Chapter 52

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As Zandra comes to learn, Chris wasn't out to get her from the beginning. He genuinely wanted to produce and pitch a TV show called, Cheesehead Medium. That is, up until the point Dvorak spotted him and his crew in the van conducting surveillance on his house. Things changed quickly after that.

Dvorak, ever the most gentlemanly of the assholes, decided it better not to rough the producer up. It's far more sporting, he relates to Zandra in the living room inside the house, to make a convert. The camera crew took off, upset with their boss about the inordinate amount of bullshit attached to this job, but Chris stayed behind.

"I had my guys go fetch your files," Dvorak says as he paces between the stacks of paperwork. "Then we all sat around and had a nice, long chat."

A pair of rough hands keeps Zandra pinned in place on a couch. She notes the absence of her lawnmower knife, but there are plenty of pistols stuffed in the waistbands of Dvorak's miscreant buddies.

"You're a total fraud, Zandra. I could understand you bending the truth about yourself a little bit, or embellishing certain details, but this? This is something else," Chris says. He sounds dead. "You kept files on every single one of your clients. For years, you collected what I guess I'll call blackmail material on people in Stevens Point, some of them you've never even met."

But did you read what David left behind all those years ago? The evidence that Gene Carey's insurance company lies, cheats and steals to defraud claimants and collect a kickback?

Zandra remains silent. She won't give Dvorak the pleasure of watching her squirm, even if she knows he knows this is the end of her future career. Good-bye TV show. Good-bye book deals. Good-bye product endorsements. She might as well kiss the condo good-bye while she's at it.

It's not so much the money she won't be making that upsets her, though. It's having fought so hard to get to this point only to watch it dissolve so that some asshole, Dvorak, can build a career off of her downfall. She'll go back to living by herself in the shitty apartment and eating canned beans for supper while he cements his reputation over the top of her grave. Gene will inevitably find some way to make it all worse, somehow turning her back into Stevens Point's most renowned villain. People will forget all about how she found little Elle Carey. It's incredible how quickly people want to destroy the very things they build up. They'll burn her like the Library of Alexandria, like a witch.

I'm at my breaking point.

Zandra eyes a pistol. It's so close. She could reach out and grab it, but she doesn't know where she'd point it: at Dvorak or at herself.

I could be with you again in the blink of an eye, David. I can't go back to that loneliness, that isolation, that persecution, if I don't have something to look forward to anymore. I can't do it anymore.

"Take this one, for instance. It's dated only a few years ago," Chris says. He reads from a piece of paper with Zandra's handwriting on it. "Sam Rockwell. Works at Green's Concrete as an accountant. Forty or so years of age. Frequents motel known for human trafficking and underage prostitution. I left cards offering discount psychic reading at his office on July 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12. He finally came in Aug. 15. After tarot reading revealed his transgressions, I received $5,612 in cash to remain quiet."

I remember him. Real piece of shit.

"Not only did you stake him out beforehand, you kept quiet about a serious crime in exchange for money? That's terrible. What kind of person are you?" Chris says.

That's $5,612 he didn't spend on prostitutes. I tailed him for another week. He never went back to that motel. He was scared shitless. I told his wife about it anyway in an anonymous letter. Now he lives in a car parked in his friend's driveway. He's broke and working shit jobs. Green's Concrete fired him shortly after the divorce. Good riddance.

"Or how about this one? It's a real gem," Dvorak says in his smarmy, holier-than-thou tone. He flips open a notebook. "Rebecca Jones. Retired. Widow. Early 70s. Grows something more than vegetables in her garden, probably because she's bored and sad. Obtained marijuana plants after finding them in her grandson's apartment. Grandson had recently killed himself accidentally via autoerotic asphyxiation. I overheard this at the funeral. Attended to get dirt. People open up, let their guards down, at funerals, and they're open to the public. I pretended I was an old school teacher. I offered my services to contact the deceased grandson. She took me up on it, which is when I revealed what I knew about the pot plants. Received $173 in cash. Not much, but she's living off of Social Security. She complained and cried a lot. UPDATE: Rebecca died in her sleep a month after the reading. Heart attack."

"You're disgusting," Chris says to Zandra after Dvorak finishes reading from the notebook.

Without the container of professional opportunities to keep her in check, Zandra feels the hate she harbors for Stevens Point roar back to life. It never left. She'd only managed to distract herself with her newfound celebrity.

What you don't know about Rebecca is that she was one of the religious nuts protesting outside my home after David died. She's culpable in the death of my unborn child. Fuck her and her grandson. Fuck this town, too.

A tremor cascades through Zandra. The hands on her shoulders press her harder against the couch.

"Yeah, you better be afraid. If this gets out, you're looking at a long time in prison. The statute of limitations isn't up on some of these," Dvorak says.

I'm not shaking because I'm afraid, you idiot.

"Everything is off, Zandra, but you already know that. I can't pitch a TV show knowing this," Chris says and shakes his head. "William, or Dvorak as you call him, he offered to pay me to film this showdown thing coming up. I'm going to take him up on it. I think he's right. You need to be taken down."

Good riddance to Chris, too. He was always an opportunist, whoring himself out to the highest bidder.

"You're still doing the showdown, by the way," Dvorak says and thumps a finger on Zandra's sternum. "I could bring these files down to the police department right now, then deliver you myself to the authorities. You wouldn't stand a chance."

"So do it," Zandra says in a croak.

Dvorak smiles. "Not yet, my dear Zandra. You forget that I need this showdown to introduce the world to my technology. Without you there to obliterate, there's no reason for anyone to show up."

You're smarter by half, Dvorak.

"Let's say I don't feel like coming," Zandra says.

"You put on a good show, give the media something to write about, I'll give you a bit of money to make the experience of rotting away in Stevens Point a little more comfortable," Dvorak says. "It's either that or a one-way trip to jail. Your choice."

Zandra wonders if Dvorak considered a third option, the one where she departs this earthly plane for the next. Dvorak will turn those files into the police regardless of what happens at the showdown. Seems pointless to go through with it. Or does it?

I didn't come this far to fail this hard. If I'm going down, I'm bringing as many people with me. That includes Dvorak. He doesn't know about Diana. Neither does Chris.

I will be this town's reckoning. For David. For my child. The sinners have walked free for too long. They created this hell for me. It's time to lie in the beds they made. It's time for Stevens Point's undoing.

"I'll give you a show, Dvorak," Zandra says and stretches a wide grin that hurts her cheeks. "I'll give you one hell of a show."

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