helped make the short story collection a staple of fictional literature.
Edgar Toller never got told “No.” If the word showed up in anyone’s vocabulary during a conversation with him, that individual was the nail that stuck up too far. It got hammered. In life, you get what you tolerate, or you get what you grabbed. Toller made damn sure he did the grabbing and anyone with the IQ of a rotifer shut the hell up and tolerated.
This worked well for Toller. He got money, property, and sexual favors. He won numerous promotions at work and nobody with a functional brain asked how too loudly. He owned factories, farms, and a great big wine cave. He cut people out of his circle if they only showed up at one of his parties with too poor a quality of Bolivian Marching Powder.
He had no earthly clue how any of his assets actually functioned. He only really understood one big thing in life. He understood the Tupac Shapur Knee-Grow Hypothesis. This went as follows:
Real niggaz do they wanna do, bitch niggaz do what they can
Every time he did what he wanted without regard to custom, decorum, or law. Every time he proved nobody could stop him. Every time he chortled to himself about how he “knocked that other guy’s dick in the dirt.” It was how he proved his own fundamental existence as a sapient being. The ones who had to abide by rules were just NPCs.
Toller had turned Rene DesCartes upon his head. Thinking and dreaming made you nothing. He was ‘cuz he could fvcking do what he wanted. That made him far more of a Real Nigga than Shaun King could ever hope for. That was Philosophy 101 to Edgar Toller.
It had taken him far in what he personally considered the chicken-shit cvntry of Amerika. He enjoyed the image of him contentedly urinating on someone else’s smoldering, dead cadaver the way Ghengis Khan would have after he had forced sex upon that poor loser’s wife and daughters. It was a nice daydream that he found affirming. It bolstered his self-image and was definitional of who he believed himself to be as a human being.
About three weeks after places in Amerika started locking down on account of Wuhan Wipeout, Toller got told “no.” The issue arose with regards to his wine cave. An employee had called an anonymous tip line. Toller had purportedly failed to properly institute social distancing measures in his storage facilities. The Health Department was arriving in forty eight hours. Toller smiled. Challenges like this gave him the opportunity to enjoy being himself. He knew exactly who to call.
He started with his foreman at the cave. He explained that the foreman would inform the workforce they had two weeks to find the anonymous employee and bring him forward if they ever wanted to find productive work in this town again. Failure to identify and bring in the recalcitrant snitch would result in the immediate closure and sale of the wine cave, the firing of the employees, and the inclusion of a negative recommendation for every last one of them if the snitch remained at large.
He then called up Mayor Pedro Estrella. “Mayor Estrella,” He began. “What a pleasure it is to speak with you. Your family is doing well, I hope?”
Mayor Estrella had not risen in politics by misunderstanding threats from evil, malignant sociopaths. Edgar Toller had gone far down the wrongest sociopath that there ever was. This was the sort of person who got off on the killin’. Usually, the killing was metaphorical, but Estrella wouldn’t be shocked if a few of Toller’s old sparring partners had wound up feeding cactus blooms from a shallow, unmarked, grave in a sandy, desert wasteland.
Estrella was on Toller’s pad. So were the sheriffs and both of the local judges. Estrella would lose if Toller’s checks ever went to the opposition. He would also lose if he continued “winning” elections thanks to Toller. Bitch niggas do what they can. Toller went around town doing whatever the heck he wanted. Estrella’s family would be fine and dandy. Once Toller got ROI on some of those campaign checks he’d stroked.
“What can I do for you this morning?” Estrella asked.
“Who do you know in The State Health Department. Dr. Morris, perhaps?”
“Why do you ask, Edgar?”
“They have received an anonymous complaint from someone over at my beverage complex. This happened even after I encouraged my people to be open and honest with me. They informed me that they would be over to inspect my premises in the next forty-eight hours. You can fix this, I assume.”
“I can certainly reach out.” He replied without conviction.
Toller sensed his Mayor’s lack of proper lackeydom and found it disturbing. “We all can reach out, Mayor Estrella. The question is one of of who you can touch. That pretty much is the only one worth considering when dealing with these manners.”
“I’m not sure I truly understand your meaning, Mr. Toller. The Health Department is a State Agency. They tend to get upset over jurisdiction issues.”
“I’d just hate to see them upset. Let’s discuss some census numbers, Mr. Mayor. I employee what percentage of your Blue-Collar, High School Diploma workforce? Twenty-five a few years back. Before I expanded and bought up more shit.”
“And we all congratulate you upon your success, Mr. Toller.” Mayor Estrella replied with an effort to remain patient with this hateful parasite of a human being. If you couldn’t read in this particular city (about what happened with most graduates of this state’s Public High Schools that went no further), then Edgar Toller considered you his human cattle. He wasn’t terribly shy about expressing this either. Estrella found himself mentally praying that Wuhan Wipeout would strike Edgar Toller dead.
“You remember how some Fed Gov guy got all pissy over my H1-B applications, Mr. Mayor?” Toller continued in a lower, less “friendly” tone of voice. The heart-warming comity over how Mayor Estrella’s family was faring had seemingly just stepped out the door for a nature hike. “There was that liquored-up Redneck on The Council you hadn’t properly controlled as well. It was just heart-breaking what happened to his poor son’s pet dog. I expect to buy more effective leadership out of you so those awful things don’t keep happening around town.”
“I will attempt to intercede on your behalf here, Edgar.”
“I have great confidence you’ll do even better. I consider your tenure in office a genuine corporate asset. I’d hate to see it go into decline and have to be dumped at a discounted market rate, Mayor Estrella. So here’s how we can keep this mutually beneficial relationship rolling along.
A wise and capable man like yourself deserves latitude in how he deals with municipal issues. I won’t sweat the minutiae here. I’ll just judge you based on the results you get me with The Health Department. The less I have to do to properly resolve this situation, the more successful I will continue to view your career as one of my investments. That will be all.”
One thing about being Mayor involved the issuance of a cell phone. Not only that, but it was encrypted and Estrella had the Rolodex one would expect from a young and successful politician. The Accounting Firm of Rayford and Hicks was hard at work on a somewhat unusual forensic accounting assignment. This involved prior-year tax filings of a prominent citizen and industrialist. None other than Edgar Toller.
There seemed to be inconsistencies involving the Social Security numbers and payments of unemployment and health benefits to people who no longer worked for Mr. Toller. It was amazing how people who could successfully produce industrial output didn’t legally exist anywhere in The United States when it was time to extend their COBRA Benefits or bill their former employer when these non-existent empty stomachs visited a local Welfare Store.
This worked because Edgar Toller’s employment practices were almost a reverse IQ Test. He didn’t want dumb, he wanted dumber than dirt. People who failed at functional literacy were perfect employees to him. They couldn’t have read The Bill of Rights if you had staple-gunned the sucker to their foreheads. Fair Work Practice litigation might as well have been Quantum Gravity Theory from a boring Physics lecture.
This was until Jonathan Hicks had hired a local PI that did sub rosa work on behalf of the firm to pose as an idiot, get hired, and find a reason to play whistle-blower on Edgar Toller. Wuhan Wipeout had been the pretext to call the state. Now, his plant just had to sink a few roots into Toller’s records. Hopefully, the bugs and WiFi relays he had planted near entry passages and ventilation ducts of the wine cave would get him what he really wanted. Like Al Capone in days of old, Edgar Toller was going to learn not to confornicate with the money guys.
Hicks’ Investigator, Ruddy Stanford, showed up at 5:30 PM. He had taken a good hour to drive from the parking lot of Toller’s facility to the accounting firm. He could have gone direct in 15 minutes. He stopped off instead for some groceries, and then at a drug store pretending that he was picking up a prescription. The subterfuge was to help him spot tails. None had followed him.
Stanford removed his mask as soon as he got indoors. He was the gritty reality of PI work, rather than Phillip Marlowe. He looked more like a Guns’N’Roses Roadie with a bad back than a mystery slueth with a Zoot Suit. “Fvck Toller!” He gleefully announced to Jonathan Hicks. “We’ve got him on tape talking smack about whacking Councilman Franks’ family dog as an intimidation move. Toller never should have done that to The Good Councilman’s best girlfriend. This is straight-up racketeering and intimidation of public officials.”
The Health Department arrived about two hours ahead of schedule. They brought along about three cars of FBI guys and some state and local law-enforcement cavalry. It was a genuine fvck-you parade in honor of Edgar Toller. Mayor Estrella had done his part as well. He had assured Toller the whole thing was taken care of and he had nothing left to worry about.
After about three months of getting worked by the system he had attempted to co-opt and buy, Toller would have a free room at a state hotel. Free catering that just might feature a Ground-Up Glass Souflé if Mayor Estrella felt vindictive enough to call in a few favors here. Edgar Toller wouldn’t have much left to worry about when everyone he had ever violated got their shot at payback.
“Hey Agent Lowery.” A local deputy announced. “We brought a whole box of Simplex we’d enjoy trying out if Toller doesn’t open-up nicely.”
“May not be too much evidence left if that happened.” “Locals.” Lowery thought to himself. It was rare that one of his quarries was so universally detested that the local law enforcement actually meant it when they offered him help. The world wanted Edgar Toller expunged. Lowery’s job was to keep it more by-the-book than say, your typical Yard-Arm Lynching.
Toller was led out in handcuffs. His Mirandizing was like the old movie Spinal Tap. The person yelling it at him had the amps up to 11. Lots of government agencies crawled over several of Toller’s facilities in the following days like beetles. They all had similar windbreaker jackets with Alphabet Soup Agency abbreviations on the backs. They left with IT gear, paper files, and lots of other stuff that they could dutifully consume payroll hours labelling and putting in various plastic bags. Wuhan Wipeout had claimed its first and only victim in a sad and forgotten burg. Such was the tragic downfall of White Tupac Shapur.