William Fitzgerald Is Found Wanting

They were rioting downtown, had been for months, one long sustained battle with the police, tear gas launched into crowds, garbage can lids against beanbag rounds, park benches torn up for barricades. William Fitzgerald was restless and dissatisfied, his grubby soul as unsettled as the city during that long, warm winter. Revolutionary times did not suit him; their despair was too operatic, their hopes too apocalyptic. People bunkered down, entrenched themselves within the unbreachable walls of their virtues or their vices, and that was bad for business.

Most of the work that came his way had the stink of the political about it, this reformer disgraced, that police chief encouraged to overextend herself. The most recent of his clients sat across from William Fitzgerald, the pure fire of his convictions burning in his face. We’ve spent too long building this society, the young man assured him, we can’t let the socialists tear it all apart. He drew out that word, socialists, long and lingeringly, the way another man might have breathed cocksucker.

William Fitzgerald let him have the impression that he agreed with him.

It was very important to him that William Fitzgerald agree with him. They’re being manipulated, of course, just like the undereducated and the gullible have always been manipulated by totalitarian regimes. They swallow the lies they’re spoon-fed, the useful fools, regardless of facts, regardless of logic. Still, they’re dangerous, even if they’re good little robots.

None of it mattered to William Fitzgerald. Politics was politics, and money was money.