The Man With Three Wives: 1.03

Vicky’s boss discovers the Feds are very interested in their new customer. He sends her to investigate. Maybe Vicky should run away, instead.


If Fortek represented an explosive situation, it was on a long fuse. Two weeks went by without so much as a whisper about him. Meanwhile, Julie continued giving advice about life. Vicky had no doubt its purveyor considered all of her words to be wisdom. Vicky also noticed that most of it blew on by without much notice. A large part of it appeared to be that no matter how she tried, Paul Fortek stayed on her mind. She couldn’t figure out what would make him memorable. The man was a walking disaster, inviting calamity on everyone and everything in sight.

In a spare moment, she did a search on the address he gave in Omaha. There was a building at the address. She got a street level view and saw that it was a doggie day care. As far as she could tell by looking at the place, there was no way a person lived there. Vicky’s timing was precise since Roger walked into her office just then. Vicky showed him what she found. Roger had some news of his own.

“We can add that to the laundry list. It seems that Mr. Fortek suddenly came up with specific things to go into the offer. Chief among them was that he was to take immediate possession of the property. Even more intriguing was the fact that the seller was willing to do it. That might be beside the point. He moved into a run-down house on the corner of the property that night.”

Vicky shook her head. “All that says is that the man didn’t have a home and didn’t care to buy a motel room while the deal went through.”

“The house on the property is so bad that he’d have been better off sleeping down beside the lake. There are no utilities. The night he went out there, the strange lights everybody’s been seeing moved there as well. I sent the notification, and here’s something else for your laundry list. Ordinarily, the Feds would take one to six months even to reply. They started having satellite and drone observation the very next day.”

“That only means he’s not an illegal immigrant. If that were the case, they’d just wave him through and tell him where to get benefits.”

“We’re not going there. Something is going on that merits all this attention. Fortek is our customer. Right now, we’re flying blind. I need to know what’s going on. You signed him up, Vicky. You get to go check it out. In any case, Rhonda tells me the road into the place is pretty bad. You’ve got a four-wheel drive truck. From what Rhonda tells me, my little car wouldn’t have a chance. This trip being bank business, I’ll reimburse your mileage.”

“Are you telling me to go right now?”

Roger nodded, and he wasn’t smiling. “I shouldn’t have to mention the need to invent a bank reason for going. He is not to know about the surveillance. Here are the directions.”

Vicky sighed as she grabbed a few forms. These were not required forms. If Fortek didn’t know the difference between a business and personal account, he would have no way to know about whether these were needed or not. She grabbed her purse and headed out the door. It wasn’t until she got outside and down the street that she started cussing out Roger. The stream of invective continued the entire way to see the walking disaster. Other than the rudimentary driveway, her boss could have done this even in his happy little car.

It was a good thing she didn’t need four-wheel drive to get in. The kind of vehicle she could afford was not in good or even fair shape. Fortunately, the basic two-wheel drive was adequate for nearly all of her needs. When the highway got too bad, she stayed home. Bouncing along the heavily rutted track, Vicky saw Rhonda’s doubts about Roger being able to drive it. He would have had to walk. Since it was a long driveway, he would have gotten a lot of dust on his Italian loafers. Vicky thought it would be good for him. Going through a particularly large pothole toward the end, Vicky heard something pop and grind. She figured it was probably a U-joint. They told her the things were on borrowed time the last time she had it in the shop. Somehow, the truck kept going to the front of a ramshackle place. Roger described it accurately.

Vicky didn’t have any time to look at the house since Paul Fortek was almost immediately beside the truck.

“You are the lady from the bank,” he observed.

She nodded. “We discovered a couple of forms you need to sign. I have them here.”

In the past two weeks, Paul managed to swap the funny straw costume hat for head gear from the co-op. “That was not a good sound coming from your vehicle.”

Vicky found herself adopting Paul’s odd speech mannerisms. “It was not good. The U-joint broke.”

“I will look,” he said and then stopped. “First, I will sign your forms.”

“That would be good.”

She got out, placed the forms on the truck fender, and handed him a pen. After signing, he slid under the truck. Vicky could not imagine Paul or anybody else, for that matter, being able to get the truck able to run. It wasn’t long before he came out from under the truck.

“It is the U-joint. You were nice to me. I will take care of it for you.”

Vicky considered he had a low threshold for what constituted being ‘nice.’

“This will take a little while. You should sit on the porch in the shade. You asked what I intended to do. The first part is in the area across from the house. It is the amaranth. I have a way to make the plants grow faster so they will be ready before the winter comes.”

She was had reservations about the stability of the porch but went there in spite of everything. After she sat down, Vicky did look at the planted area, which looked like about five acres. It was impossible, but in two weeks, he had cleared that amount of land and planted the amaranth. Not only that, the field was fully sprouted and a foot tall. As far as she recalled, the plants should just be germinating, even assuming he got the field ready and planted the day after he moved in.

The Feds might have many reasons for keeping an eye on this situation. Vicky thought she just figured out one of them. If Fortek could have mature seed pods by the first frost, he would have pulled off a horticultural miracle. From that standpoint, it wouldn’t matter where he came from. For that matter, the source of his funds ceased to have anything like the importance anybody thought. Quinoa in the springtime and amaranth in the fall meant two high-protein crops from a single field. Amaranth, she recalled, could produce a thousand pounds of seed per acre. As a bonus, the leaves were eatable.