The following is essentially a monologue as two men face each other, standing on the sidewalk of a small town’s Main Street in Midwest America.
The date is the present, on a beautiful spring morning, a time of year when some things need nipping in the bud.
The burly one, dressed in a dun-colored uniform and trooper’s hat, says:
You think I’m stupid?
You think I don’t know what’s going on?
He leans in and pokes the listener’s chest with the index finger of his right-hand.
If you’re in Cahoots, you’re a potential troublemaker.
That’s why I’m the biggest, baddest lawman you’re ever likely to encounter.
It’s my job to see everything stays calm in my little community.
He eases up a bit and draws back slightly.
Well, actually, not so little anymore.
Cahoots used to be a sleepy little burgh.
So many of your type have come to town in recent years, our growth has exploded.
Now we have a huge itinerant population.
You come here from all walks of life.
Investment bankers, government officials, bookies and sports referees.
Oil industry managers, real estate speculators, guys who pitch pyramid schemes.
You’ve been throwing games, fixing prices or winning elections.
What an unsavory lot.
Business executives probably top the list.
There are a lot of suits in cahoots.
Anyone who can make quick loot or gain an easy advantage by colluding will probably end up here.
Where is Cahoots?
It’s a state of mind as much as an actual place.
It’s near enough to be surprising, but at a sufficient distance to be almost unreachable.
I understand your motives for being here very well.
Take a look around you.
Gesturing with his arms.
We can’t keep up with all the newcomers.
Construction’s going crazy.
There’s evidence of a boom mentality everywhere.
Just last week, a new race course and casino opened right beside Cahoot Hill Cemetery and Crematorium.
Which is fitting, since so many of you want to check out where your victims’ dreams are buried.
And to watch their hopes for justice go up in smoke.
Cocking his head.
But a word of warning.
Don’t walk through our graveyard at night.
The mournful sound of our cahoot owls will spook the cockiness out of you.
Or at least that’s what all the old coots in Cahoots say.
He chuckles to himself.
You can ask them yourself.
They’re always playing checkers in our town square.
Around the base of the big statue that shows our founder, Colonel Cahoots, walking behind his untrustworthy horse, Kickback.
Colonel Cahoots was a Civil War hero. His approach to keeping the peace during the conflict was to lock up soldiers from both sides.
Have you ever spent time in the clink, the big house, the joint, the hoosegow?
No? Then maybe that’s something you have to look forward to.
He pauses to catch his breath and calm down. When he resumes, his voice is more modulated.
If you think growth is fast here, drive up the interstate about 50 miles.
That’s where a lot of your targets have taken up residence.
They’re living in a place called Outrage.
There’s an eating and drinking establishment in Outrage where most everyone congregates at one time or another.
They play darts. Only they don’t use a dart board. They pin your picture to the wall and aim for the middle of your forehead.
Anger has given some of your dupes and innocent bystanders amazing accuracy.
His head nods up and down several times in a knowing way.
The name of the bar is the Class Action Cafe.
You should check it out.
Once a month, on Saturday nights, the customers hold an event they call a Cahootenanny.
The entertainment can be outrageous.
Sometimes they’ll send out a reconnaissance party and snatch someone from here.
Take them back to join in the big celebration.
I’ve been known to turn a blind eye to a kidnapping or two.
I’ll sometimes call in sick.
A more thoughtful expression.
A look of worry on your face.
Yes? No. Now it’s gone.
I can see the wheels turning.
You’ve come up with a plan.
You’re thinking, maybe we can come to an arrangement.
For a small, or not so small favor, I can be persuaded to protect you.
No way, buster.
Just cause I live in Cahoots doesn’t mean I’ll ever be in cahoots with the likes of you.
Shaking his head.
Don’t look at me that way.
I don’t really wish you harm.
I’m just giving you a chance to see things from a different perspective.
Hey, you’re an adult.
You got yourself into this mess.
You still make your own decisions.
I don’t care what you’re planning to do, as long as it’s outside my jurisdiction.
Realizing he’s probably got his points across.
Look Noah, you seem like a decent enough guy to me.
Shhh. I know your name’s not Noah.
But I like to call all the newbies Noah.
That’s because you always arrive here in pairs.
To me, you’re either Noah One or Noah Two.
Which are you?
Holding up his hand to stop the answer.
That’s okay. It doesn’t matter.
We’ll sort it out over time.
Are you still speaking to your other Noah?
Once you’re in Cahoots, there’s often a falling out.
Particularly if you’ve ended up in a fix.
A rare smile escapes.
It’s not like we Cahooters lack a sense of humor.
Whenever new arrivals ask about a good place to stay, I tell them the name of our most popular bed and breakfast, The Jam and Pickle.
He points over his shoulder.
It’s just a short jaunt up Easy Street.
Don’t get too comfortable in your new lodgings.
I like you well enough on a personal level, Noah.
But understand this.
I’m the Marshall.
That’s an office with a great deal of responsibility.
I hold the most important position in town
The only other comparable authority figure is the animal control officer.
Seems a lot of often adorable but sometimes annoying pets are in Cahoots.
I hear stories that would make your hair curl about cats and dogs working together to knock food off the dining room table, turn the kids’ expensive clothes into chew toys and generally disrupt family life.
But that’s another story.
Getting back to my role.
As long as you’re in Cahoots with someone, I’m charged with eventually running the two of you out of town.