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The farmer sounded breathless at the other end of the line.

“Slow down, Barry. Tell me that again.”

“Ran into Ethan West in the supermarket. Had a shopping cart full of vacuum-packed coffee beans. Like twenty-five or thirty cans.”


“When I asked him about it, he got nervous, changed the subject.”

“So, Barry, what’s your point?”

“Coffee’s goin’ up.”

Fanning didn’t want to believe, but he had to believe. This had happened too often. “What do you want to do?”

“Put all my money in.”

“You’re sure?”

“I’m sure.”

“Okay.” Clark Fanning pulled up the trading screen on his computer and made the trades for the Barry Meeks account.

Then he did the same for his own account.

“You’re sure about this, Fanning?”

“Mr. Churchill, this is a safe bet.”

“There’s no such thing as a safe bet or it wouldn’t be called betting. How much room do I have on margin?”

“Close to a million.”

“Leverage the whole thing.”

“Yessir.” Clark Fanning smiled as he put down the phone. A fat commission, in a growing list of fat commissions that he’d been able to turn because of the information coming from that Boonsboro farmer, Barry Meeks. Not to mention his own portfolio trades.

Another year like this and he’d retire to a sunny beach and fill his days chasing anything that wore a bikini. And he’d catch them too. Didn’t matter he was bald and fat. Have enough money and you can catch anything you want.

Andrew Churchill frowned as he put down the phone, buyer’s remorse rising like bile in his throat. Could that broker be trusted? He was making weird trades, but Churchill had already seen his initial investment increase twentyfold.

If this went wrong, he faced ruin. But if it went right, it would buy his company another six months of life. Maybe long enough to float a public stock offering and get out of the bush leagues. Yeah, maybe. He hit a speed-dial button.

“Egany, get in here. Bring the financials.”

“Mr. Churchill, this is the third time this month. We’ve used up all the accounting tricks.”

“Maybe we missed something.”

They’d walked a tightrope for the past year. They needed breathing space. Churchill dialed the extension of his research team.


“Cliff, how soon before we get results on the Memnon clinical trials?”

“Still crunching numbers.”

“I need good news and I need it yesterday.”

“Well, in that last run of testing, most subjects scored about five percent better than the law of averages.”

“That’s the group. What about individuals?”

“One guy scored nineteen percent above the group.”

“Dolci, drop the test subjects who scored under five percent and print up a preliminary report. I want it on my desk yesterday.”

“Mr. Churchill, that would taint the study. When we get it peer reviewed, we’ll get crucified.”

“Dolci, I need a result better than what you’ve been giving me or this company goes in the shitter. Maybe you like the idea of getting government cheese and unemployment checks?”

Dolci didn’t answer.

“Just do it,” Churchill said.

Andrew Churchill dialed his contact at the Pentagon and took a deep breath, scratching his long fingers across the stubble of a crew cut he’d had since childhood.

“DV Ops. Harrington here.” Churchill recognized the voice of colonel Walter Harrington, head of the government’s Distance Vision Project.

Andrew Churchill took a breath. “Colonel, I have some good news for you.”

He felt no embarrassment about the lies he was about to tell.

He knew a lot about lying.

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