"Peter had come, with the legal system, to shoot down the schemes of their rival..."
The folks at the commune really liked Peter at this point. They even let him finish dinner before they started bombarding him with questions.
"Wait a minute, wait a minute," he said. "I can only answer one thing at a time."
He took a breath. "First of all, this town does have a zoning and planning board and you are supposed to get permission from them before you build anything. But I think I can talk with the chair of the board. Betty is an old friend of mine. I'm quite sure that she'll be reasonable and give you a retroactive permit for the building."
He held up his hand before anyone could say anything else. "More important, I intend to go over this place with a fine tooth comb and make sure that there's nothing else they can cite you for. I'm going to interview each of you and check everything. And I have some pretty high powered lawyer friends who'll help me with this. I think that we're in for a fight and I want to make sure we win. You don't need to worry about this at all. I'm willing to put a lot of time into it."
"Oh no," Marge said. "We're going to owe you something like the entire crop of vegetables that we grow next year for doing all that work. Or maybe even more than that."
"No, you won't. From now on it will be all pro bono." Peter grinned. "That's lawyer talk for free."
"Wow," said Cat. "You like us that much?"
"Well, yeah, but that's not why I'm doing this and it's certainly not why my legal friends will volunteer their time. You haven't heard the latest about Hillary Reagon."
"I know that she's behind all these harassments," Dan said.
"Sure, but I don't think you know why."
"Does it have something to do with trying to create a maple syrup industry?" asked Sal.
"Bingo," said Peter.
"But I can't understand how she thinks she can create an industry out of tapping trees," Luna said. "People do it all over the state. What advantage does she have?"
"A lot of us have been wondering that. Then we found out she had teamed up with the bioengineering firm, Monsterinsano."
"I've heard of them," Sal said. "They're evil."
"One of the things that Monsterinsano has come up with is a genetically modified maple tree. Apparently it comes to maturity in a year and then turns out maple sap twenty-four/seven all year long. Ms Reagon intends to buy land to create a maple farm and use these trees to flood the market with her syrup. And do you know what land she wants to buy to create her farm?"
Luna blanched. "It wouldn't be right across the street from her, would it?"
"But Daniel was caught, he just hadn't thought..."
There was a protest that was staged at the state capitol a couple of days later. People were carrying signs saying things like, "Monsterinsano, get your hands out of our syrup!" and "Corporations are not trees!" and many, many that just said: "No GMMs!!!" Several folks from the commune went, including Luna, Sal, Ken, Marge, and Dan.
Peter wasn't at the rally. As he had said he would, he had gotten a retroactive permit for the EcoGreenHouse and made sure that the registration for Carrie was fine.
And, he had been staying over at the commune, going through their records, checking on their mortgage payments, inspecting everything he could find on the premises, and interviewing all the commune members. Also, as he promised, several other lawyers had come by the commune to check it out and confer with Peter. Folks were very riled up about Hillary Reagon's plans.
At this point, Peter had talked with Nancy and Cat, and had even called Ralph and Ed and talked with them about their relationship with the house and their financial backing.
He had also spent a lot of time talking with Viv, making sure she had the medical and legal documentation for her use of marijuana for depression. So when Luna, Sal, Ken, Marge, and Dan returned from the demonstration, Peter set up times to sit down with and interview each of them.
There were no problems with Luna, Ken, and Marge. It turned out that Sal had been arrested several times in protests down south and she had a court order to stay away from all military bases, at least for the foreseeable future. Peter promised to make sure that her record wouldn't affect the commune in any way, or at least any way that would allow Hillary Reagon to get an advantage over the farm.
Finally, Peter met with Dan. They got some privacy in a room in one of the back buildings.
"So you don't use any drugs?" Peter asked.
"None. I don't even drink coffee."
"And no arrests?"
"No. I've never been in trouble with the law."
"Nothing," Dan said. "Well, maybe some parking tickets in Montreal, but I really doubt that counts for anything."
"Why were you visiting Montreal?"
"Oh, I used to do it all the time. I grew up a few miles from there."
Peter looked at Dan. "Are you a Canadian citizen?"
"Yeah. Is there something wrong with that?"
"Do you have a green card?"
"What's a green card?" Dan asked.
"Uh-oh," Peter said.