I’ve got another excerpt for you from Lando Cruz and the Coup Conspiracy. This one is a pivotal moment in the first act.

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Lando wheeled his cart up to the corner of 7th and Arch, in front of the Fed. No sign of cops. They’re probably on at night. “Breakfast burritos here, delicious low-carb breaktfast burritos!” Lando yelled. “They’ll fill —“

A hand landed heavily on Lando’s shoulder. “You got your video camera running, Juan Valdez?”


The three cops broke out into laughter.

“Well, good morning, gentlemen!” Lando said.

The three cops immediately quieted. Kowalski licked his lips. Sarge scowled. The tall cop wiped his nose. Lando noted blood.

“Dry mouth, bad breath, bloody nose, yes, I see you fellows have been up all night enjoying some product. You must be starving. How about some nice breakfast burritos and coffee?” With some laxative on the side. Lando suppressed a chuckle.

Sarge punched Lando in the nose.

Lando bent down. “Not the fucking nose again!” Lando danced in pain. “Before we start,” Lando said, pointing at the tall cop, “can I just get your name and badge number?”

Kowalski kicked him in the shin. Lando hit the ground.

“OK, that was Kowalski. You’re Sarge. And—“

The tall cop pulled a piece of paper out of his front shirt pocket and threw it down at Lando. “Jaffari, 7345. Now, hand over the tablet.”

Lando struggled to get to his feet. “Afraid I can’t do that gentlemen. You see, I donated all my bitcoin to charity early this morning.” Lando snickered.

Kowalski’s radio crackled. “All units, all units. Code 4413, high-speed chase. Feds requesting assistance. 5th and Arch. All units, a federal request for assistance.”

Jaffari looked at Sarge. “4413?”

“IP Task Force. That’s … pharma.” Sarge thought for a moment. “Let’s move our meeting around the corner.”

Kowalski’s radio crackled again. “Sargeant Johnson, the FIPTF requests your assistance at 6th and Arch. Code 2. Sargeant Johnson?”

“Shit,” Sarge said. “OK, you two, grab his —“

Lando bolted. In one clean motion, he disabled his cart’s brake, separated the food carrier from the bicycle and peddled across the street. Lando looked back to see the food cart rolling toward the street. My cart.

Jaffari ransacked the food carrier. Kowalski and Sarge ran after Lando, holding their hats tight to their heads and their sidearms to their hips. An old Volkswagen Beetle with huge wheels and a roaring engine came flying up the street. They stopped short to avoid getting hit by it. The Beetle swerved to miss a parked car, almost hitting Lando.

“Sarge, there ain’t shit in this cart!” Jaffari said. Frustrated, he pushed Lando’s food carrier into the street.

Kowalski and Sarge took a step into the street again. A police car, sirens whirring, came flying up the street. They stepped back. Lando’s food carrier rolled into the street.

“No!” Lando stretched out a hand.

The police car slammed into Lando’s food carrier. The sun-beaten plastic walls distintegrated into shards. The refried beans splashed onto the windshield and top of the car. A wheel got stuck in the police car’s wheel well, sending it swerving to the right. The awning collapsed onto the windshield. The car careened into the lobby of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s and came to a stop.

Lando sniffed the air. “I always wanted to get my beans into the Fed building.”

A black helicopter approached the scene. Sarge, Jaffari and Kowalski ran around the corner, then ran back. Sarge grabbed his shoulder mic. “Charles 96 arriving on scene with backup. Patrol officers down. We’ve got this covered. Call off the chopper.”

The reply came back, “Negative Charles 96. FIPTF chopper. Render assistance. Over and out.” Sarge punched the air. “Go pull those guys out of the car. We’re about to have the world fall on us. I’ll handle the kid.”

Two black SUVs rolled down the street. Four men in sunglasses and suits got out of the cars. They strode straight for the crashed police car.

Jaffari ran to catch up with them. He got in front of them and put out his hands. “Hold on guys. Philly PD. We gotta get our guys out of the car, first, then you can wipe your asses in triplicate.”

The shortest man in the group whipped off his sunglasses and took a wallet out of his breast pocket. “Federal Intellectual Property Task Force agents. We’re taking control of this scene. You may secure your officers. Then set a perimeter. We will be conducting interviews.”

The black chopter hovered above the street. A man dressed in black combat gear observed the scene through a rifle scope.

Jaffari pointed up. “Is that really necessary?”

Lando came running up to agents. “Hey, your guys destroyed my —“

A FIPTF agent broke off from the pack and pushed Lando with his forearm into a parked car. “Back off!”

Lando pushed the agent back. “Don’t you push me. You’re going to take my report. I can’t get paid by insurance without it.”

Kowalski ran over. “Hey, IP man, I got this, go interview some bootleg vegetables or something.” Kowalski grabbed Lando’s shoulder and pushed him to the ground. “By the way, Mr. Federal Agent, did you get that guy?”

“Yeah.” He turned to go.

“And what did you get him on?”

“Unlicensed penicillin manufacture without a permit.”

Kowalski took his hat off and scratched his head. “What the fuck is penicillin?”

Lando groaned. “Penicillin was supposed to be free for everyone to use and manufacture as they like. Jesus Christ you guys are ignorant.”

Kowalski kneed him on the side of his head and slapped handcuffs on him. “Stay down,” he said.

“I demand you fill out a report for this. The city has got to pay for my cart!” Or at least the insurance.

Sarge walked up to Lando. “Empty his pockets.”

Kowalski pulled an envelope of small bills out of Lando’s front pocket, his keys, wallet and his tablet.

Jaffari and Sarge high-fived. “The mother lode,” Jaffari said.

“Leave him the cash, so he can get another cart,” said Sarge. “We’re not these bastards,” he said jerking his finger towards the FIPTF agents. “We don’t put people out of business. We just ‘tax’ ’em a little.” Kowalski laughed deeply.

Jaffari opened Lando’s tablet. It demanded a passphrase. Jaffari looked at Sarge.

Sarge opened Lando’s wallet. “Lando J. Cruz. 717 South Hutchison Street, Phila PA 19147.” Sarge bent the plastic card back until it turned white from stress. “How much you pay for this, Cruz? I know you’re not legal.” He turned to Kowalski. “Run him.”

Kowalski pulled a thin rectangle out of his pocket and unfolded it to four times its original size. It beeped. He read Lando’s details into the device. The reply printed out immediately on the screen. “Address confimed, Sarge. Born April 14, 2006. Dropped out in tenth grade.”

“Too cool for school, uh?” Sarge snickered.

“Mother deceased. Father receiving disability payments, diagnosed with terminal colorectal cancer. Sister, 14 years old, still in school.” Kowalski licked his lips. “Two strikes.” Kowalski looked up at Sarge. “One, standard printed material. One 3D. Both copyright-related.”

“I already got that part. What’s in the extended file?” Sarge asked.

“Citizenship granted February 26, 2023. Known agorist. Suspected of tax evasion, financial terrorism. No other indications of violent tendencies. That’s it, Sarge.”

Sarge massaged his chin. “Ok, Cruz, here’s how it’s gonna go. You enter your password. You pay your taxes. We accept bitcoin.” Sarge smirked. “You go back to work tomorrow with a new cart and you pay us 40 per cent of what you make every day at 4PM on the dot.” He grabbed Lando’s collar and yanked him off the ground. “In return, we don’t look too closely at your citizenship, your dad’s disability checks or your little sister … What’s her name?”

“Mariana Andrea Cruz,” said Kowalski.

“We leave your little sister alone … for now. Deal?” Sarge picked Lando up onto his feet and dusted him off. “There you go. I think that’s more than fair, don’t you guys?”

“Oh, yeah, Sarge. No doubts,” said Jaffari. He pushed Lando in the back. “Right, Cruz? Now what’s your password?”

Lando glared at them, each in turn.

Sarge looked at the ground. Kowalski studied Lando’s file. Jaffari crossed his arms and stared back at Lando.

Sarge put his arm around Lando. “It’s simple, my friend. What’s more important to you? Your money and your cause? Or your family?” Sarged studied him. “Just make your choice, and we will live with it, either way. No skin off our teeth, right boys?”

Lando hung his head. “How am I supposed to support my family, with you guys bleeding me dry, huh?”

“Your family? ‘Your family,'” Jaffari whined, mocking Lando. “I don’t give a fuck about your family.” He stuck his mouth in Lando’s face.

“It’s a dog-eat-dog world, Cruz,” said Sarge. “And we’re throwing you a bone. Now take the nice bone and be a good little doggie.” Sarge wrapped his arm around Lando’s neck and dragged him behind a parked car. He pulled out his sidearm, released the safety and pointed it at Lando’s head.

Lando squirmed. “Fuck you!”

“Put him out of his misery, Sarge,” said Jaffari.

“Won’t be the first time we had to put down a rabid dog, eh?” Sarge cocked the hammer.

“Don’t find fault, find remedy,” Lando yelled.

“What the fuck …” said Kowalski.

“Type it in,” said Sarge.

“Bingo,” said Kowalski. “Transferring —.”

“To my account.”

Kowalski looked at Jaffari. “We’re gonna get our cut though, right Sarge?” Kowalski held up a plastic card to the tablet. He typed a number, then hit enter. Lando’s balance went to zero.

“Don’t fucking question me,” Sarge said. “Is it done?”

Kowalski nodded.

“Get him up,” Sarge said. “Take off the cuffs. Give him his tablet back.” Sarge threw his arm around Lando’s shoulder. “Now that we’re partners, old buddy, I know you’re not going to run off to your agora organization thing —“

Kowalski grunted. “They won’t be around much longer anyway.”

Jaffari snickered and high-fived Kowalski.

Sarge shot him a look. “Like I was saying —“

Lando stopped short. “What do you mean they won’t be around much longer?”

“Listen, Lando, partners gotta stick together.” Sarge grabbed Lando’s arm and shook him. “And it would be a real shame if I had to send you to the camps. Your sister out here, all alone. Anything can happen to you in there. Stays can be extended. Illegals can get deported. You could get killed in a fight. Am I right or what?” Sarge pushed him away. “Now run off. I expect you back on this corner, tomorrow morning at 5AM sharp selling tacos.”

Lando walked towards his bike. He saw the remains of his food carrier and dug through the shards. The serial number strip. He found it and stuffed it in his pocket. He got on his bike and rode home.

Kowalski put his tablet in his pocket and looked down at the ground. He bent down and picked up an oversized shiny coin. He held it up to the sun in his fingers. Then he dropped it. “Sarge, check this out!”

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