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There was nothing in Bermoose that interested me except for its potential. This place prided itself on having a movie theater with dining. That consisted of pizza and beer and some old B-movie most people never heard of. The biggest attraction was the strip club and that would be short-lived once I got my hands on it. Hell, it might be closed permanently already. I just hoped it wasn’t stuck in some probate court, because that could take years to sort out. If that was the case, I was fucked. That club sat right in the middle of my plans.

Taking a seat at the counter, I replied, “Business.”

She rolled her eyes. “Don’t you think you own enough of Bermoose? I mean, you buy it, and knock it down. When are you going to build something useful?”

I chuckled. She was very outspoken, and I’d tell her to treat her customers a bit…nicer, but from what I saw, I was the only one she gave shit to. Guessing, I’d say she was close to fifty and had come to the point where she didn’t want to hear any of my bullshit.

“What would you suggest I build?” I asked, picking up the menu idly. I always got the same thing. A burger and fries. What I wanted was a nice steak. It might be on the menu, but I never saw anyone order it, and that was enough of a warning for me.

She stood there tapping her pencil on the order pad and said, “Let me think for a minute.” I put the menu down and waited. Finally, she said, “A shopping mall would be nice. You know, one with those big chain stores in it.”

I almost choked. At no point did I expect her to blurt out exactly what I had planned. Was it possible someone had let it slip? There were only a few people - my lawyers and a developer - who knew the details. I trusted them both. Then again, everyone had a price.

As though it was the first time I’d ever thought of such a thing I asked, “A mall? Here in Bermoose?”

She wrinkled her nose and said, “Stupid. I know. But a woman can dream. I mean just think about it. I have to drive almost three hours to do real shopping.”

Listening to this was only fueling my fire to get that last piece of land. “Three hours is a long ride to shop.”

“Yes, it is. See, there ain’t no easy way there. I have to go up, over, and then down to get there.”

Up, over, and down?Those were odd directions, but if I didn’t take a chopper to Bermoose, I’m sure my drive wouldn’t be much different. “But you go anyway?” I asked.

She nodded vigorously. “You bet your bottom I do. Otherwise, I end up wearing what everyone else does. There ain’t no way I’m showing up at church wearing the same dress as Mrs. Brown.” Her lips pursed as though the two had been in competition for years. “I don’t care if I have to drive five hours.”

“I can see now why you suggested a mall,” I said, forcing a smile. This was not getting me the information I needed.

“I guess I shouldn’t complain. There are towns that have it worse than we do. They come into Bermoose and you’d think that we’re the big city. Crazy how everyone wants what someone else has.”

“Yes. Life is…funny like that sometimes. I heard some…distressing news about one of your long-term residents from here.”

“You must be talking about Carl Worth. I tell you no one has talked about anything else for the past week.”

“Really? Why is that?” I couldn’t believe I was resorting to encouraging gossip.

“Well, because he died so suddenly. I’m sure living the life he did, didn’t help any,” she snorted.

“I’m sure his family was in shock as well. Do they…live here in town?”

Shaking her head, she said, “In Errol. You know, one of those small towns I was telling you about.”

“Guess they’re going to close the place then. I mean, can’t run a business from that far away.” I hope.

In a low voice she said, “Not that I like to gossip or anything, but you’d never believe what I heard.”

Please tell.“I won’t say a word.”

“He left everything to his niece. She’s just out of college and hasn’t been around for years, but she gets it all.” With a sigh, she added, “At least that means she’ll probably sell that place. I mean, after all, Bermoose doesn’t need a…a….place like that.”

I could’ve burst out laughing, because it seemed to do very well in a place like this. If it hadn’t, Carl would’ve sold it to me when I asked.

“So this…niece. Is she still in Errol?” I asked.

“I hear she is here in Bermoose. Her car was seen at the club a little while ago, but you know, it could just be a rumor.”

So far, those rumors were all playing in my favor. “Well, if you see her, could you tell her I’d like to speak to her?” I said, pulling out my business card and handing it to the waitress.

She looked it over and said, “I’m not sure. I don’t like to butt into other people’s business.”

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