Corruption was a drug and Mario was hooked. He bought the building inspector whisky to ensure his permit was approved. A $100 bill got him out of a speeding ticket. A steady stream of pizza kept the zoning board at bay.
He took a selfie on his land the day conservation approved his appeal. In the caption, he bragged that he could get anything done. When he posted it to Facebook, his sister asked where his wife and daughter were.
More bribes brought the construction to a swift conclusion. Nothing could stop him from building his dream home, but living in it was another story.
It started like a classic horror movie. Glasses fell from shelves with no apparent cause. The stove lit in the middle of the night. Doors slammed when there was no wind.
Mario called the police, offering a large sum of money to the first man to arrest whoever was staging the strange events.
No culprit was found.
Red writing appeared on the walls, telling Mario to confess and flee. Knives flew from sheaths, scraping the skin of Mario’s ears as they whizzed by. The third time, he needed stitches. He slipped the triage nurse a fifty so he could cut the other patients.
Mario called a priest, offering him a bottle of wine and a generous donation to rid his house of the ghost. When that failed, he bribed the ghost itself with sugar skulls, spirits, and gold.
Mario’s computer froze. The screen turned red. When he finally got the machine to reboot, his corrupt actions were listed on every social media outlet he knew about, and few whose existence were new to him.
He hired a hacker to find the culprit, but once again, it seemed the work of a spirit. Messages showed up on every screen in the house demanding he confess and leave. Mario was steadfast as ever, unwilling to concede.
The next morning, a picture of him performing oral sex on the head of the conservation commission went live on Facebook. The calendar on her desk revealed it to be the same day she approved his appeal.
His wife left and daughter left.
Mario wouldn’t budge.
A series of three videos were posted on YouTube. The first showed him at his old job as an automotive safety inspector. A man in a suit gave him money. Mario destroyed a report.
The second video showed crash tests in which air bags failed to go off. It showed Mario writing the report, then replayed the first video.
The third showed an elderly woman and her grandson splatter against the windshield when their new car crashed. It ended with a headline “Retired Horror Actress and her Computer Genius Grandson Die in Automobile Collision.”
When the police came to Mario’s house, no bribe could stop them from hauling him out the front door, into the cruiser and away from his home. He couldn’t help but wonder what kind of bribes the prison guards would require.