“Affluent citizen in distress! Affluent citizen in distress! Elmo! Where the hell are you?” The wipers strained to push the thick, wet snow across the truck’s windshield. “I think we’ve got a live one here. *** I can spot ’em a mile away. This guy’s good for a fifty, at least.”
The voice belongs to Big John Kaboshiwicz, snow-plow jockey, small-time shakedown artist, and long-time public employee in the City’s Department of Public Works. John’s about to lower the boom on another hapless taxpayer. Grease John’s palm and you’ll get your driveway cleared, your dead battery jumped or your backed-up sewer cleaned. Fail to come up with the scratch and you go to the back of the line. Or worse.
That’s the way the D.P.W. works in this town. John rules his corner of it like a tin-pot dictator. Sure, he’s crooked. But aren’t we all? Besides, John’s only looking for nickels and dimes. He’s no bloodsucking banker, no Wall Street speculator, no corporate fat-cat, no greedy political hack. He’s just a little guy trying to do his job, make a buck, and keep everyone happy.
Until the target letter lands on his desk. It’s from the United States Attorney. All of a sudden, John’s in the cross-hairs of a high-profile federal grand jury probe into municipal corruption.
Stunned, scared, angry, John asks, “Why me?” Sure, he’s got his fingers in the till. But he’s a nobody. Why make a federal case out of him? Why not go after the real crooks, the big guys?”
John runs for help to his former supervisor and mentor, Merkle, a strange, shriveled old man who lives alone in a run-down shack back in the D.P.W.’s equipment yard. Merkle explains that John’s a target precisely because he is small.
His back against the wall, John vows to save himself by becoming the biggest crook he can be. But how?
Merkle tells him. He teaches John about the Four Rules that make men big. He reveals three. But he holds back the Fourth Rule. John, he says, isn’t ready for it.
But three are enough. John plunges ahead, grafting and stealing more and more. The Feds back off. Merkle’s rules seem to work.
Then the roof caves in. The Mayor calls John on the carpet for thousands of dollars worth of missing D.P.W. equipment. John’s close to panic when a chance encounter reveals the Fourth Rule.
The last secret in hand, John turns the tables on the Mayor. Cobbling together forgotten city garbage ordinances and new federal anti-terror statutes, John convinces His Honor to create an elite team of environmental commandos within the D.P.W., the D.P.W. Special Forces, under John’s command and fully-funded by the Department of Defense.
John launches a wave of green terror across the City, bashing polluters, beguiling the media, seducing the environmental activists. But, at the same time, he’s overwhelming the opposition, undermining the Mayor, and lining his pockets.
And, wherever John goes, Merkle is always close by, lurking in the shadows, his withered finger in everything.
How far can John go? Will Washington cut off his cash? Will the D.O.D. take back his military weapons? Will the U.S. Attorney prosecute him? Will Big John become the biggest man in town?
What will happen when John gets his paws on a quantum super-computer? Can anybody stop him?
Who is Merkle?
Find out. Madcap laughter sugar-coats the chills and thrills torn from today’s political craziness in D.P.W.: A Devilish Political Fantasy. Read it today.
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