The last day of school was a clear afternoon with a crisp wind rustling the leaves outside. The skylarks darted between the university eaves, and a honeybee hummed as it hovered outside the sealed window pane. Students milled about as they traveled between classes, restless to leave and experience the liberty of summer. But the closed window sealed all this out of the study Calder created within his office. He sneaked a glance in each direction, then eased back in his swiveling leather chair and rested his suited legs across the corner of his mahogany desk.

He positioned a book of essays by Aristotle on his lap, and rested another by Plato on his knees. To one side, he raised up a series of essays by Socrates and skimmed a line or two while etching scribbled notes into the margins of the others. The comparison of these three minds would be his project.

Sand pooled to the bottom of an antique hourglass positioned beside his legs to remind him of the time in silence. Students passed by in each direction behind the window in his door, but he paid no mind until the creak of the wood startled him into dropping his legs, and thus his books, to the carpet.

"Glad I caught you," Rearden approached with a spark in his luminous brown eyes and dropped a binder onto the desk, leaning down on his palms. "We have the opportunity to change the world and earn a reputation and a lot of money at the same time."

"Really?" Calder seethed as he retrieved each spilled book and slammed them down one atop the other on the binder. "And you couldn't announce this more calmly?"

Rearden smiled and dropped into the leather chair opposite his brother. "We are about to do something great. This does not deserve a timid announcement."

"All right," Calder challenged with crossed arms as he eased against his chair. "Impress me with this idea, so grandiose that you came storming into me study and scared the living daylights out of me."

"There is a five million dollar reward in southern Texas in return for information leading to the arrest of cartel fugitives. Because you're a private investigator, we should have no problem gathering enough clues for substantial evidence to capture them."

Calder stared at him with a stunned expression. "I know you did not just say that we would be targeting the cartel, because that would be stupid and a suicide mission. No adventure, no reputation, and no money could be valuable when you're dead."

"We're not the ones chasing them down," Rearden explained as he slung his arm over the back of his chair and crossed one ankle over his knee. "All we need is to gather information. We can do that, easy. With your training as a private investigator, use surveillance and some detective work, and we're good. With my plan, everyone wins except the outlaws."

His brother snorted. "You have lost your bloody mind."

"No, I cleared it and made a plan. We can do this."

Calder rose to assemble his books on the shelves as the sand ran out. "This is madness."

"Strategic madness," Rearden pointed out, "which increases the probability of success."

"No, there is no chance," Calder returned and dropped down into his chair.

"Why not?" Rearden leaned toward him with an impatient tone. "Because the plan will have challenges? Because it is unusual? So was going to the moon, but mankind managed that. Look," he continued evenly, "Every great feat by mankind requires risk and defeating challenges."

"They will be armed."

"So will I."

Calder leaned toward him as well. "Rearden, the cartels are violent. They chop off heads, burn people alive. You realize you are asking me to risk my life to go on a wild goose chase with you. You are a selfish madman even to ask! Why should I go out there and die because you want an adventure?"

Rearden eased back into the chair and stared back at his brother with smoldering eyes. "I will go whether you come or not. All I need is your credentials, your brain, and your spy gear. Simple spying, removed out of the primary danger. We can stash you in some motel, easy. I'm not gonna ask you to do anything I wouldn't do, or that I wasn't convinced would work." He evaluated the skeptical expression that met his explanation. "And anyway, what do you want in life?"

"Are you some kind of philosopher now?"

"We have the means to remove a threat from thousands of lives," Rearden continued with awe at the grandeur of the prospect. "You will have earned experience and reputation no other private investigator will match. And after all that, we will have enough money to never fear being poor again. But you reject this idea. Is your life mission to be some mediocre gumshoe slaving away in an office, or are you willing to venture into mystery and made a difference in the world?"

Calder crossed his arms and stared defiantly back at him.

Rearden rose. "I am leaving this binder. Read my plan and research any holes you see."

"Stop," Calder said when he started to leave. "The cartels bribe politicians and police officers. You have no idea who to trust, and you cannot gather intelligence dealing with people you can't trust. Prove to me that I should not commit you into a mental institution."

Rearden rushed back to the chair and dropped into it, leaning his elbows on the desk with the same encouragement Columbus must have sensed when his plans were considered. "We speak only to direct victims of these cartels," he explained. "We can trust someone who wants to catch them more than we do. I have an entire section of victims in this binder, as well as sections on law enforcement officers who have successfully apprehended similar fugitives, as well as the cartel members themselves."

Calder cleared his throat and straightened his posture, striving to squelch the apprehensive curiosity bubbling in his mind. "Dazzle me with this plan. Where would we start?"