by: Wes Ishmael

“Admittedly, somewhat brilliant in its simplicity.”

That's how Myron—just Myron—characterized Marsha Caterwauller's plan to fleece investors and the public by building a company selling plant-based of cell-cultured meat replicas, which would beat the competition by selling real meat, but calling it fake.

“She can offer a lower-cost, fake product, one that tastes just like the real thing because it is the real thing,” Myron explained when he and Roy Bean “Benny” Wilson shared with Hooter a voice recording of Marsha relating her plans to a fellow by the name of Claude Dickens. The latter was a key cog in Operation Bald Coyote, an elegant operation carried out by Hooter and his pals to free Eunice Nickelcock from the clutches of Marsha and her co-conspirators, who were involved in a long-running scheme of embezzlement from sham animal rights organizations.

Brilliant in its simplicity.

Hooter had to hand it to the nasal-voiced, mannerless and conscienceless Marsha Catterwauller. Proving her fraud might be difficult. As she wheezed to Claude on the voice recording: “Picture it—on every package, the Mama's Best label, followed by, ‘Tastes just like: beef steak…pork chops…chicken breast…' While everyone else fights over what can be called meat and what can't, we simply say it tastes like something else, never claim it to be anything.”

Hooter suspected it would be more difficult for her than that, but as Benny explained, “The more time she has to be in business, the more money she can scam, but more important, the more ammunition she gives the popular media to cloud the integrity of true-blue, real, nutritious, beef and other meat.”

Grease from Unlikely Places

Every time Hooter searched for a solution, he came up drier than a Carrie Nation picnic on a cloudless 4th of July in South Texas. Given the silence from Benny and Myron, Hooter suspected they were having just as much success.

Ultimately, it was Peetie who gave him the idea without realizing it. They were making a pit stop in Childress, when an acquaintance of Peetie's approached. Turned out, this acquaintance bought a 2-year-old gelding, which Peetie recommended against. The fancy-chromed Bay couldn't do much when he showed up, even less now. The acquaintance was seeking advice.

“You know the surest way to train a mindless horse?” Peetie demanded.

“That's why I'm asking,” came the sheepish reply.

“Don't buy him to begin with.” Peetie climbed into the passenger seat and slammed the door.

Figure out a way to reveal more of Marsha's previous legal shortcomings—offenses she hadn't yet served time for—and maybe, just maybe, that would take care of the meat fraud before it ever took place.

Hooter called Myron and Benny.

Kismet and Karma

Benny Wilson herded his pickup into the dusty West Texas miniature golf course just ahead of Hooter. This is where the trio met last winter, when Hooter first heard of Marsha's plans.

Myron was already there and had been for some time, judging by the fact that he was apparently half way through a round of putt-putt. As Benny and Hooter approached, Myron sizzled a purple ball through a rusted loop of metal, up a steep incline and into one of three possible holes. The ball descended to a lower level, ricocheted off a faded lawn gnome and then rolled into the cup with a puff of dust.

“I'd say it was dumb luck, but we know better than that,” Myron announced, offering the club to whoever wanted to take a turn. No takers.

“Holster the toy, some of us have to make a living,” Benny growled.

Myron grinned, stuck another stick of licorice between his lips and sauntered toward a picnic table covered by a tattered umbrella.

“Ultimately, what's the one thing Marsha needs to make her scheme work?” Hooter asked.

Benny almost answered, but thought better of it. Myron just sat, like a kid waiting to see the new Christmas lights.

“Investors,” said Hooter. “And not just a few bucks here and there, she's going to need one or two major players with pockets deeper than the Palo Duro. With this kind of play, I'm guessing it will also help if they actually believe in the notion one way or the other.”

“What do you mean, one way or the other?” Benny demanded.

“Either someone who believes wholeheartedly in the concept of fake meat, or someone who believes just the opposite and wants to stop her,” Hooter explained.

Apparently, the lights were starting twinkle for Myron. “A sort of social conscious superhero,” he said to no one in particular, providing narration to the visions unfolding before him. “Somebody who knows what it feels like to do good, even if they don't realize how much good they did before.”

“Exactly,” Hooter replied, knowing that Myron was getting the same idea.

“Idjit,” Benny said, before drowning a wayward pink golf ball in a pool of tobacco juice. “We're looking for an answer, not some used up hype from a worn out hippie.”

“Exactly,” said Myron, munching contentedly on his licorice. He could be maddening like that.

Myron looked at Hooter. They both looked at Benny and said in unison: “Flash.”

It took a minute for it to sink in. Benny's eyes widened. “Flash! You can't be serious. That would be plumb dangerous.”

Rev ‘em Up

Cornelius Highbottom III aka Flash, was Operation Bald Coyote's ace in the hole.

He never met or heard of Hooter and his pals, never knew they helped orchestrate the downfall of Marsha and her co-conspirators, much less that they helped his new wife, Eunice Nickelcock, escape their clutches and dole out some retribution along the way.

All Flash knew at the time was that the donations made by a subsidiary in his far-reaching family corporation, donations made unwittingly to the shill animal rights organizations fronted by Marsha's bunch, threated his nascent mini-monster truck racing career.

It was Myron who uncovered Flash's repressed fascination with racing, but Billy Jim Hurstknob is the one who discovered and nurtured Flash's latent driving prowess.

Billy Jim was founder of the Wildcat Super Sport Racing Series, which raced stock, full-sized pickups—model years 1960-1980—souped up however you wanted.

“See, mini monster trucks,” Billy Jim had explained during his first meeting with Flash. “Thought of it all on my ownsome.”

Billy Jim explained a source told him the dubious animal rights organizations were in legal trouble. Since one of Flash's companies contributed to the organizations, he figured the shadow of deceit would extend to those companies, and ultimately to Flash and the Wildcat series.

“I don't know how we can keep you as a driver without taking all of that bad press from this fiasco right along with you,” Billy Jim explained.

That's the day Flash grew a backbone.

“I'm not going anywhere, Mr. Hurstknob, and neither is my company's sponsorship of the Wildcat series,” Flash announced. “Rather than negative press, I believe we can get some positive news and free advertising for the series.”

And he did, with lots of unknown help from Hooter and the boys.

Myron and Hooter looked at Benny, waiting. Finally, they saw what must have been an attempt at a smile. “Boys,” said Benny, “Call Billy Jim.”

Myron already had a phone to his ear.

To be continued…

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