Chapter Three: Trouble In River City

      Fred Collins and Joel Thompson, both experts in intelligence and criminal investigation, discovered that Guy Francesco pretty much ran Outlook, having the mayor, the town council members, the local judge, the newspaper editor, and the Outlook police chief in his pocket. While quietly delving into Francesco's web of corruption, they discovered one other interesting fact: The Reverend Mr. Diment was secretly having a torrid love affair with Francesco's young wife. Every Tuesday and Friday at 1 PM, the good pastor and Maria Francesco were going at it in a motel some thirty miles from Outlook.

      This was the break the cooperative members had been looking for in their effort to rid Outlook of corruption. They knew that Guy Francesco was essentially a mafia boss in this small town and that he had a deadly temper.

      Fortunately, the local police deputy had recently been fired because of his fourth DUI, and Joel Thompson hired in his place. In secretly looking through the police files, Joel discovered that Guy Francesco had a permit to carry a gun at all times, a criminal violation that the police chief was keeping hidden. Francesco, in other words, was a ticking time bomb.

      The next Friday at 12:30 PM, Joel called Guy Francesco on a throw-away cell phone while driving alone, informing him in a disguised voice that if he hurried to the Seaview Motel he could "see his wife getting royally screwed." Joel heard Francesco shouting "Who the hell is this?" before Joel hung up.

      From what the group was later able to piece together, Guy had leapt into his red Corvette and raced to the Seaview Motel, discovering the Reverend Mr. Diment's silver SUV as the only vehicle in the parking lot at that unusual hour of the day. Guy had kicked in the door to room 107, taken a quick look at the "beast with two backs," hoisted his .44 magnum revolver and shot the irreverent Mr. Diment five times in the chest, killing him instantly. Guy had the presence of mind to save the last bullet to shoot his harlot-wife in the rump as she lay quivering under the sheet.

      The motel manager placed a 911 call to the Outlook police office at 1:14 PM and the police chief and Joel raced over--siren wailing--to the Seaview Motel. They discovered Guy Francesco in a totally crazed state. He had dragged the body of the Reverend Mr. Diment to the front of the motel room and was in the process of dragging his wounded wife by her hair out to his red Corvette. Joel jumped from the patrol car with his pistol drawn and commanded Guy to let go of his wife's hair and put his hands behind his head and get on the ground. The police chief, panicked to see that his "boss" had just killed someone and was assaulting his wife, told Joel to put his gun away.

      "No, I will not put my weapon down," Joel exclaimed, "and if you persist in allowing this criminal to flee the scene, I will have no option but to arrest you as well!"

      The police chief said he at least wanted to speak to Mr. Francesco and led him back into the motel room and shut the door. Within a few minutes, the police chief and Francesco came out and Joel handcuffed Francesco and placed him in the prisoner seat in the police chief's car. "I'll take the prisoner back to the Outlook lockup." the police chief told Joel, "I want you to remain here and begin your investigation of the crime scene. I'll notify the state troopers immediately."

      Joel looked around to make sure the terrified motel owner was within hearing distance. "If Francesco is not in the lockup when I arrive back in Outlook," Joel said pointedly, "I will immediately inform the state police and the FBI. Do you understand?" The police chief nodded in assent. He was a beaten, terrified man.

      When the police chief's patrol car was out of sight, Joel spoke in a serious voice to the motel owner as he was securing the crime scene.

      "This is a direct order from a police deputy, do you understand?" The frightened man nodded "yes." "You are to go immediately to your office and write down in your own words everything you have seen and heard since before you called 911. Write this out in as much detail as you can, including what you witnessed each person do and say. Understood?" "Yes," the motel owner squeaked, and quickly walked to his office to carry out this order.

      When Joel had taken the police deputy job in Outlook, Fred Collins had called one of his old FBI buddies in the Sacramento FBI office to arrange to meet him the next day. When Fred and Joel spoke with FBI agent William Grant in Sacramento, they informed him of the situation in Outlook. Agent Grant assured them that the FBI was fully aware of Mr. Guy Francesco and they were just waiting until they had enough evidence to convict him. Fred and Joel told Agent Grant to be ready for their call.

      After securing the crime scene, Joel used his police cellphone to call Agent Grant, informing him that Guy Francesco had just committed first degree murder and assault. Joel also informed Agent Grant that the Outlook police chief had tried to stop Joel from placing Francesco under arrest, had corrupted the crime scene, and had said he was taking Francesco in his patrol car alone back to Outlook. Agent Grant assured Joel that FBI agents would be in Outlook and at the scene of the crime within the hour, since it sounded like federal laws may have been broken.

      Joel then called the state highway patrol headquarters to report the crime. He discovered that Chief of Police Reddy had not contacted them.

Trouble, Trouble, Trouble

      As it happened, the state troopers and FBI agents discovered neither the police chief nor Guy Francesco in the Outlook police station, but within four hours the fugitives were arrested by the State Police while driving south on highway 5 toward Los Angeles.

      With what Joel and Fred had managed to discover in Outlook and what the FBI already had on the Francesco crime operation, the mayor, four members of the town council, the local judge, and the editor of the local paper were indicted within several days. After a series of rapid trials, Guy Francesco received twelve and a half years for the murder of the Reverend Mr. Diment, the police chief received six years for aiding and abetting the flight of a fugitive, the local judge was forced out of office, and the four town council members, the mayor, and the newspaper editor received suspended sentences of one year each, plus six months public service.

      When the local newspaper, the Outlook Herald, went into bankruptcy the cooperative decided it would purchase the paper at the fire-sale price the ruined editor-owner was asking. Darby White campaigned for and won the seat for mayor of Outlook, after the old Francesco-tied mayor resigned. Fred Collins became a town council member, along with Diotima Mason and Elizabeth Collins. Joan White won election for local judge. Joel Thompson became police chief of Outlook. The cooperative moved ahead rapidly in its efforts to gain effective control of the town.

To Chapter Four