"What now, Lonny?"
"It's the FBI, sir. They've listed him as a person of interest in the case."
"But why?" Claire asked sharply. "What could he possibly have to do with Randolph Starling?"
"It's not so much Mr. Starling, ma'am, as what Mr. Frachetti represents. He's been described as a possible ignition point for a widespread activist revolt based at the FW Diners. The FBI thinks he has that much influence."
"So the point of murdering Ed Reese was to pull the plug on his prison scheme?"
He nodded. "That's their best guess right now, yes." When nobody spoke for almost a half minute, Lonny excused himself, being careful to close the door as he left.
Claire returned to her seat, but sat nervously at its edge. "What do I do now? Your orders locking Fremont Wayfarer's executive staff into their roles for the term of the company's sentence didn't include a contingency for this. Do I fill the CEO spot? Can I?"
Judge Clary grabbed the armrests and pressed back in his leather chair for a few seconds. "I think the more pressing question is what to do about the situation he created at the restaurants. You've seen how volatile it's become. Perhaps, with Reese out of the picture, the staff ought to hang up their prison uniforms and revert to running a chain of family restaurants."
"I don't think so. As volatile as they may be, what the people who work at those restaurants have done is nothing short of amazing. They've managed to transform millions of what the administration likes to think of as consumers into the kind of involved citizens this country needs in order to be the example of democratic principles we're trying to instill in other countries. I think it's a good thing, and I intend to see to it that they continue doing it."
"Regardless of the risks?" he pressed. "Regardless of the potential for violence that people like your Mr. Frachetti might drive them to?"
"Not regardless of the risks, Wil, because of them. I believe in what they're doing."
The judge closed his eyes and let out a long breath. "I hope you know what you're doing, Claire."
She nodded. "So do I."
(This is the 8th story in a series that began with "Logical Conclusion/Full Circle".)