The Seventh Cottage was a short story I wrote quite some time ago, probably around 2003. Political and
world events, such as they were, got me thinking that maybe things are not as they seem. Perhaps there
is another explanation about how major issues are orchestrated. The following may not be the answer, but
it makes you wonder.
Returning from my mailbox, I noticed the front of a large envelope with a striking orange and red cottage on
its front. My name was printed in large letters. The envelope did not include a return address. Reaching
the kitchen table, I set the other letters aside and ripped it open. Inside was a fancy folded invitation to visit
a set of seven cottages. Thankfully, it was not a timeshare solicitation and although the actual whereabouts
were not mentioned, it stated the flight would take approximately two hours. With gold lettering, it read:
“You have been chosen to attend a series of exclusive knowledge based meetings. We are sure you will find
all seven interesting and definitely worth your time.” It was signed by a Dr. C. A. Suit. In small print, it
stated that the meetings would take all day, but my expenses and the night’s stay would be taken care of.
The letter left no address or phone number, just a date and time to meet at the local airport.
Because of the lack of information, I’d begun to walk the letter to my trash can under the sink, when
something told me not to. It was very vague. It read like a set-up for a kidnapping. What would happen if I
didn’t show up? It was written as if refusal was not an option. But I didn’t have much money. What
would anybody have to gain by kidnapping me? I was happily divorced and living alone. I lived on what
little money I made sending articles to a few local rags. I’d been on a roll lately and my editor really liked
my humorous take on cloning last week. I didn’t have a set work schedule and very few responsibilities. I
was intrigued. My current life was balanced somewhere between mild and extreme boredom. Who knows,
maybe there was a story in this somewhere—something that could put me on the national scene.
I went to the airport at the requested time. As I entered the lobby an attractive young lady approached me.
“Mr. Levy…, Ted Levy, I’m Valerie. Here’s your ticket. You’re in first-class. Have yourself a good flight,
and order whatever you like. Would you like me to take your suitcase to the baggage check-in?”
“No…, it’s small enough for a carry-on. How did you know who I was?” I asked, thrilled with the fact I was
going first-class for the first time in my life.
“We don’t leave anything to chance Mr. Levy. Dr. Suit, or one of his assistants, will meet you directly after
you’ve landed. I hope you enjoy your stay!”
With that, Valerie left me and exited the airport lobby through glass doors and into a waiting limousine. I
was momentarily speechless. I don’t know if I was more stunned from her eye damaging good looks or from
the precision and no-nonsense approach she took during her brief visit with me. Had I been able to say what
my mind was thinking I would have begged her to come with me.
I was being treated like a high-flyer and started to feel completely out of place. I sat down in my oversized
first-class seat and jotted a few notes down. I always carried a small notebook or a recorder with me should
an idea for a story come along. My articles usually involved other people. I didn’t like being the subject of
this mystery meeting I was attending, but somehow, I felt more relaxed treating it like just another story.
Since the drinks were covered by my new unknown friend, Dr. Suit, I splurged a little and felt tipsy as I left
what I expected would be my last first-class flight. I was immediately escorted to yet another limo, similar to
the one I saw pick up Valerie, and asked to enter through the opened back door by a dark-blue uniformed
“Hello, Mr. Levy. My name is Howard,” the driver said. “It will be a while before we reach your
destination. Play any one of the many movies available on the list to your right simply by pressing the
button next to the title. If you would like something to drink, please don’t hesitate to ask. Dr. Suit will be
thrilled you were able to visit.”
I didn’t need any more to drink, and although the movie selection was extensive, I felt my eyes growing
tired. Falling asleep in a limo or anywhere else other than my comfortable bed was not like me. I’ve never
even fallen asleep in front of a television; it’s just something my mind won’t let me do until it is turned off.
Taking a short nap in a limousine, while going to a mysterious set of meetings, doesn’t fit any past pattern.
Was there a little something extra in those drinks on the flight over? I fought to stay awake but soon lost the
The driver had the car door open and startled me with a nudge. Remembering nothing of my ride, I woke to
a block-long line of pristine cottages. Six of them were exactly alike, while the last of them looked bigger and
more prestigious. Each was made of perfectly placed stone and the woodwork was like a piece of art.
Hanging over the front porches were huge gold numbers. The cottages were not connected, but stood only a
few feet apart from one another.
“You’ll want to enter cottage one and work your way down to cottage seven,” the driver, Howard, said with
very little emotion.
“Thank you, Howard,” I said having adjusted my sleepy eyes to the afternoon sun. I turned to ask Howard a
few questions, but he quickly drove away.
As directed, I entered cottage one. While the outside had more of a rustic look, the inside was all business.
“May I help you?” asked the receptionist.
“I’m not sure. My name is Ted Levy. I was invited by a Dr. Suit.”
“Could you place your hand here Mr. Levy? It won’t hurt a bit,” the lady said pointing to a small machine
with a glass top. A second later a digital screen blinked “PASS.” If this was some kind of fingerprint
identifying tool, I wondered how they had my prints. The receptionist adjusted her messy—but cute—blond
hair and, with a wave of her hand, I followed her curvy figure down the hall.
Besides the quaint reception room and the “His and Her” bathrooms, the only other room in the small
cottage appeared to be a well-furnished office with a dark, cherry oak round table that matched two
comfortable chairs. On the wall a large framed photograph depicted a man with a white ten-gallon hat and a
cigar nearly the same size. He was shaking hands with a gray-haired man sporting a beard and mustache. In
the foreground the sky was spewing what appeared to be…oil. What did they call it on The Beverly Hillbilly’
s, Texas Tea?
Upon entering the room, the receptionist left me to a short, middle-aged man who was sitting in one of the
chairs and reading a newspaper. I was met with a clammy handshake.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Levy. Please, have a seat. Welcome to cottage one. What an interesting article you
wrote here. No wonder Dr. Suit invited you to come,” the short fellow said. “I would introduce myself, but
I’m afraid it would have to be a false name, therefore, what would be the point?” he reasoned to himself.
“I don’t suppose you could tell me why I’m here?” I inquired.
“We have a certain process here. It works well for us. Sometimes knowing one thing before the other
distorts everything else. I am here strictly to convey our job here at cottage one. No more, no less.”
“I’m not at all sure what that means, but I have a feeling you’re going to enlighten me. The article you’re
reading looks familiar, is that one of mine?”
“Yes, it is. You are a humorist, are you not, Mr. Levy?”
“That’s what they pay me for.”
“This article, dated last month, relates to oil companies. You’ve written a light piece about the likelihood of
all of us riding flying saucers with an alternative energy source. You state that had it not been for the rich
oil cartel using their money to keep the world in need of their product, we would already be buckled in our
saucers. That kind of talk doesn’t go over very well here at the cottages,” he said, sounding even more
nervous than I was.
“Listen, it’s just humor, based on zero facts. I thought about all the futuristic commercials I saw as a kid,
and it just triggered a story. Besides, my column is picked up by three small papers. It’s nothing but small
“Even small potatoes have eyes, Mr. Levy. We here at the cottages have two tasks. We do all we can to
hold on to something, and we predict the future. We have people everywhere and nothing is left to chance.”
“Exactly what are you saying?” I asked Mr. no-name.
“I’m saying your article was partly right. If it wasn’t for the oil companies’ pay-offs, you would have, at the
very least, fifty percent electric cars in the world, and likely many other alternatives. We are here to make
sure consumers believe automobile manufacturer and oil companies are doing all they can to find alternative
energy sources, when, in fact, we need them to buy gas at the rate they are buying them or higher.”
“But I heard, at the current rate of usage, we would be running out of fuel around the year 2055. If that’s
true, the oil companies will make money for another fifty years and then die.”
“We don’t mind that kind of talk, Mr. Levy. By then they’ll have made the money they were after and they’
ll blame the depletion on the gas-guzzling consumers. When sufficient time has past, the oil cartel will then
bring to the public several of the alternative energy processes that they, shall we say acquired, and the world
will praise them for saving the day,” the little man said with some satisfaction.
“By acquired, do you mean they paid off the inventors and kept it for themselves?” I asked incredulously.
“In most instances, yes, but sometimes it had to be done in other ways.”
“You can keep the “other ways” to yourself,” I quickly decided.
“Well, I think you heard enough about the oil industry. It’s time for you to move on to cottage two,” my
“Sure. What about my article? Is Dr. Suit mad? Is that why I’m here?” I asked as I was being rushed to
the door. I noticed the receptionist was gone.
“You have so much more to learn, Mr. Levy. Please, go on.”
I opened the door of cottage two. Like the outside, the inside was identical to cottage one except for a few
subtle differences. The wood-work was a light maple rather than the rich oak next door. The receptionist
looked similar to that of cottage one, but with darker hair and a change of clothes. Now that I thought about
it, Valerie, the woman at the airport had the same kind of smile. The process remained the same and I was
soon sitting at the table with my host. She was a thirty-something redhead with a thick layer of makeup.
“Welcome Mr. Levy. The next five meetings shouldn’t take any longer than the first. I am here to
familiarize you with what branch of the business cottage two is responsible for. What are your views on the
abortion issue, Mr. Levy?”
“I don’t like to go too far on either side. I tend to lose half of my readers that way.”
“I understand, Mr. Levy. We here at the cottages like to keep things as they are as well. As you know,
abortions are legal in the United States at this time. Eventually science will prove that abortion kills a
living being, and it will be outlawed. We have put forth a strategy that will delay this action. We will use
this information if and when we choose. Our logistics group predicts that technology will discover an on/off
switch for women. It will allow them to decide when they want to conceive. When that happens, there will
be no political issues, only religious ones. Most of the religious groups will like the new technology, because
it works before conception. Like everything else around here, we will monitor this very closely,” the woman
“I don’t understand. What advantage does this information give you?” I asked. Her perfume was making
me feel nauseous and my nerves were tightening. I never liked waiting for answers and I still didn’t know
why I was here.
“I can’t go into the specifics, perhaps Dr. Suit will, but it is one of the many ways to keep our lawyers doing
what they do best. Abortion rights groups, abortion clinics and their doctors, you name it—they get sued
every day. When the law changes back to disallow abortions, it will be the “right to choose” people who will
keep the lawyers busy. Let’s just say these cases tend to settle, and that is good for us.”
“Why are you telling me this?” I asked, hoping to get something from her.
“That will be answered today, but not by me. You are free to go to cottage three, Mr. Levy.”
I entered number three, paying little attention to the receptionist and walked directly to my chair and the
next session of information. This room was darker than the other two, and decorated like the den of a serious
hunter of African beasts. The host was late, so I took advantage of the time to write notes. I was being fed
information that I’m quite sure a writer shouldn’t be told, and had begun to wonder if my life was in
danger. “Hello Mr. Levy. I’m your host for cottage three. I will be discussing guns with you today.
Any thoughts on guns in our country, Mr. Levy?” a young, pale blond fellow asked. He looked like he was
right out of the Microsoft School of Nerds. By his appearance one would think he wouldn’t know a rifle from
“I know I don’t like it when they’re pointed at me,” I answered.
“None of us do. But guns are very important to what we do here, Mr. Levy. You would think that in a
country with the daily quantities of death and injury by firearms as high as they are, the citizens would be
outraged. The deaths alone make our losses in Iraq look mighty minuscule. Why do you suppose the people
let this go on, Mr. Levy?”
“Well most of them claim it’s not the gun that kills, it’s the people that use them,” I said.
“Oh, thank you Mr. Levy, that was one of mine. We are about to send another million of those posters out
today. They still seem to be working. We’ve been getting many states to pass laws to allow citizens to carry
concealed weapons. I would have never believed it, but Dr. Suit said it would happen, and I’ll be darned if
he wasn’t right. People sure like their firearm rights.”
“So, you are trying to get more guns in America.”
“Heck yes, Mr. Levy, again it’s the money. The more guns, the more insurance companies must shell out
for life, health, disability, and liability. Our team has been keeping the numbers. If the average citizen pays
over $3000 dollars a year for life and medical insurance, what do you suppose they would be paying if we
took the guns away and only allowed them to check out their weapons for specific activities?” the nerd asked
as I raised my shoulders.
“I’ll tell you, Mr. Levy. The answer is $450. That’s it! At cottage four you’ll see how it could be chopped
down even farther.”
“But you’re here to make sure it doesn’t, right?”
“That’s right, Mr. Levy. We wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t succeed in keeping our citizens’ rights,
would we? America’s people must be able to protect themselves,” he said with a smirk.
“Thank you, Mr. ahh…, I didn’t catch your name.”
“Cottage three, just call me cottage three.”
I walked out down the four-step porch and stopped to take a deep breath. The sky was blue and I could hear
the familiar banter of a cardinal high in an ash tree across the road. Not far beyond that was a tall chained
fence that continued as far as I could see on both sides. I thought for a second of running as far as I could
but in the end I knew I had to stay. Despite the prison-like atmosphere, I had to meet Dr. Suit and see this
through to the end. It was like being ten years old again. Deep down you knew there wasn’t a Santa Claus,
but there you were, at the top of the stairs demanding your eye lids to stay open, just in case.
I turned and walked the few steps to cottage four. I didn’t bother giving the receptionist a greeting and only
caught a glimpse of her as I strolled by her glassless window. Waiting in the big back room was a fidgety
black woman. “Care for a smoke, Mr. Levy?” she asked as she put out her own cigarette stub on an ashtray
that had as many as eight others on it.
“No, thank you. Never liked the stuff and I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t light one up yourself.”
Smoke always bothered me and I didn’t have a problem requesting that people not smoke near me.
“Oh, I don’t smoke either…, bad for you. I was just making a point. Being a non-smoker, don’t you ever
wonder when the government is finally going to make cigarettes illegal? Doesn’t it seem odd that we sell
something that causes so much sickness and death? It would be one thing if it was a substance that could
only be used by the user, but, after all, it is smoke. It goes everywhere, and everybody is susceptible to
breathing it in.”
“Are you telling me that you’re in charge of eventually stamping out cigarettes?” I asked.
“Heavens no! We keep the flames burning. Our objective is to have the world lit up as long as possible. It’s
getting to be quite a chore, however. All these people being flooded with health commercials, and doctors
giving their patients orders to quit is making it tough. The boss can give you the details on what we get out
of it. I can’t go there. We here at cottage four will struggle along until our projected time of demise and
then turn our attention elsewhere,” she said.
“And what is your ‘projected time of demise’?” I asked.
“Our studies show that around the year “2030” cigarettes will be virtually gone, except for a couple of small
countries and various poor sections of others. But, until then, I have great job security,” the woman said,
looking like she didn’t know where to put her hands.
I glanced back at her just before leaving the room. She was nervously reaching for another cigarette. “Just
making a point my ass!” I thought. This visit was easily my shortest and my watering eyes were felt
immediate relief as I escaped out the door.
Cottage five was up to bat. My host was a huge, burly man. He had the stature of an offensive lineman.
The big fellow met at the door and invited me in. I walked passed the receptionist and jotted down a few
The meeting room walls were covered in framed pictures of well-known athletes—each shaking hand with
the same man that I saw earlier in the picture during the oil presentation. They were all signed and most
had a small note that said things like, “You’re the man.”
“Glad to meet you, Mr. Levy. I see you’ve been keeping a record,” host five said.
“Things have been moving fast. I wanted to get everything down,” I said.
“That’s admirable. I like a guy who gets his facts straight. Do you know A-Rod, that is…Alex Rodriguez of
major league baseball?”
“I know of him.”
“I put together a few numbers. The Yankees bought his contract. He had $179 million owed him over the
next seven years. Of course, no one is worth that kind of money, but he will get it just the same. The
Yankees average 42,260 in attendance per game. To help pay for such salaries the Yankees have driven to
the top of the league with an average ticket price of $24.86. If A-Rod gave up his $179 million and kept a
paltry $9 million for himself, he could get all Yankee fans into each home game free for two years. That’s
just one player, Mr. Levy. By trading A-Rod, the Rangers remove $112 million off their books. This saves
them $13 million in interest, but they are responsible for $67 million toward Mr. Rodriguez under the terms
of the trade. That means they will be paying out $67 million over the next seven years for somebody that is
not on their team.”
“That’s all very interesting, but what does it have to do with our meeting today?” I asked.
“You’ve been known to speak out in your column about the disparity between big-money ball players and
everyone else, haven’t you?”
“I’ve been known to state my opinion a few times. But I’ve also noted that these outrageous salaries are our
own fault. If the fans think it’s too much, they should stop going to the games.”
“Couldn’t have said it better myself. That, in a nutshell, is the reason I am employed at the cottages. I am
funded to make sure the fans, and corporate firms, continue to spend their hard-earned money at the games,”
the big man said.
“And who funds you?”
“Sorry, I can’t go there. All you need to know from me is that there is a time/dollar limit that people will
reach. Major League Baseball will be the first major sport to falter. They must start all over again. Until
then, it is my job to stay within the boundaries. There is a reason, other than talent and fan pull, that they
pay these ballplayers such outrageous amounts. You will know the answer before you leave today.”
My hand was engulfed by my cottage five host when we said goodbye. I was still shaking the pain away
when I entered cottage six. The receptionist nonchalantly looked up and waved her hand toward the
meeting room door. The carpet was a bright red and fancy blue lamps filled the room with light. Instead of
the usual large table and chairs, a huge semi-circled couch hung around a coffee table. I quickly found my
new host to be both flamboyant and frustrating.
“Mr. Levy, you must be exhausted. Can I offer you anything to drink?” the dark-tanned man asked.
“Do you have bottled water?” I inquired, not trusting anything open.
He pressed a button and ordered his receptionist to bring in the water.
“Sometimes a person’s appearance can be deceiving and not reflect his true character, don’t you agree Mr.
Levy?” he asked with all the stereotypical mannerisms of a gay man.
“That’s very true, Mr., that is…, cottage six.
“Where is that water?” the man said, tapping his fingers on the table while folding and unfolding his legs in
rapid succession. “Please, excuse me for a minute, Mr. Levy.”
My host disappeared into the receptionist area and returned moments later with a bottle of water and an
entirely different personality.
“Dr. Suit called while I was retrieving your beverage and asked that I wrap this up quickly. Therefore, I will
dispense with the pleasantries and cut to the chase.”
He sat up in his chair—his past mannerisms now turned completely to that of a typical heterosexual business
“I’m sure you are aware of the big movement in this country toward “Same Sex Marriage.” It would appear
that the logical thing to do would be to allow the couples to unite, have the same legal rights as a man and a
woman, but for the sanctity of the word marriage, call the union whatever you want, as long as it isn’t called
“That sounds reasonable to me,” I asserted.
“Well, it has been the job of this cottage to keep the courts battling. We work both sides, Mr. Levy. If the
gay community needs something to keep their fight going, we are there. If those who wish to deny gay
couples these rights run low on laws to hide behind, we make some more.” He looked down at a very
expensive looking watch. “I’m afraid my time on this is running out, Mr. Levy. We have calculated the
laws will change in favor of the gay sector around the year 2009. At that time cottage six may be closing,
unless the doctor finds something else.”
Host number six held out his hand as we reached the outside door. His exaggerated gay mannerisms
returned, and with a wink of his right eye he said adieu.
Cottage seven was twice the size of the others. There was a round lobby with two doors. One was lettered
with the monogram “Dr. C. A. Suit,” the other was blank. I chose the doctor’s door and entered a long,
dimly lit room. It looked like any one of thousands of typical bar rooms across the country. The smell of
smoke mixed with booze was strong. The bar itself ran a good twenty feet, and the wall behind it held the
obligatory mirrors with shelves full of liquor. In the middle of the room was a round, brick fireplace.
“You must be Dr. Suit,” I inquired.
“What can I pour you, Mr. Levy? I promise you, it won’t be like the one you received on the plane,” the
man behind the bar asserted with a smirk. He was wearing blue jean shirt and pants with a striking black tie
that seemed to shine. His hair was completely gray, as was his short beard and well trimmed mustache. I
recognized him right away as the man in all the pictures.
“I thought you might have had something to do with that. What was in that drink?” I asked feeling violated.
“I like to have our visitors rested and unaware of the location of the cottages. My little drink accomplishes
“How do I know you aren’t setting me up for the ride home with this drink?”
“You’ve accepted my invitation. You came here in good faith. In return, I promised a set of seven
meetings, and that is what I will deliver.
My highly in-tune journalistic eyes and ears were convinced Dr. Suit was genuinely sincere. Placing my
trust in the doctor conveniently in my back pocket, I ordered my favorite drink.
“Now that you’ve been through our cottages, have you any thoughts on what was said?”
“If what they told me is true, I have a lot of thoughts. I even have more questions,” I said pulling out my
notebook. “Per my notes, you maintain certain situations, like legal smoking, and predict when its life-cycle
will end. Does that, in general terms, capture what you do here?”
“In a broad sense…yes. But, when you come right down to it, we are more in the business of moving money
around. You see, we put money into areas that will need litigation. The lawyers take things to the next
step. They make the real money, along with my oil clients and athletes. My lawyer’s cases end in billion-
dollar tort cases. My oil and athlete clients simply pay me to keep their big paychecks coming. The things
we do for our clients must go unnoticed. We do our jobs as if we didn’t exist. You’ve noticed that nobody
here has a name. Mine is made-up as well. You, of all people, must see the humor in Dr. C. A. (Class
I couldn’t believe I let that one slip by me.
“I still don’t understand why I’m here. Was it my article on the oil people? Did you bring me here to tell
me to stop, because if you did…it was a one-time thing? I never planned on going any deeper,” I said,
noticing my hands were getting clammy.
The doctor, or whoever he was, handed me another drink.
“It wasn’t just one thing that brought you here, Mr. Levy. You fit our needs perfectly. You see, my
employees need to fit certain criteria. They need to be single, with no attachments or living family
members. They need to have done something illegal in their past that cannot be known to the masses. And
finally, they have to have some knowledge about the case I give them. You seem to fit all of those,” he said
with a devilish stare.
“You’re right about not having any relatives, but I doubt you would have anything on me. My closet is
completely void of skeletons,” I lied.
“Oh, but we do, Mr. Levy, we’ve discovered a very large skeleton. The funny thing is you would never have
been on our radar screen if it wasn’t for your small-time articles. But once we started considering your life,
something came up that really made us take notice. We had a talk with your old-school buddy, Harry. The
type of talk that police officers are not allowed to conduct. It took some convincing, but Harry finally saw
things our way and told us what happened. Do you recall an incident with the late Ms. Carol Sanders, Mr.
We both knew he had me where he wanted me. It happened back in high school. It was an accident—the
cover-up was not. I suddenly thought back to Valerie, the cute one at the airport. She said, “Here’s your
ticket.” She didn’t use the plural.
“One of our cottages is having an assignment change. The host did not do the job we anticipated and its life
expectancy has closed on us. We stand to lose a lot of money. You are here to take a new assignment and
build it up.”
I did not want to know what was going to happen to the host that failed.
“And if I don’t take the job?”
“I think you know the answer to that,” cottage seven said.
He took my notebook and threw it in the fireplace.
I’ve been employed at the cottages for a couple years now. They pay me well, but what good is the money if
you can’t go beyond the electric fences. They said my replacement at home was a clone. I heard he puts out
good articles, but with very little controversy. As well, the receptionists and even Valerie from the airport
were all born from the same cloning cloth. That explained the uncanny resemblance. All the hosts here at
the cottages were placed in the same manner as me. The controversial matter of cloning has become my
subject. Management thinks there will be a lot of tort money available for future mishandling of the cloning
I’m told I have a meeting with a Ms. Carlyle today. Looking out the window, I see a limousine pulling up.
The lady getting out appears awfully lethargic.
By Vic LeClair III