EXCERPT – CHAPTER THREE
We fall upon a huge estate on 200 acres of land somewhere in New York. The main house was surrounded by large metal gates encapsulating the perimeter and only one main road came in and out. That road was gated as well, and two armed security men patrolled the entrance at all times, twenty four hours a day, three hundred and sixty five days a year. Inside the perimeter, the estate itself was surrounded by huge gardens and gazebos, an older more traditional mansion than say, new age. The lawn in front was of enormous scope and behind the colossal colonial home laid a vast wonderland of cut grassy fields, woods, swamps and foliage as far as the eye could see.
William J. Stanton III sat on a lawn chair under an enormous umbrella in his enormous well cut grassy backyard with a shotgun. His butler, James Simmons walked slowly out of the back porch and down five small steps. We see that he was an older man in his late 50’s and has probably served William J. Stanton III for quite some time now. We also see that he had a considerable limp and a big bulky medical boot on his right foot. He approached William J. Stanton III who quickly shot at a pheasant, which quickly took flight from a pile of brush and he nailed it. This didn’t startle James Simmons, at least not as much as it once did. The bird fell dead to the ground in a thud. James Simmons, dressed in a black suit gave William J. Stanton III, a large drink in a very large glass, which was – gin, more gin and some grapefruit juice.
“You’re drink has arrived sir,” James Simmons declared.
“Thank you James my good man. And how is that foot coming along?” William J. Stanton III said with gusto.
“Should be back to normal in about two months, the Doctor said. It seems they have saved the pinky toe.”
“That is good news!” William J. Stanton III suddenly leapt up again and fired quick and precise at two brown rabbits that happened to hop out of the woods. He nailed both of them in two swift shots. Boom. Boom. They fell over dead.
“That was a horrible accident of a ricochet my good man. Probably a one in a million shot if I may say. Did I ever apologize for shooting you in that foot?” William J. Stanton III went on.
“I don’t believe you have sir.”
“Very well then. Could you get me another drinky, drink? See, my reasoning is that by the time you mosey on back to the house I will likely be needing a fresh one due to your slow pace if you will. So chop, chop,” William J. Stanton III decreed. He stood up again suddenly and shot four, five, six times at a flock of geese that suddenly flew overheard.
“These dumb birds James. They’re a menace! I think we will be having geese for dinner! Notify Pumpkin Patty about today’s new dinner arrangements if you will.”
“As you wish sir,” James Simmons replied and began to meander painfully back towards the house, which was 40,000 square feet and decorated inside with the eclectic taste of many mounted and stuffed animals, as well as a whole shark tank that took up almost one entire side of the living room. The furniture inside was all leather and antique and expensive. Outside, there was a golf course, two guest houses, four shooting ranges, two tennis courts, a man cave, which was a room over a garage, sound proofed and for serious get together’s. There were also several skeet machines, a Jacuzzi the size of a pool and a fireworks platform.
In 1919, the great grandfather of William J. Stanton III became one of the founders of The Phillip Morris Tobacco Company. Back then, William J. Stanton invented the filter tip in which was put onto the ends of non-filter cigarettes. This created quite a phenomenon for heavy smokers everywhere, and made smoking much safer and healthier or so this was the big hubbub and highly touted advertisement claim at the time. His patent and invention soon revolutionized the tobacco industry and in 1920, partners George J. Whelan and Reuben Ellis offered William J. Stanton payment for the use of his filter tip invention, which are still on every filtered cigarette in the world today. They offered William J. Stanton, the sum of $200,000 for the use and rights to his patent and invention with no further payment, but William J. Stanton in keen mind turned that contract down in favor of stock shares. Since his invention would be at the end of every cigarette that was filtered, which made up over 90% of the cigarettes at Phillip Morris, he demanded 50% of all the shares of Phillip Morris stock, but settled on a counter offer of 35%.
His salary at Phillip Morris was $15,000 a year, which in 1925 was a handsome salary, but it was his shares of stock that began to take off in value. As Marlboro became the staple American cigarette, each with Stanton’s own patented filtered tip attached, the company grew exponentially and William J. Stanton stepped out of the business in 1935 at the age of 45 and then proceeded to live off the vast interest from his stock. Ironically he died in 1962 from lung cancer, but it was in 1970 with the introduction of the “light” cigarette, purchase of The Miller Brewing Company and subsequent purchase of General Foods, that Phillip Morris became the leader of all tobacco based products and one of the most expensive most lucrative companies in all the world. Suddenly Stanton’s shares of stock rose drastically. William J. Stanton’s son was sole heir to the Stanton fortune, which in 1988 quadrupled again due to Phillip Morris buying Kraft Foods. From there, they have purchased many other corporations and currently have six multi-billion dollar companies all under the Phillip Morris International brand. Of all this, William J. Stanton III became sole heir after his father William J. Stanton Jr. died in 1995 from complications of liver failure and lung cancer. As a result, William J. Stanton III currently owns 35% of the company, which translates to 35% of all the companies under The Phillip Morris International brand as well. He has bought off Forbes and other magazines to not include him in their annual list of the world’s wealthiest people, in which he’d be right at the top. Instead, he prefers to fly under the radar and for good reason. There is no estimating how much William J. Stanton III’s estate is worth, but it’s safe to say that owning 35% of one of the world’s largest corporations can cause you to have quite a few enemies, who time and time again offer to buy him out and cut him loose. But he refuses to sell under his Great Grandfather’s name and his very own birthright.
So like his father, William J. Stanton III was brought up filthy rich and the stories of his adventures and spending sprees and crazy behavior have since become the thing of legend. William J. Stanton III had also decided to live off the grid if you will for personal safety reasons. He hired a security team. Rumor had it that since he was bored and not working and just cashing stock checks, he decided to buy out part of the Mafia, because he liked to gamble and date the women of the night. There is no legal proof of this however, it should be noted. He was also a big drinker, as well as proprietor of other party type favors and activities. There was little doubt that William J. Stanton III was the black sheep of the Stanton lineage and outcast somewhat by most all his relatives. He hired many people to cook, clean and care to his land. He also hired a personal assistant, a security minded bodyguard of sorts, someone trained in weaponry and someone who was also able to multi-task and basically look after him. For ten years, that man was me, John John and still is.
I had worked for the F.B.I. for a couple of years as a special tasks agent, but bowed out when William J. Stanton III offered me ten times as much as my FBI salary to basically babysit him. I took that offer, but had no idea what I was getting myself into.
So William J. Stanton III still sat in his lawn chair firing at will at various random rodents, bird and rabbits and the backyard of his estate now resembled a graveyard of dead animal carcasses. A bunch of geese lay to the immediate right, all shot dead. Two rabbits were shot in front some 30 yards ahead, a partridge was also pulverized and seven squirrels met their demise, falling from the tree tops above and plummeting to the ground in a thud.
James Simmons walked out again with a tray and a drink. William J. Stanton III looked over the clear blue skyline and smiled dumbly. Suddenly two rednecks walked out of the woods. The first had a long grayish beard, overalls, black derby hat and a pipe he puffed on. The other was in a flannel shirt and New York Yankees ball cap that was so dingy it looked 50 years old.
“Yes, Pinball what can I do for you?” William J. Stanton III asked when he saw the two men emerge from the woods.
“William, man, we are setting up and you keep shooting all over and a few shots came close to blowing up the damn still!” Pinball Charlie said puffing his pipe.
“I won’t hit your still. I’m a trained professional,” William J. Stanton III said.
“A trained professional of what exactly?” Pinball Charlie replied.
“I’ll have you know that my aim is impeccable and calibrated as such so that I do not miss, hardly ever!”
“You’re a good shot I get it. But you hired me and Red here to make you some of the finest liquor in all the world and we know how to do that, but if you keep shooting at us, it’s bound to cause some problems,” Pinball muttered puffing his pipe.
“You have my promise that you won’t be shot. I guarantee that. I am highly skilled,” William J. Stanton III said.
“That’s great and all, but do you think you could shoot in the other direction? Not that I doubt you, it’d just make things run a little smoother is all,” Pinball Charlie said.
“Very well. And so how is that booze coming along?”
“We buried the still with rocks and some good mud, looks fine so far. Still need a bunch of sugar, fifteen pounds I’d say for the 120 gallons we’ll make. Other than that, I think we could use some chewing tobacco and rolling tobacco or cigarettes. The coolers are full, but tobacco could be a problem heading into tomorrow,” Pinball Charlie said.
“I will tell James to keep you boys in tobacco. How long will it be now Mr. Pinball?”
“The hose is in the creek, as we speak, a nice fresh creek with good clean water to cool the worm. Could be six days, could be fourteen days, could be twenty five days, it all depends.”
James finally made it back to William J. Stanton III and stopped. He looked over at Pinball and Red.
“You’re drink sir,” James said.
“Thank you my good man. Say, can you get Pinball and Red here some chewing tobacco and cigarettes?”
“Beechnut chew, about ten pouches would be gravy and ten cartons of Marlboro reds if you can get them,” Pinball Charlie shouted to James.
“Not a problem. I will tell Ricky to make a tobacco run,” James said and hobbled off back to the house.
“Yes, I am getting you another drink as we speak sir. I may in fact be bringing two drinks this time,” James said.
“My good man!” William J. Stanton III wailed and rose up fast. He shot crazily at the sky, and then stopped. Pinball Charlie and Red looked up then looked at each other.
“What are you shooting at?” Pinball asked.
“Never mind that I am the professional here!” William J. Stanton III said playing off the fact that he was in fact drunk shooting at nothing. Red’s eyebrows straightened.
“Like we were saying, since we are camping out here in these damn woods for maybe two weeks or a month or so, we’d prefer not to get shot if you follow,” Pinball muttered.
“I shall shoot my foul due west if that suites you,” William J. Stanton III said.
“Yeah well whatever works, thanks.”
Pinball Charlie and Red went back into the woods traipsing through thickets of weeds. Their moonshine still was a good ways away.
“Hey Red can I get a whiff of that pint?”
Red handed Pinball a pint of hooch. Pinball took a drag.
“Ohh weeee, if that is not the finest white liquor on all the planet I don’t know what is,” Pinball muttered. Just then more shots rang out, they sounded close.
“That god damn crazy bastard is going to get us killed, you watch,” Pinball said to Red.
“Shot six geese, see them on the grass? That’s not an easy feet.”
“Yeah, two rabbits, some partridge, hell he has himself a whole damn buffet right there, but he’s also getting drunker than a Preacher’s daughter so we need to stay low,” Pinball said.
“Probably freeze all those critters is my guess,” Red added.
“You see how many freezers this weird rich boy has? I walked into the house and the kitchen looked like something out of a god damn restaurant, a Denny’s or something of the like…and he had a walk in freezer, like in Rocky, remember that movie?” Pinball said.
“Yeah, he’s one of the richest men in the world I hear, so it’s no surprise he has a walk in freezer or two.”
“His Great Grandfather invented cigarette filters. How much do you think something like that’s worth?” Pinball asked Red, plowing through more weeds and brush. A couple more shots rang out overhead. They ducked down.
“Cigarette filters? For like every damn cigarette in the world I heard. My Gods, holy hell fire, I’d hate to wager a guess, but I bet it’s a big number,” Red said.
“He won’t be starving anytime soon I’m sure we could agree on that,” Pinball said.
“Not to be greedy here, but maybe we should ask for more since we’re ducking for cover and all,” Red pressed.
“I told the guy I’d make him the finest alcohol known to man for one hundred thousand cash money no questions asked, if he bought the equipment and he did. So we are getting one hundred thousand, split 50/50 between you and me Red.”
“We should ask for more I reckon.”
“You may have a point there Red, a hundred thousand dollars to this guy is like some old lint in the bottom of his Levi’s front pocket.”
“That’s no lie there. Did you see in the garage? That Lamborghini? I bet that’s worth more than half the houses in all of Cole Country back home,” Red said.
“Yeah I seen it. Waste of money if you ask me. Hell, wait til I fix that Mustang. It’ll blow the doors off that foreign contraption any day of the week,” Pinball added.
“We’re getting close now,” Red surmised.
“Yea…watch out for snakes, I saw a copperhead going the other way, and that’s all we’d need right now, to get bit by one of those buggers.”
They made it back to a small clearing towards a shack that they had built to sleep in. Shots could still be heard from a distance, though they were further away now. The wood shack was about twelve feet by twelve feet. Inside were two sleeping bags. Six coolers were outside the shack and in front of the coolers was a huge copper still with copper tubing and coils going every which way. Pinball and Red were legendary moon shiners going way back to the early 1970’s. They were both also wanted men for making and selling their high octane hooch, so this little sabbatical of sorts was just what the doctor ordered until some of the heat had cleared. So they made the paste and added yellow corn to the kegs and everything was going smoothly. This was no doubt an art form that the both of them had sort of perfected throughout the years. Pinball got his name from breaking a pinball machine in a corner store when he was young. It took him ten years to pay off the damages of that pinball machine through various court orders.
“Making top grade liquor for some rich man who never worked a day in his life. I swear to all that is holy that this guy is one tough nut to crack, nuttier than a Priest’s pecker I reckon. What you think about all that Red?” Pinball asked.
“I’d say he likes a good drink is all. And if he pays up then he pays up. End of story. We’ve made these shots for much less Pinball and you know it,” Red said.
“That ain’t no lie there.”
“There’s been a time or another, when we’d sit in these woods for weeks on end and barely make a buck.”
“Well if anything, we could get a good what, fifty, sixty dollars for all this copper?” Pinball grinned.
“Yeah seems about right, if anything. Now let’s see if we can get this sumofabitch smokin’ a little and have ourselves a snip.”