Planet Earth Protectors, The River's End

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49 NOT JUST YOUR AVERAGE COTTAGE

The décor inside the little cottage was as simple as the outside was rustic. The walls and ceiling of the cabin revealed exposed beams made from actual tree trunks.

“Is this your office?” Teplan asked, standing beside Terah on an old wicker mat inside the front door.

Ian approached the next room, wrapped his arm around the wall as if to turn on the light, and said, “Yes, Teplan, this is one of our regional offices.”

Teplan and Terah looked around timidly.

A couch, a chair, and an old rickety coffee table sat on a dusty, old brownish rug. An old, round wooden table with two chairs tucked under it sat alone in the kitchen.

“Well? What are you two waiting for?” He motioned for them to approach the open closet door in the kitchen.

“You want us to hide in the closet?”

“I guess it does look like that Teplan, yeah,” Ian chuckled.

The two made their way to Ian and sure enough, inside the kitchen closet was what looked like an elevator awaiting its next group of passengers.

“You didn’t think we could run a regional office from a tiny little cottage like this did you?” Ian asked, gesturing for them to step inside the elevator. Teplan quickly led the way and Terah, reluctantly, followed.

After a few seconds, the elevator doors cracked opened to a whole new world. The huge room before them was filled with hustle and bustle of men and women busying about determinedly. Control panels, computer screens, and desks flashed with activity. Some people had headphones on while looking at computer screens; others stood with their arms folded across their chests looking at a giant computer screen that went from the floor to the ceiling. Still others were sitting around a glass table so they could watch the screen while they were talking.

“Welcome! We’ve been waiting to meet the two of you,” said a woman sitting closest to the elevator. “We’ve been monitoring what you’ve been up today. I have to say, you guys are lucky to have gotten out of that pig farm! Your effort, your instincts and your luck did you quite well today. Have a seat,” she motioned for them to sit at the table in front of her.

Ian leaned over, “I kept The Planet Earth Protectors up to date on things today.”

A middle-aged man, sitting on the other side of a thick brass railing that separated their table from a bunch of computers, spun around in his chair. “Hi, I’m Mr. Kowalczyk. I’ve been with The Planet Earth Protectors for over 40 years. You two did remarkable things today. You gave Ian video footage today involving a company that’s been polluting land and river for a long time. We’ve been trying to gather evidence against these guys ever since they opened. The problem is they pay the right people a lot of money to bend the rules. And this isn’t their only farm either. We’ve suspected them of buying Clean Soil Certificates for a while, but haven’t been able to prove it. And now, we can see it on video, thanks to you two!”

“Glad to help,” Teplan said.

Mr. Kowalczyk got up from his workstation, walked around the railing and sat down at their table. “The first video you took is of two men talking. One of them is Mr. Paulton, a Soil Sampler from the government. The bigger man is the owner of the pig farm, Mr. Van Houttei. It shows Van Houttei buying what looks like a Clean Soil Certificate from Paulton, which is very illegal, not to mention immoral. Unfortunately, the Certificate cannot be fully seen… So, it doesn’t give us the proof we need — 100% without a doubt. Your video is great for our own files, though.”

Mr. Kowalczyk paused and looked around the table to confirm that everyone was listening.

“Another problem is that Van Houetti will say you two were trespassing and this video shouldn’t be allowed in court. Anyway, we need to make sure our whole story is airtight. Van Houetti is very rich and determined to keep business as usual, that’s for sure. Today, you two exposed him a bit and he is not happy about that at all. I want you to know that The Planet Earth Protectors thank you for your courage and we are dedicated to protecting you.”

Teplan and Terah sat wide-eyed and muttered, “Thank you.”

“Why do they pollute, anyway?” Terah injected.

“Unfortunately, in this case, it costs less money to pollute than it does to do things right,” Mr. Kowalczyk replied as he looked around the room, “and Van Houetti is the type of man that seems to not care about anything but himself. So, you can see how important it is to him to keep his secret, a secret.”

“This video you guys just got does show that the storage pools are lower than they were earlier, indicating that the contents of the pools were sprayed on the fields. But, we can’t prove they didn’t remove any sludge during the time between the first video and second video. So, unfortunately, these videos could be argued against because it’s dark and tough to compare it to what it looks like during the day.” Mr. Kowalczyk noted the disappointment on their faces and continued, “I know you two worked hard today and even risked your lives to get this proof and you did incredibly well! Amazingly well! Just getting in and out of that farm is amazing. And twice is even more amazing!”

Teplan sat dejected. “So, none of the videos will prove anything? We know the river beside the big pig farm is polluted at 700,000 ppm; we know the pollution is coming from the river bank that is on the side of the river where the farm is and that they spray the sludge all over the fields, and we still can’t prove it’s them?”

Mr. Kowalczyk replied in a calm voice, “I’m sorry to say it, but that is correct.”

Teplan’s leg bounced repeatedly as he tried to make sense of it all.

“What about the scary men that have been chasing us all day? They must think the video would do something, right?” Terah asked.

“Well,” said Mr. Kowalczyk, “to their reputation, yes, but they have so much money that they could just buy a huge marketing campaign that would change people’s minds. But they will still want the videos back, for sure.”

Teplan and Terah stared at the table.

Mr. Kowalczyk added reassuringly, “We’ll contact the pig farm, give them the videos and tell them to leave you two alone. We’ll also tell them that we’ll be watching over you and them . . . We’re just going to have to find another way to stop them.” His words hung in the air like fog and Teplan was choking them down.

Disappointment took hold of Teplan’s and Terah’s faces. Camouflaged in the chairs by their oversized tracksuits, their heads hung low.

Ian broke a long moment of silence with a quiet and a slow voice, “I’ll take you two home; you’re parents are worried sick.” He pushed the chair back as he stood up.

Mr. Kowalczyk did the same. “Here is a small token of our appreciation for what you two did today,” he said, handing them a small key chain with the Planet Earth Protectors emblem on it. “This is an honorary symbol of your membership in the Planet Earth Protectors. Every PEP agent has one, and as you two did so much today, you deserve it. It has a few gadgets in it, so be careful. You are both welcome back anytime and there will always be a job for you two at The Planet Earth Protectors when the time is right, okay?” Mr. Kowalczyk said.

Teplan sat up in his chair, studying the key chain, “This is great, thanks.”

“Yeah, thank you very much Mr. Kowalczyk,” Terah added, rolling it around in her hand. Ian led everyone out the way they came in. They made their way up through the kitchen closet, out the quite cottage and back into Ian’s truck.

“Let’s get you two home,” Ian’s voice said through the speakers. “And hey, even if the big pig farm won’t be stopped right now, you should be proud of yourselves; you did a great job.”

“Thanks, Ian,” Teplan mumbled.

“We’ll be at your house pretty soon. You should get a good night’s sleep and we’ll talk more tomorrow, okay?”

“Ok, Ian. Thanks,” Teplan muttered reflecting on their busy day. “Will be nice to get home . . .”

“I just hope those guys don’t show up again,” Terah added.

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