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A Clandestine Game of Pick-Up Sticks

By the time The Easton Company made its announcement to the residents of northern Virginia that it would build a new city in the rural landscape west of the nation’s capital, Fletcher had managed to successfully accumulate for his employer 15,000 acres from 150 separate owners. It helped that the landowners Fletcher was dealing with were unfamiliar with his employer. Fletcher and his growing staff had done a good job of stealthily acquiring a number of large tracts before anyone got suspicious.

But in the five months preceding the release of development plans by Ed Easton, the company’s owner, the community was rife with rumor and speculation. The cat was out of the bag; residents just didn’t have any idea what the cat actually looked like. So Ed’s announcement about building a new concept city from scratch put to rest various rumors which had run rampant through the rural community: that the mysterious land acquisition was for a giant amusement park, a nuclear waste facility, or a secret bio-lab to study highly infectious diseases. Then, near the end of the initial land acquisition process, as the natives realized a single buyer was purchasing all this land, conspiracy theories started to circulate. The most popular one asserted that Russian communists were attempting to establish a foothold near Washington, D.C.