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I keep the engine humming and hang back after I roll into the slanted parking space across from the courthouse. I’m waiting…waiting for the politicians to siphon into the historical structure. I don’t want to get stuck talking to anyone I don’t have to.

I’m not wearing a suit—thank God—but a rather cheap, white, short-sleeved golf shirt and black slacks. Still, I can feel a significant sweat stain on my back as I enter the building. One of the benefits of working for a state official is that you can bypass nearly any security. I flash the sheriff’s deputy my badge and skip the metal detector altogether.

The meeting is at the top, on the fourth floor. This is an old structure and the air-conditioning kind of sucks. As I climb the circular steps, I haven’t stopped sweating. I ascend upon a display of the Six Flags Over Texas. The cigarettes have caught up with me I guess, because here at the top I’m out of breath.

“You need to lay off those things, Mason!” the assistant prosecutor comments, his voice echoing into the recently restored rotunda. He’s loitering in the spherical lobby and thumbing his cell phone. Like all prosecutors’ side men, he lacks any sense of the political, he’s a plain asshole, in fact. We have an understanding: I don’t like him and he doesn’t like me. I enter the meeting room, squeezing past his suited, unaccommodating bloat.

My boss is already there and is sitting towards the front of an immense wooden table with other officials from the area. He nods in acknowledgment of my existence. The remaining seats are filled with different experts: a few cops and several county elected officials. The assistant prosecutor snakes the last available seat. I pull up a spare chair. After assessing this cabal, my attention is drawn towards the large expanse of bookshelves that line the length of the opposite wall. The shelves are filled from floor to ceiling with tan, hardback editions of the Southwestern Reporter, an old-school legal resource from the days before computers.

Introductions are in order, and when it’s my turn I stand and give my name and occupation. “Mason Dixon!” I declare, knowing that those in the room who don’t know me will think it almost strange, maybe somewhat comical. “I’m the District Manager for House District 100!” My boss, the state rep who I work for, signals discreetly with his hand for me to sit down.

I am distracted as the meeting fires up. From the corner of my right eye, I notice a figure enter the room. She pulls out a chair and gracefully sits down. I turn my head towards the entryway where she is presently sitting, as proper as in a pew. It’s Brenna, the county judge’s assistant. She’s staring right at me with a giant smile across her rosy cheeks. We have met before. Here at the courthouse, in fact. I felt something then. I feel it now.

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