It’s a Dam Sham
It had been raining for six weeks with hardly a break. The dam was full to overflowing - a dam, which just three years previously, had been down to 38 percent capacity.
For years, sand mining had weakened the area surrounding the dam. The council knew it and they wanted just how severe the threat was kept quiet. Maps showing how much of the city would be wiped out if the dam collapsed were available to a select group, but certainly not to the public and definitely not to the press. Those who had this information made sure their homes were well out of the danger zone but were keeping very quiet lipped about the reason for their change in residential. As for the rest … well, they would have to take their chances. The new Mayor had assured the town it was safe; after all, hadn’t the dam been there for decades without any problems?
Richard Powell sat dozing in the back row of the Public Gallery at the monthly council meeting. He was a reporter and he was a good one, but unlike many of his contemporaries, Richard kept clear of ‘digging for dirt’ simply for the sake of a good headline. That however, didn’t mean he was afraid to make waves. People mistook his quiet, unassuming manner for weakness - often to their chagrin. He was a champion of the underdog and of law and order. He had received threats against his life, been shot at and had his car blown up but none of it made an iota of difference to Richard Powell.
The murmur of voices from the room off to his left made him prick up his ears and sit up a little straighter. The door was slightly ajar and the voices were angry. A frown creased his brow as he strained to listen.
“Don’t be a fool Anton! We can’t afford to let the public know the dam could go.” The woman’s voice was insistent.
“But we can’t just sit still and allow thousands of people to be killed.”
“Anton, think of the panic. Think of the compensation bill we would face if we have to replace their homes. But if there are no people to make claims we have no compensation bill.”
“But Councilor Volstead, that’s… murder.” Anton objected, his voice horrified by her callousness.
“No!” snapped the woman. “It’s simply good fiscal management.”
A chair scraped and the door opened as the owners of the voices emerged. Richard resumed his slumped position and gave a gentle snore.
The councilwoman glanced at Powell in passing. “Just as well he has no idea of what’s going on,” she mused as she and her companion left by the back stairs. “He could make life decidedly unpleasant.”
Richard waited a few minutes before making his way towards the door. “Nice of them to leave it unlocked,” he murmured as he slipped into the room.
He worked quickly and quietly. He knew exactly where to look; Councilor Bracken had told him about the concealed draw in the mantelpiece above the unused fireplace. Councilor Bracken had been the bitter rival of Councilor Volstead. Councilor Bracken was also dead - killed in suspicious circumstances, which had never been solved.
Powell found what he wanted and left the room, pulling the door closed behind him. He resumed his seat again at the back of the public gallery and cautiously looked at the documents he had found. He frowned as he tried to think what Bracken had told him. “There is a list of Councilors loyal to Volstead. They have copies of the reports from the engineers and a contingency plan should the reports be discovered.” Bracken had met with Powell just a week before he died. “They also have manufactured evidence should it all go belly-up, which places the blame squarely on the Mayor.”
Powell fought down his frustration as he realized he was missing a copy of the evidence. He stood up, and was about to go back for a second look, when Councilor Volstead appeared at the top of the stairs.
“Leaving so soon Powell?” she sneered as he picked up his jacket, “Council meeting too tame for our intrepid reporter?”
Powell made no reply but merely inclined his head politely as he left and breathed a sigh of relief as he reached the bottom of the stairs deciding he’d make do with what he had.
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