He wanted to remove his suit jacket but driblets of sweat running down the middle of his back deterred him. It unnerved him too, though he refused show it. There was no way he was going to allow himself to look like that idiot who jumped on tables and waved his arms around like a lunatic on crack.

You’d think a guy with sweat circles from here to China should have sense enough to keep his arms down.

People are stupid like that.

He adjusted the vent so that it was aimed right at his face. The relief was almost instantaneous.

The Lincoln Aviator’s air conditioner was exceptional. The legroom too. The ride as smooth as tempered glass.

In fact, over all, he liked the Aviator better than the Escalade and that surprised him. Like his father, he had always been a Cadillac man.

That said, he would have preferred to be in a BMW X7, but these days his touring vehicles had to be American. Just optics, of course. Everybody knows there’s no American made cars anymore.

Well, anyone with half a brain knows it. All the parts are manufactured in China. Or Mexico.

His right hand girl briefed him. He could hear her voice, gentle, even-toned, but he had no idea what she was saying. She put papers on the attache in his lap for him to look over because he refused to use an I-Pad.

Sometimes she got on his nerves–like right now–but he rarely raised his voice to her. She was supremely loyal. And very smart.

She was beautiful too, though she had been putting on weight lately.

Just the other day he came this close to saying something about it to her, but he stopped himself. Women are so sensitive about the weight thing. And he couldn’t afford to loose her.

She took care of everything for him–no matter how big or how small. It didn’t matter what time of day or night he called, she always answered. Quickly. No more than five–six–rings at the most.

So he just gave her the look.

Immediately she had put her head down and adjusted her blouse. Pulled down her skirt. Afterwards he noticed her eating carrot and celery sticks. Obviously she had gotten the message.

Five, maybe ten pounds more and she’d get the wink and the thumbs up.

Women, especially, liked that.

Up ahead a man standing in the turn lane abruptly started walking across the street. A cascade of brake lights gleamed through the windshield as the driver suddenly slowed the Navigator.

“Sorry about that, sir,” the driver said.

He nodded solemnly. “You have to be very careful, Ritchie,” he warned. They’ll walk right out in front of you.”

“Yes sir,” the driver said.

Normally they would be in a limo and he would have no contact with the driver, but this was his idea. Low profile. No motorcade. He wanted to see it like it really was.

Bums. Prostitutes. The homeless.

Boarded up buildings. Liquor stores. Beauty supply shops. Convenience stores…

More like smoke shops than convenience stores…Independent ones. No national chain would want to open up here.

Blocks and blocks of it.

He turned his attention back toward the driver’s broad shoulders, his muscled neck and perfectly etched hairline, cut so short it was more shadow than hair.

Ritchie was black. But not like them.

Ritchie was tall, too. Taller than him. And he didn’t like that.

He didn’t like looking up to any man. White or black.

“What’d you think, Ritchie? What needs to be done here? How can we turn this around?” he asked in his most concerned voice.

“Jobs, sir,” the driver said decisively. “Jobs, jobs and more jobs. Opportunity, sir. Job training. Good schools.”

He nodded. “Opportunity. Hmm. Yes. Opportunity’s good,” he said.

He looked at the driver in the rear view mirror. He hated the blacked out sunglasses the man wore.

“Anything else?” he asked.

“Grocery stores, sir,” the driver said. “I haven’t seen a grocery store for miles.”

He nodded and turned his attention back toward his window. It was just like he expected. Jobs. Schools. He knew the guy would say that before he asked.

They always said the same thing.

Yeah, the grocery store thing caught him a little bit off guard, but the guy was right. No grocery stores.

At least there were convenience stores…Well, they were more like cigarette stores…Smoke shops. But still…