CHAPTER ONE

The sleek black limousine pulled up in front of the real estate office. Before the driver had exited the car, the back door opened and a man stepped out.

It was immediately apparent that this man was not native to the small town. The man stood an even six feet tall and wore a very expensive three piece suit and overcoat, much different from the clothes normally worn by most of the people in the town. He held a walking stick that was tipped in silver with a silver handle. His expensive shoes showed little wear; as if they were meticulously cared for.

He glanced around the small town. His jet black hair ruffled slightly as a cold January breeze blew down the main street of the sleepy Texas town. He pulled his overcoat closer to his body. His neatly trimmed mustache gave mute testimony that this man was very conscious of his appearance and spent a great deal of time and care to present the proper look. He appeared to be in his mid-thirties.

The town was unimpressive. Many of the buildings had been built decades ago and were showing the age of the years upon them. A dog barked in the distance and several children could be seen playing in the park near the center of town. According to the information he had learned about the town, the children had the day off from school for some sort of teacher's conference.

"Mr. Garfield?"

The man turned to face the person who had just spoken. He was a short man, barely standing over five and a half feet tall. His sandy brown hair was badly in need of a haircut, and his suit was several years out of date.

"Yes," said the man who had just stepped from the limousine.

"I'm Jeremy Fields," said the sandy haired man. "We spoke on the phone the other day."

"Ah, yes," said the man known as Garfield. He extended his hand. "Anton Garfield. I assume that everything is in readiness?"

"Just as you requested," said Fields.

Anton Garfield's shake was extremely firm. Fields's noticed an elaborate silver ring on Garfield's right ring finger. Made apparently of pure silver, it had a circle with an "X" through it. On the outer side of the circle, where each point of the "X" intersected the circle, was a smaller circle. Around the perimeter of the ring were strange symbols which Fields did not recognize.

Fields escorted Garfield into the real estate office. Fields took a seat behind one of the desks. Garfield took the chair opposite the desk.

Jeremy Fields recognized a man of quality immediately. Anton Garfield was perfectly charming and his manners were impeccable. But he also realized that Anton Garfield was also a man who was used to getting exactly what he wanted.

"Everything is exactly as you requested," continued Fields. "The house is at the edge of town. I'm afraid there wasn't anything which fit your requirements outside the city limit. All the utilities have already been turned on. Lights, water, electricity, everything. And the phone company was out two days ago. You should be able to move right in."

"Excellent," said Garfield. "I'm glad you were able to work so quickly."

"Anyway," said Fields, "it is a two story house. Four bedrooms, a very large living room, and, as you insisted, an oversize basement. The contractors you sent out checked the house over and have assured me that despite it's age, it is in remarkable condition."

"I, too, received a copy of their report," said Garfield. "I'm sure I will be quite happy with it."

He reached into the inside pocket of his coat and removed an envelope. He handed the envelope to Fields.

"I think you'll find this to be satisfactory," he said, handing the paper to Fields.

Fields removed a check from the envelope and looked at it. Rarely had he seen so many zeros on a single check before. He had made more commission on the sale of this one house than he had for the last two years combined.

"Mr. Garfield, there seems to be some mistake," said Fields. "This is nearly twenty percent more than the price we agreed on."

"I've been most satisfied with your services," said Garfield. "I've added a little extra for the additional trouble I'm sure you must have gone through. To accommodate my rather exacting nature. It's just my way of say thank you."

"Well," said Fields, placing the check in his pocket, "while it may sound a bit like a cliche', it's a genuine pleasure doing business with you, sir."

It took only a few minutes to complete the paperwork that would transfer ownership of the house finally to Anton Garfield. When it was finished, Fields handed Garfield the set of keys to the house.

When they left the office, the limousine was gone. In it's place sat a brand new Oldsmobile, the keys hanging in the ignition.

"Now I wonder who owns that?" asked Fields.

"I took the liberty of buying a new car for myself," said Garfield. "I really only use the limousine for official functions and such. Actually, I enjoy driving. But, a man in my line of work doesn't have much time for that. It's one of the reasons I've decided to retire. At least temporarily."

"Retire?" questioned Fields. "Why, Mr. Garfield, I didn't realize you were retiring. I know that you said you had planned to move here, but I didn't imagine it was for that reason.

"To be perfectly honest, there have been rumors going around that you might be bringing one of your business here. Since the military base was closed because of the budget cuts, things have been pretty slow around here. Folks were kind of hoping you would breath some life back into the town."

Fields bit his lip. He hadn't meant to say so much. Since Anton Garfield, one of the richest men in the United States, had announced that he was moving to the town, people all over the community had been speculating on what type of business he would bring with him.

Garfield was something of a whiz kid on Wall Street. He had appeared out of nowhere just over fifteen years ago. His knack for making money had given him the nickname "The Midas of Wall Street." He had amassed more money in those fifteen years than many of the other millionaires in the country had amassed in their entire lives.

"You may relax, Mr. Fields," said Garfield. "I do intend to bring some type of business here. The old military installation is available and I have my people working on purchasing it as we speak. I haven't yet decided what type of business I'll bring, but I can assure you that I plan to bring quite a bit of money into this community. I like the community where I live to prosper."

Fields sighed. Garfield was known as much for being an eccentric as for making money. Fields had worried that he might chase Garfield away with what he had said.

"Now," said Garfield, "if you will excuse me. I think I'd like to go out and look at my new home. And I believe I'll drive around and see what this town has to offer."

"Yes sir, of course," said Fields.

The two men shook hands, then Garfield got into his car and drove away. Fields hurried back into his office to make some phone calls.

The house turned out to be exactly what Anton had wanted. Somewhat secluded from the rest of the town, it sat on a small hill overlooking the town. From this location, Anton would be able to see virtually the entire community from any one of several vantage points within the house.

A police car pulled up next to him as he was looking down into the valley below. A sheriff got out of the car and walked over to him.

"Good afternoon," said the Sheriff. "I'm Sheriff Matthews. You're on private property and I'm afraid I'll have to ask you to move along."

"Sheriff Matthews," said Anton, extending his hand. "I'm Anton Garfield and I've just purchased this property. I'm glad to see that our local constable takes such an interest in safeguarding our property."

"Mr. Garfield," said the Sheriff, shaking the hand. "I'm sorry sir, I didn't know you were due in yet. Ever since Jeremy told me you were buying the place I've tried to keep the kids away. I'm afraid that so many windows make too tempting a target for adolescents with rocks."

"No harm," said Anton. "Boys will be boys, as they say. Besides, I threw a few rocks of my own in my day. I'm sure they didn't mean any real harm."

"All the same," said the Sheriff, "I've tried to keep the property free of any trespassers. 'Course, I can't be everywhere."

"I understand," said Anton. "Sheriff? I would imagine that you know most of the people in town."

"Well," said Sheriff Matthew, "I guess I know most everyone. It's not really that small a community. But I guess you could say I know more than most other people around here."

Anton removed a sheet of paper from his pocket.

"I'm going to be looking to employ some people," he said, handing the paper to the Sheriff. "A housekeeper, gardener, personal secretary. I also have some furniture coming in a few days and I'll be needing some strong backs to help move and arrange it. A few other positions which I have listed on that paper there. I was wondering if you might be able to suggest anyone who would be interested in them?"

"Well," said Matthew, stroking his chin, "there's plenty of people out of work. I guess I could send some people around for you to interview."

"Oh, I don't think that will be necessary," said Anton smiling. "I trust your judgement. After all, you wouldn't be Sheriff if you weren't a pretty good judge of character.

"As for my personal secretary, I was hoping for a young woman. Perhaps someone who may have just graduated from high school recently. I remember what it was like after I had just graduated high school. I was thinking that being a personal assistant to me might help one of the young ladies. I'm told it's very impressive on a resume."

"Well," said Matthew, "there's Tiffany Johnson. She just graduated last year. She had planned to go to college, but I'm afraid her family won't be able to afford it. The base closing has hit people around here pretty hard."

"Very well," said Anton. "And if you could send the people around in two days. Say, about ten in the morning? I'm sure whomever you send will meet with my approval."

"Okay," said Matthew. "I'll make some calls tonight. And welcome to our fair town, Mr. Garfield."

"Please, call me Anton. I hope to become an active member in the community. And I use Mr. Garfield mostly for business purposes."

"Very well, Anton," said Matthew, shaking Anton's hand. "I'll send the people you want over at ten on Wednesday. If there's anything else I can help you with, just call."

"I will," said Anton.

He watched at the Sheriff drove away from the house. A noise around the house caught Anton's attention and he walked around the corner. Several boys stood in the back yard. One young black boy, whose clothes were mussed and dirty, was being pushed around by several bigger boys. Anton watched for several moments, then moved to intervene.

"Come now," he said, pulling the smaller boy away from the bigger ones, "can't we learn to get along?"

"Who are you?" demanded one of the bigger boys. It was clear that this one was the ring leader for the others.

"I am Anton Garfield and I own the property you're standing on. What's the problem here?"

"We ain't done nothing," the boy snapped. "We's just teaching little Tommy here to keep his mouth shut."

"Well," said Anton, eyeing the ring leader, "I'm sure he's learned his lesson. I don't mind you boys being here, but I won't tolerate any violence."

"Oh yeah," said the ring leader. "Well, there's five of us and only one of you."

"Yes," said Anton, staring directly into the boy's eyes, "but it would be a mistake to think that by being alone I would be an easy mark. I can assure you, you would find me more formidable than you could possibly imagine."

The bully stared at Anton for several moments. Suddenly, fear could be seen in the boy's eyes. He turned to the others and said it was time to leave. The five boys ran off over a rise and were out of sight in moments.

"What was that all about?" asked Anton.

"It's just Billy Kreeger," said Tommy. "He's the biggest bully in school. Anyone says anything to him and he beats the shit out of them."

"And you stood up to him, eh?" asked Anton.

"Not really," said Tommy. "He thought I was talking about him. I wasn't, though."

"I see," said Anton. "Well, they're gone now. What's your name?"

"Tommy," said the boy. "Tommy Johnson."

"Johnson?" said Anton. "The Sheriff said he would send a Tiffany Johnson around so that I could hire her as my personal assistant."

"She's my sister," said Tommy. "I heard about you. People say you're rich."

"Well," said Anton, "I have been very lucky. I guess I am. How would you like to earn some money?"

"What do I have to do?" asked Tommy.

"Nothing illegal, I assure you. I notice that this backyard is quite a mess. I'd be willing to pay you if you would clean it up for me. Shall we say, six dollars an hour? I imagine it will take several days to get it into shape."

"Six dollars an hour?" said Tommy.

Anton judged that Tommy was about twelve, and to a twelve year old, six dollars an hour must seem a great deal of money.

"Yes," said Anton. "And if you do a good enough job, I'm sure I can find other things for you to do. Work is good for people, especially growing boys. Perhaps if Billy and his friends had more work to do, they'd be in less mischief."

"I got a friend," said Tommy. "Randy Marsh. Can he help, too?"

"Looking out for your friends," commented Anton. "That is a quality which I admire very much. Very well. Bring Randy with you and you both earn six dollars an hour. And remember. If I am satisfied with your work, you can look forward to having a job for as long as I live here."

"Deal," said Tommy, shaking Anton's hand. Then he ran off down the hill to get his friend.

Yes, thought Anton, this town is going to do nicely. He knew that his "retirement" was going to be everything he had hoped it would be.