“Why do you do that?” Jarrell asked.
“Do what?” Melody asked.
They were tangled up in the sheets after making love. Melody insisted on calling it that “making love”. She said words matter. It seemed a small enough of an idiosyncrasy to Jarrell.
Melody had her left leg thrown over Jarrell’s thighs. Her head was on his chest. Her hair, normally caught up in a simple pony-tail, fanned out over his chest and shoulders. She was gently twirling a lock of of his chest hair with her free hand.
“Touch me” Jarrell said.
“Why do you think I do it?” Melody asked.
“I don’t know. Maybe you are marking your territory?” Jarrell asked.
Melody made a quick frown that Jarrell could not see. She found the idea offensive. “But you are not sure” Melody said.
Jarrell rolled his eyes. He hated the question game. “I am asking, aren’t I?”
“You wouldn’t be doing it in private if it were just a power or a marking-territory thing” Jarrell ventured.
Jarrell could feel Melody’s head nod in agreement even if he could not see the motion.
“Does making love make you feel good?” Melody asked.
What kind of stupid question was that? Making love was fantastic, cosmic, awesome. It was fireworks.
“Yes” Jarrell said.
“Did you ever wish there was a way to make it last longer?” Melody asked.
“Well, now that you mention it, it would be nice if the best parts could last a little longer” Jarrell admitted.
“It does for me when I can keep touching you. Not the VERY most exciting parts, but I can make the golden-afterglow last much, much longer when I can keep touching you. The warmth sinks in deeper” Melody said.
“OK, but when we are out in public?” Jarrell asked.
“Neurons that fire together, wire-together” Melody quoted. “I can resurrect some of this feeling just be pressing my body against you, even when we are wearing clothes. I can feel safe. Safe and protected….” her voice trailed away.
Jarrell was skeptical. He had never heard anything like it.
“I saw things in Southern California before I left” Melody started to say.
Jarrell shifted a little to get more comfortable.
Medody stopped talking, thinking Jarrell was getting up.
“No, go on” Jarrell said.
“Families being gunned down in the streets. Entire church congregations. It was horrible” Melody said. "I SAW IT!"
“But there are no guns in California” Jarrell said, partially tongue-in-cheek.
“The Cartels have every kind of weapon that is in the Mexican Army inventory” Melody stated flatly. “And they aren’t afraid to use them.”
“You know that strain of Covid that broke out in Beverly Hills, the one that was in all the papers?” Melody asked. “It wasn't Covid. It was rich people getting killed by the Cartels.”
“The millionaires thought they could hire enough guards to protect themselves. They thought they could pay the guards enough money to buy their loyalty” Melody said.
“Obviously that didn’t work” Jarrell said, jumping ahead.
“Guards have families. Guards have to go home sometime. Homes and families were threatened. The guards opened the doors for the Cartels” Melody said.
“The millionaires had expensive guns mounted on the wall. Guns engraved with gold inlay. Guns that might cost a hundred-thousand dollars at auction. And they didn’t have a single box of shells in their mansion because they saw the guns as works-of-art” Melody marveled.
“Would you feel safer if I had a gun?” Jarrell asked.
“I would if you knew how to use it” Melody answered, honestly. “I would feel safer if my dad helped you pick one out and trained you until he was comfortable.”
Crap! One more item for the to-do pile.
Charles Toth was on cloud nine. Life was coming together very nicely.
Mr Toth was a money manager in the small market of Pierre, South Dakota. He was an investing icon, dispensing folksy wisdom and investment advice. His returns were often above the Standard and Poor 500, a fact that he attributed to always investing in things he understood and not getting sucked in by the hype. “I am from South Dakota. I buy ‘steak’ and don’t pay extra for ‘sizzle’.”
Mr Toth had a substantial amount of his portfolio in the Vermont-and-Dakota train system. Mr Toth started buying V&D after it had sponged up must of its competitors in the Canada-Great Plains area. That buying spree left the company in dire straights for liquid funds.
Mr Toth saw that V&D had effectively created a monopoly in one of the most over-looked parts of the continent. That area, bounded by Alberta-to-Ontario-to-Illinois-to-Nevada did not have a lot of people but it generated an enormous tonnage of freight that needed to be shipped to market.
Mr Toth loaned the company very large sums of money with the provision that they were backstopped by physical assets like locomotives and the deal sweetened with stock options at a very favorable price.
With the help of Mr Toth’s incredibly deep pockets, and the other investors he brought to the table, V&D survived their liquidity crisis and became the 800 pound gorilla in freight hauling.
Mr Toth then started funding various progressive politicians with the agreement that they would stop various pipelines that moved oil and coal slurry. Pipelines compete with trains. He also “suggested” that Great Lakes freighters and Mississippi river barges were instrumental in spreading invasive species. Toth’s pet Progressive politicians were only too happy to pass legislation making shipment by water far more expensive than shipping by train.
Then the attacks on the pipelines occurred in the eastern part of the US. Suddenly, hauling petroleum and coal was huge business as “obsolete” coal and oil-powered electrical generation plants were reactivated and the demand for those two products skyrocketed.
Not only did V&D's stock price keep up with inflation, but even by the most aggressive estimates of the inflation rate the return on V&D handily exceeded those returns.
That is, until 10:20 AM Central Time when the first reports of trains being derailed hit the New York Stock Exchange. The bad news got worse. Multiple rail lines were impacted. Rigging crews sent to assess the scene were fired on.
Toth was livid. He had agreements in all the right places that this was not going to happen.