Excerpts

“You may think you’re writing about a murder or a robbery or some God awful dragon, but in reality you’re writing about the people who inhabit your story. What they think and what they dream of, who they hate and who they love and underneath it all, you’re writing about yourself.”-ACR

cliff roberts reprisal 2cliff roberts reprisalcliff 600 dpi

From: “Reprisal! The Eagle Rises.”

“YOU CANNOT NEGOIATE FROM A POSITION OF WEAKNESS, ONLY SURRENDER FROM IT!”

Fort Story Beach and for a moment, he considered not getting out. Beaches in Virginia during the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend were either mild and sunny, or cold and rainy. Today was definitely classified as a cold and rainy day. The wind gusts were near gale force. It was coupled with a light but steady rain that seemed to blanket the whole world, while the temperature hovered around forty degrees.

First Landing State Park of Virginia is the site of the first landing by the Jamestown Colonists on April 27, 1607, before they moved further upriver to the famous Jamestown settlement site. But Steven wasn’t here to enjoy the beach or bask in the history. He was here answering a personal summons.

Looking around the parking lot as he stepped from the safety and the warmth of his limousine, Steven noticed that there was only one other car in the parking area, and it belonged to General Charles (Chip) Clarett. It was his personal car. Steven thought he had to be an idiot, to be here in this kind of weather. Hell, he’d be lucky if he only caught a cold; but Chip’s secretary, Captain Rutland, had asked him to meet Chip here, saying it was urgent. So he cleared his schedule and here he was.

Steven pulled his coat collar as high as he could on his neck, opened his umbrella and tucked his head down. He used the umbrella as a shield against the wind and rain as he strode across the sands towards the solitary figure, standing just off the high tide line. Steven’s security detail fanned out about him and Chip in a defensive perimeter, similar to the type that the secret service used to protect the President.

All of the security men were dressed in rain slickers, ball caps and no-fog rain goggles. They each carried an MP10 in plain sight and Sig-Sauer forty caliber handguns under their slickers. Steven’s chauffeur, who doubled as Steven’s personal body guard, provided additional up close and personal protection and was always less than ten feet behind him. He carried his MP10 under his overcoat. It had a collapsible stock, which allowed it to be pretty much undetectable to the untrained eye, and he was a highly skilled at hand to hand combat.

A quarter mile away, at the entrance to the park, a van with five more men, all former military, sat ready to act at a moment’s notice to intervene on Steven’s behalf.

As he approached Chip, Steven called out, “Hey, buddy, why the cloak and dagger stuff?”

Chip didn’t answer and he didn’t turn around. He just stood there facing into the wind and the rain. Steven, somewhat perplexed by the lack of response, stepped up next to him and stood there looking out to sea, just as Chip was doing. After a few moments of awkward silence, Steven asked, “What are we doing here, Chip?”

Chip shrugged his shoulders, his gaze focused on the sea. Steven, not sure what say, stood silently for a few more minutes, then touched his friend’s arm, while looking at his face and asked, “Care to share my umbrella?” That was when Steven noticed that Chip wasn’t really looking out to sea. He was just staring into space with a look of deep sorrow on his face. When Chip didn’t answer, Steven asked, “What’s wrong, Chip?” as he waved for his personal guard to back away and give them space.

Chip blinked his eyes and sighed before he answered. He then stated quietly, “They killed them!” His eyes continued to look straight ahead as the wind driven rain pelted his face.

“Who killed who?” Steven asked.

“The terrorists killed Elaine and the kids! They killed Ryan and Nichol, they were just babies,” Chip stated through a catch in his voice. Chip’s eyes appeared to be on the verge of tears, or maybe he was already crying. It was hard to tell in the rain.

“Elaine and the kids? Where? How?” Steven inquired.

“They were in San Antonio at the shopping mall that the terrorists attacked Friday morning.”

“Oh God, no! That can’t be. Oh, no Chip, I’m so sorry! Let’s get you on my plane. I’ll fly you there. Come on let’s get you to the airport,” Steven offered as he started to turn away.

“That won’t change anything or help anyone. David has his friends to console him. We were never that kind of close, anyway. I’ll attend the funerals, or rather the funeral, after the medical examiner confirms the IDs and cause of death. I’ll catch a flight on my own for that.”

“I won’t hear of it. Let me fly you there. I know that Mary will want us to be there for you and David. You’re family, as far as we’re concerned.”

“No. David wants a very private ceremony–just a priest, himself and me at the internment. It’s a cremation. All three will be buried together,” Chip replied curtly in a near sob, his pain showing on his face, as well as in his voice.

Steven took no offense. He knew his friend was hurting badly, and he was struggling to vent his pain. They stood together looking out at the sea and after several minutes, Steven placed his hand on Chip’s shoulder. “Come on, let’s get out of the rain and find a place to have a drink. I know you can use one.”

“I need to know a few things, Steven,” Chip blurted out, while failing to move at his friend’s touch.

“Like what?” Steven asked, with a puzzled expression on his face as he turned his back to the rain.

“How committed are you?” Chip asked.

“How committed to what?” Steven replied.

“I turned in my retirement papers this morning. And now I need to know if you were serious about your private army, or rather your security force?”

“I’m very serious!”

“I’m not talking about some half-assed operation. It has to be all or nothing,” Chip stated brusquely.

“What would you like me to do to convince you? Write it in blood or something?” Steven teased, trying to lighten the mood a bit.

Chip turned and looked his friend directly in the eye. “That would be a start,” he stated coldly without a hint of humor. After a moment of silence, still staring at his friend, Chip continued in a stern, clear voice. “There’s going to be lots of blood. The people you’re asking me to protect you from don’t care if they live or die, and they certainly want to kill you and me. There is likely to be an ocean of blood, and it’ll get on everyone and everything close to it. There won’t be any positive spin to put on this if the wrong people find out. Everything and everyone you hold dear will be at risk.”

“Like, they aren’t now!” Steven blurted out. “I’m a target and my family is a target, just because I’m successful. The fact that I’m a westerner is icing on the cake! Look around,” Steven loudly uttered as he waved his arms expansively. “You think I like having to travel with this circus? And you know my family has even more people watching them. I don’t have a choice. I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do, to protect my family, my company and my country. Yeah, I’m prepared to take the heat. The group will provide everything, and we won’t spare the money to do more, or to get the best of both men and equipment. You have carte blanche. You’re in charge, totally and completely,” Steven stated with an air of finality.

“I’ll walk the minute you try to tell me to ace some politico here in the States or a business suit that you simply don’t like. I’ll also spill everything to anyone who’ll listen. The only rules I’ll accept are the Marquess of Queensbury Rules,” Chip stated flatly.

“What are those?” Steven queried.

“Those I place on myself. It’s a deal breaker,” Chip stated, his voice as cold as the dark side of the moon.

“You have the final say, on everything we do.” Steven assured him once more.

“The first operation will be to go after the cell that killed my family.” Chip’s voice was hard and final. His eyes were locked on his friend in a cold stare.

“I can live with that, as long as you also have teams working on the regular protection details and boosting corporate security, as well,” Steven stated as he looked off in the distance. Not enjoying seeing this side of his friend, he hesitated for a moment and then said, “I know you. You don’t think the government will do anything about the attacks. You feel the only way to get justice is to kill them yourself, right?”
When Chip didn’t answer, Steven laid into him. “Now who’s on the ego and power trip? Huh?” Steven asked,- echoing Chip’s comments from the night they talked about Steven’s reasons for wanting to do this, just eight days ago.

Chip’s expression didn’t change and his words were hard as stone. “I don’t care how you feel about it. It’s another deal breaker. You know damn well, just as I do, the government won’t bother to find them. They won’t take the action needed to ensure that there will never be another attack because someone, somewhere, will be offended if they do. They’ll bend over backwards to keep things politically correct,” Chip snarled.

“If you have half the connections and half the intelligence capabilities you claim, we can find them and we can kill every last son of a bitch. It’s time that we started acting like them and started terrorizing them. That’s the deal. Take it or leave it!” Chip’s voice was sharp as a razor’s edge.

Steven stood staring out to sea for several moments before he spoke again. “So why did we have to meet out here in the rain?”

“Because I didn’t come to this decision lightly, and I didn’t want anyone watching or listening. The rain causes problems for prying eyes and ears. But mostly, I didn’t want to taint my office or yours with talk of treason,” Chip stated.

“I am turning my back on my government and my country which I have spent my whole adult life supporting and defending. That stops today! The assholes in charge do not deserve my loyalty. Their inaction has caused the death of my family and will cause the death of my country if I don’t take a stand.”

“The Declaration of Independence states, or maybe it was just Thomas Jefferson who said, ‘For evil to triumph, it all it takes is for good men to do nothing.’ I’ve stopped being a good man doing nothing! So where’s my post?” Chip curtly asked.

“I think you’ll find it satisfactory. Have you got time for a trip today?” Steven asked as he put his hand on Chip’s shoulder. This time, Chip let him lead him to the car.

AVAILABLE ON AMAZON, KINDLE, CREATESPACE & ACX AUDIO BOOKS SOON

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From: “FATAL MISTAKE”

 MISTAKES ARE COMMON PLACE, EVERYBODY MAKES THEM THE TRICK IS NOT COMMITTING THE FATAL MISTAKE!

 ‘There is no such thing as the perfect murder. Every murderer makes mistakes. It only takes one mistake to catch them and everyone makes at least one mistake’

 Tyler Stone had spent the last three days digging. It had to be perfect. It couldn’t be too shallow or too deep, it had to be just right. He had given the process of digging a hole a good deal of thought. He had weighed the advantages and disadvantages of this and other locations, deciding that this was the perfect location.

What made this such a perfect location was the fact that it was close to his house, in his own backyard actually. Plus the soil here was mostly sandy loam, easy to dig in and not at all like the hard packed gray clay that was so prevalent in this part of the county. It was also perfect for a special addition to the hole because it was right next to the garage, and he could dig under the garage floor to create a side chamber in which to hide his secret addition. But the single most important factor, the one that made it a real no- brainer, was that the hole was right in the middle of what had been her garden. The garden was filled with flowers set in near perfect rows with lots of recently disturbed top soil. It was perfect.

Once he had dug the hole to the proper depth, he’d shovel out a space just big enough to slide her pine box into. Then he’d shove it in and refill the space with a mixture of dirt, sand and concrete. The mixture was called concrete slurry and miners used it to fill voids in the face of the rock walls underground. It was designed to be as strong as rock after it dried and thus would not be penetrable by ground radar. After it rained a couple of times, it would appear that there was one large rock under the garage. Only he would know that there was a body tucked neatly inside the manmade rock.

He had read all kinds of crime novels over the years especially the last three years working up to this. He knew every mistake the criminals had made that led to their arrest in every story. In every novel, the detectives always say, ‘Every murderer makes mistakes. It only takes one mistake to catch them and everyone makes at least one mistake.’ At the end of every novel, each of the killers screwed up and somehow gave themselves away. Though occasionally, the murderer got away with it by framing some other guy or simply because of dumb luck. He read the books, studied the books was more like it, so he wouldn’t have to rely on dumb luck and he could avoid making that one mistake.

In most of the novels he read, whenever someone buried a body they did so with the hope of hiding it forever. Invariably, the police found it every time because of the disturbed soil or the site had been disturbed by animals or some passerby spotted a body part inexplicably sticking up through the soil.

Far too many of the murderers in the novels, as well as real life, simply dug a hole until they were tired of digging, then they stuffed the body in and filled it back in with dirt. They never considered the amount of dirt they would have left over after placing the body in the hole.

Most of them simply left the remaining dirt piled up next to the grave, when they should have spread it around the area. By not spreading the dirt out, it left the grave several inches higher than the ground around it but only until it rained. Then the soil in the grave would compact itself becoming several inches lower than the surrounding area.

To keep this from being a problem, he chose to bury his wife’s body in her own flower garden. The garden’s soil was always disturbed due to her constant planting and replanting, making it the perfect place to hide a grave. To ensure that animals wouldn’t dig up the body or the rain wouldn’t wash away the soil and expose it, he dug the hole ten feet deep.

He couldn’t just dig a hole. He had to plan for the reclamation of the surface where the hole was to be dug as well, that way the garden would look exactly as it had prior to his excavations. If even a single flower was mangled, the garden would look differently than it had. So, he had to painstakingly uproot all of the flowers and preserve them for replanting after he had refilled the hole.

While he worked, he used the stack of old potting trays she kept in the garage to store the flowers. He had no idea why she had kept so many, but it worked for him. Of course, the flowers didn’t fit into the trays anymore, since they were much larger then when first planted, but it beat dumping the plants on the ground.

For the different types of soil he encountered while excavating, he laid out tarps on which to pile them so as not to alter the soils’ consistency when refilling the hole. He would refill the hole with the different types of soil in the same order in which he dug them out.

As he dug, his thoughts drifted, and he found himself rehashing the train wreck of his marriage. He hated this garden, mostly because she loved it so much. She spent more time working in it than she spent with him. She was so into her garden, she had even joined a garden club and managed to win a few awards for her efforts. If she had put that much effort into their marriage, perhaps he wouldn’t be taking this step.

When she wasn’t out in the garden, she was shopping. He’d only recently discovered the word ‘shopping’ was code between her and her sister, for her being out with her new boyfriend—a guy he had met at her work’s Christmas party last year. She spent the night practically hanging on the guy monopolizing his time, which he didn’t seem to mind. Tyler should have intervened and stopped it, but he had gotten drunk and had spent the night flirting with Janice, the babe from accounting.

To be honest, it was the lack of attention he paid his wife that had brought an end to their relationship. He’d been too busy doing other things, when he should have been paying attention to her. He had left the door wide open for her to walk out and that was exactly what she had done. It was his own fault, but he couldn’t accept it, because she’d had an affair.

When he had asked her why she had an affair, her excuse was the long hours he worked and what she called his meager salary. He had tried to justify the long hours by claiming it was required to keep up with current events. Though in reality, he stayed away from home because he wasn’t up to fighting with her anymore. Screaming and hollering had become the only way they communicated and he’d had enough.

He pushed those thoughts from his mind and focused on the task at hand. He hollowed out the side tunnel, making sure that he braced it well using plywood and two-by-fours to shore up the walls and ceiling. It had to hold up for the next several hours, and then, if everything worked right, it would all be filled within a few hours after that.

After the hole came the real challenge of committing the perfect murder, the alibi. He’d read somewhere that everything in life was timing—being in the right place at the right time. He had spent the last month making sure the timing today would work out to his advantage. He had managed to access the computer time clock at work, altering its programming. It would show he had been at work today from around four in the afternoon until three in the morning.

Next, he chose the perfect murder weapon. He’d chosen a fast-acting poison which he purchased from a pharmacy in Singapore via the Internet. He used the computers at the public library and a Visa gift card to place his order. He had gotten the gift card for Christmas a couple of years ago from his wife’s sister. The beauty of the gift card was its anonymity. There was no record of who purchased it or who had used it, provided you didn’t use it in a store like Walmart where you had sign for the purchase. Once the money was spent, you simply threw it away.

Once he had made the purchase, he was confronted with another issue. He couldn’t have it shipped to his house or to anywhere that required anyone to handle it or release it to him. He had to have complete anonymity. So, he rented a mail box at a package delivery store in a town fifty miles away. He paid cash for a six-month rental under a fake name. He had chosen that particular store because they didn’t require ID, making him completely untraceable.

The poison itself was advertised as a wart and mole remover. In the fine print though, several pages into the website dealing with it, it was explained that it was not to be ingested as it could cause hallucinations and/or death, if taken in the ‘right amount.

The site went on to explain what the right amounts were, before showing another disclaimer that stated it was for external use only. With further research, he’d discovered it had been used as a deadly poison by the ancient peoples of Southeast Asia and India. The research claimed that the drug was odorless and tasteless, perfect for use in food or drink. It had been the suspected poison of choice for many political assassinations in ancient India, carried out by the followers of Kali, the Goddess of Death.

He found it funny that the pharmacy guaranteed your money back if it failed to kill your intended victim. In order to receive a full refund of the purchase price and the shipping costs though, you had to provide a doctor’s note, attesting to the drug’s failure.

He continued to hurry. The victim, his soon to be ex-wife, was due to stop by in less than two hours. He planned on slipping her the drug in a glass of iced tea, after which, it should take less than ten minutes (according to the Internet) to take full effect. Once she was dead, he would carry her out to the garage and wrap her in plastic sheeting, then place her in the box and bury her in her beloved garden. He’d already brought her two favorite pieces of luggage out to the garage, filled with some of her clothes to bury with her. It was all part of the plan to make it appear as though she had taken a trip or left town.

For a brief moment, he thought he shouldn’t do it. He knew it was wrong, but still. She had broken his heart, and now she was trying to steal everything he owned by divorcing him. She was the cheater, not him, and yet the laws all favored her. So, in light of the facts, murder was his only option.

If pressed by the investigators, his story would be she must have come by the house and grabbed her clothes while he was at work. He would claim he last spoken with her several weeks ago, and she had informed him at that time she wanted a divorce. As far as where she was going, she had stated it was none of his business. He would also be sure to mention she had been seeing her boss’s son and someone should ask him where she went.

It was simple, and it was easy. Not too many details and it ended with her leaving while she was still alive. He would drive her car downtown to the train station and park it as if she had taken a train to the airport, which was a common practice from the northern suburbs. Parking was so much cheaper at the train station than the airport, everyone in town did it. He had already parked his backup car, an old Chevy Nova, a short distance from the train station, so he would be able to drop off her car at the station and still have a ride home.

After stuffing the last bit of bracing in place inside the side chamber, he climbed the ladder out of the hole and stood looking down into it, admiring his work. He then stepped inside the garage, where he stripped out of his dirty work clothes, because he didn’t want to track any of the dirt into the house where someone might find it.

Being able to wander about outside in your underwear (or less) was one of the benefits of living in a country setting. Tyler’s house was located on the edge of town surrounded by heavy forest, and his nearest neighbor was over three hundred yards away, so he felt there was little chance anyone would see him. It was the privacy of his home’s location that afforded him the confidence he could commit the perfect murder.

*********

His soon to be ex-wife, Wendy, arrived right on time at eight o’clock, as requested. He was surprised since she was usually twenty minutes late for everything, even for their wedding, she managed to show up late. He had used the idea of talking over their pending divorce as the ruse to get her to stop by. He had even gone so far as to promise to remain civil as long as she did.

When she arrived he was peeking out from behind the front window curtains. He had been too excited and nervous to sit and watch TV or read while he waited, kind of like it was their first date again. As he watched her exit the car, his excitement though turned to horror, because her sister had gotten out of the passenger side of the car.

Together the two of them stomped, side by side, up to the front door and rang the doorbell. He stood frozen at the window, anger boiling up inside him. Shit! She couldn’t even do this right, he thought as she rang the bell again.

“Come on in,” he yelled through clenched teeth as he crossed the room to the sofa and stood behind it. Remember, non-threatening, he told himself. He clamped his hands on the back frame of the couch. They were already white when the door opened and the two women entered.

“I’m surprised it was open. You changed the locks and hired a security service as soon as I left,” Wendy remarked as she crossed the room and sat down in her favorite chair near the fireplace while April, her sister, hovered behind her.

“Hello, nice to see you too,” he stated as he tried to remain as non-threatening as possible. That didn’t mean he couldn’t be sarcastic.

“I’m not here to be nice to you, Tyler, especially since I’ve been locked out of my own home now for what? Four weeks?” she groused.

“It seemed prudent with no one being home most of the time and besides, you moved out, so this isn’t your home any longer.”

“I’ll move back in as soon as you move out, like any self-respecting man would have done.” Wendy was trying to press his buttons, but he didn’t take the bait, this was too important.

“I owned the house before we were married, remember?”

“Robert, the attorney at work, says that doesn’t matter,” April stated as Wendy sat glaring at him.

The thought occurred to him this display of attitude by Wendy was completely misdirected. She had been the one to have an affair. She was the one who broke her vows, not him. If anyone was entitled to an attitude it was him, yet here she was, giving him attitude.

“Oh! Hi, nice to see you, too,” Tyler replied to April’s remark. In response, she gave him a twisted sneer and then looked at her nails when Wendy looked at her.

“Don’t try to change the subject,” Wendy snarled.

“I only said hello,” Tyler stated through gritted teeth.

“You were about to complain I brought her. I know how you think,” Wendy snapped. It was clear she was spoiling for a fight.

“It’s a little hard to have a heart-to-heart with you, with your sister giving me the evil eye.”

“Well, I don’t trust you,” Wendy snapped. “If you decided to, you could beat the crap out of me, and I couldn’t defend myself because you’re so big.”

“Have I ever hit you or even threatened you?” Tyler asked, knowing he never had.

“You could kick him in the balls, that would stop him,” April stated with a wicked smile on her face.

That pissed him off so he snapped back at her, “I thought that was what you called foreplay.” April flipped him the bird and stared at him. After a minute, he realized this wasn’t going to get him what he wanted, so he changed tactics.

“This isn’t helping the situation. It’s not easy for me because I still love you, and I want you to be happy. So I thought we could sit down and you could tell me what you wanted to do about this situation. If you want a divorce, then I guess I haven’t any choice but to give you what you want,” Tyler said.

April quickly interjected, saying, “Robert says he doesn’t have anything to say about it, if you want a divorce, he can’t stop you.”

“Robert’s right,” Tyler agreed, leaving her no place to go in the conversation. Wendy held up her hand, yet again, cutting off her sister before she could make any further comments. She then looked at Tyler with a face that was as cold as stone.

“I want a divorce,” Wendy stated. “I want to get this over with as quickly as possible, but if you insist, I’ll drag it out for as long as it takes to get what is rightfully mine.”

“Okay,” Tyler replied as if he was agreeing to repaint the living room. It was all he could do to keep from becoming emotional, but he knew if he did, it would defeat his plans. “Do we want to hire attorneys or do it ourselves?” he asked. “We can split the bank accounts, fifty-fifty. You keep your pension. I’ll keep mine. You have your car and I have my car. I don’t think you want my car, do you?” he asked with only the smallest hint of sarcasm.

“No, it’s a piece of junk,” Wendy snapped.

“So, that only leaves the house, which I owned before we were married.”

“Robert says…” April started to say but Wendy cut her off by waving her hand.

“So what?” Wendy groused. “I should get nothing, just because you owned it before we got married?”

“You’re the one choosing to get a divorce, and I bought the house a long time before we got married. It’s a part of me.”

“Part of you? I was the one who painted it. I planted all of the landscaping,” Wendy countered.

“Doesn’t Danny have his own house?” Tyler inquired.

“I’m not marrying him.”

“Well, not right away,” April stated. Wendy gave her a dirty look which caused her to turn away. “I’m just saying.”

“It’s none of my business,” Tyler stated. “Plus, I really don’t care to know.”

“You got that right,” April snapped. “It ain’t any of your business.”

“Shut up, April! Why don’t you go get us some iced tea?” Wendy suggested, then turned to Tyler. “You do have iced tea, don’t you? You always have iced tea in the refrigerator,” she stated as she looked at his glass of iced tea on the coffee table as he nodded. The iced tea in the refrigerator was already laced with the poison, unlike his tea on the coffee table which was from the last unlaced batch.

When April went into the kitchen his heart leapt, this still might work. April would be a complication but hardly any trouble. He hated her as much as he hated that bitch of a soon to be ex-wife. It was at that moment that he had a random thought and wondered just how many men she had affairs with, in her quest for more money.

“What’s with all the plastic cups?” April hollered from the kitchen as she looked at the stacks of cups on the counter.

“I got tired of washing glasses,” he informed her. He planned on burying the plastic cups in which he had served the tea, leaving nothing to collect fingerprints from or traces of the poison.

“Men are the laziest creatures on the planet,” April asserted. “He’s even bought a disposable pitcher to make tea in. What do you eat? All he has in the refrigerator besides the tea is a yogurt, a couple of bagels and a tub of cream cheese. No ketchup, no mayo, nothing,” April offered as she walked back into the living room. Then after taking a sip of the iced tea stated, “Wow, great tea. It’s so sweet.”

“Glad you like it,” he retorted snidely, hiding his excitement at the pending demise of these two bitches.

“I thought you’d get me one,” Wendy stated as April took another small sip.

“Sorry, I got sidetracked. You can share mine,” April answered as she handed the cup to Wendy.

“How can you live like this?” April then asked Tyler, referring to his lack of food or drink, as Wendy took a long deep drink. She then handed the cup back to April, who took another small sip. Tyler ignored April’s inquiry as he fought back the urge to grin like a Cheshire cat.

“So, what do you suggest we do about the house?” he asked, avoiding eye contact, because he didn’t want Wendy to see his glee at what now was her assured demise.

“I think I deserve something, if you’re so set on keeping the house. I mean, I should get something for having been you’re sex toy,” Wendy stated, as if that was something bad as she took back the cup of tea from April and took another drink.

“I thought you were my wife,” he stated and began counting the minutes until the drug was supposed to take effect.

“Wife? You treated me like I was an afterthought. You never were home unless it was to sleep or to have sex,” Wendy alleged.

“Yeah, I know I was the one who blew it. You don’t need to rub it in,” Tyler stated sincerely.

April took the tea back from her sister, stepped over to the dining room table where she pulled out a chair but didn’t sit down. She apparently preferred to hover over her sister. Tyler wondered if she was high on something.

“Maybe you could remortgage and give me my fair share?” Wendy offered.

“If I do that, then I get stuck with the bill for the next thirty years. How is that fair to me?” he questioned. “Besides, the value of the house isn’t what it used to be. Since the housing market crashed, the value is less than what is owed on it. No one is going to lend me money on equity that doesn’t exist.”

“It’s the only way you’ll get to keep the house, stupid,” April stated. Then she abruptly bent over and grabbed her stomach. “Oow, God this hurts!” she yelled as she leaned over the chair for support.

“What’s with April?” Tyler asked as if he was concerned.

“You okay, sis? What’s wrong?” Wendy stood up and stepped quickly over to April, who was doubled over and leaning heavily on the dining chair.

“Oh God, this really hurts,” April cried out a second time. While Wendy was trying to help her sister, she was overcome by the poison herself. She abruptly howled in pain, clutched her stomach and dropped to the floor on her knees. Severe stomach cramps were a side effect of the poison, as well as blurred vision, headache, nausea and hallucinations.

April joined her sister on the floor a moment later and both women lay there, writhing in pain. He stepped around the couch and stood staring down at the two women. Yes, this was working nicely, he told himself. Neither woman bothered to looked up so he didn’t have to look away to avoid their pitiful looks of fear and pain, mixed with a healthy dose of incomprehension. Over the next few minutes, the women turned a deathly pale white and stopped wiggling around, though they weren’t quite dead yet.

“I’m going to call for help,” Tyler stated loudly as he picked up their unfinished cup of iced tea taking it with him as he left the room. He then stopped in the kitchen collecting the disposable plastic pitcher of tea from the refrigerator and took it outside where he tossed both the cup and the pitcher into the hole as planned. He then he went into the garage and pulled out a large roll of Visqueen plastic sheeting from under his work bench. He cut off a large piece in which to wrap April, laying it on the garage floor next to the piece that he had laid out earlier for Wendy. He wondered if he could fit both of them in the makeshift coffin as he headed back to the house.

Unbeknownst to him, while he had been out in the garage, he’d had another visitor. Danny, Wendy’s new boyfriend, had shown up. Like April, he, too, thought he would provide moral support for Wendy. Though in reality, he was jealous of Wendy going to see her estranged husband. So he had decided to show up and stake his claim to her, in no uncertain terms.

He knocked on the door several times and when no one answered the door, he tried the door knob and discovered it was open. April had only ingested a small amount of poison, due to her habit of taking small sips rather than large mouthfuls when drinking, and so she was hallucinating instead of dying.

After Tyler had left the room, she had gotten to her feet and stumbled into the kitchen to look for the phone but she couldn’t find it. Tyler had disconnected it in favor of his cell phone, which was upstairs in the master bedroom by his computer. Unable to find the phone, she settled for a large carving knife which she took out of one of the kitchen drawers.

In the process of searching for the phone, she had stumbled into the table, knocking one of the chairs sideways and nearly falling down. She’d caught herself on the table and jerked herself back to a standing position, which yanked the table a few inches from the wall. The slip and near fall had jarred her, and she’d whipped her head around, dislodging an earring. It popped right out of her ear and dropped to the floor, rolling under the edge of the table. She failed to notice it in her disoriented condition, and she stumbled back to her sister’s side.

She then knelt down next to Wendy, just as they had been when Tyler left. She intended to stab Tyler when he came back, from wherever it was he’d gone. Time seemed to drag on for April as the seconds seemed like minutes. Tyler had only been out of the house for five minutes and yet she’d swear he’d been gone over an hour. Her sense of time was screwed up due to the poison flowing through her veins. It also affected her vision and her coordination as well, but she wasn’t going to give in. She was going to get this guy and make him pay for what he was doing to her and her sister.

Upon stepping into the house, Danny saw Wendy and April lying on the floor and he became frantic. He raced over to them and knelt down next to Wendy, pulling her up into his arms.

“Wendy, what’s wrong? Are you sick? Talk to me, baby,” but Wendy was unresponsive. Danny, fighting back the urge to panic, clutched her to his chest while he fumbled in his pocket for his cell phone, intent on calling 911.

April hadn’t really heard what Danny said nor did she realize it was Danny through her blurred vision and growing disorientation. She thought it was Tyler holding Wendy. So, believing she was striking out at Tyler, April lunged at the blurred vision of Danny.

Seeing movement out of the corner of his eye, Danny looked up just in time to see a flash of silver before April plunged the large kitchen knife into his chest. He had dropped Wendy in an effort to block whatever it was that had flashed past, but it was too late. Danny’s eyes burst wide open at the sudden pain and he gasped for air as the knife sliced its way through part of his lung and then pierced his heart. He was dead before he and April tumbled over on top of Wendy’s now lifeless body.

Remembering her sister was dying, April fought back the urge to simply lie there. She forced herself to stand so she could go and get help. Despite her blurry vision and mental disorientation, she managed to stumble to the front door, which Danny had left wide open in his haste to aid Wendy. April grabbed the door for balance as she stumbled through the opening, pulling it nearly closed behind her as she stumbled across the porch.

When she reached the steps, they proved to be too much for her to manage. In her disoriented condition, she didn’t realize the steps were even there and she plunged head long off the top step, landing hard on the sidewalk, badly scraping her arms and legs. She left several small bloody smudges on the sidewalk as she scrambled to her feet. She stood staring into space not comprehending what she was doing or how she had gotten there. After a few moments, she turned her head, saw Wendy’s car, and remembered that she needed to get help. Although exactly what kind of help and why she needed it, she no longer had a clue.

Slipping into the driver’s seat, she was overcome, blinded by her blurred vision and mental confusion. She laid her head on the steering wheel hoping it would pass. She quickly drifted into semi-consciousness and would have drifted into unconsciousness if her head hadn’t slipped off the steering wheel. When it did, she banged her head against the driver’s door window, startling herself awake.

Briefly, she had a flash of comprehension. Remembering where she was and what she was doing caused her adrenalin to kick in once more. She fumbled with the ignition switch until she remembered she needed keys to start the car. Luckily for her, Wendy was not security conscious. She always left her keys in the console between the seats so she wouldn’t lose them. With the keys in hand, it took April three tries to get the right key and finally start the car.

Tyler was just reentering the house when April was fumbling with the keys. If he had just looked up, he’d have seen her in the car, but he was so focused on the task at hand he failed to do so. When April started the car, the sound of the house’s side door opening and closing masked the sound of the car starting enough, so Tyler failed to notice that as well. That was two mistakes already and the night was still young.

Stepping inside the house, he didn’t fail to notice that things had changed in the kitchen. He’d made sure prior to Wendy’s visit that the kitchen was neat and orderly. All the chairs were neatly pushed up under the table. All the cabinet doors and drawers had been closed. Every dish was in the dishwasher or a cabinet. In fact, when he had gone outside, the room was still neat, but not now.

There was a chair that was shoved over almost sideways, the table was pulled several inches out from the wall on an angle, and the drawer, where he kept his big carving knives, was open about two inches.

“So, how’s everybody doing?” he called out in an effort to determine if the women were still alive. “I called 911 and they are on their way.” Tyler began to feel sick in the pit of his stomach as he wondered why they were still alive. Hearing no response, he stepped forward a half dozen steps which took him just inside the dining room, where he froze.

********* 

 AVAILABLE ON AMAZON, KINDLE, CREATESPACE & ACX AUDIO BOOKS

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

cliff roberts conch rep

CONCH REPUBLIC

 “MURDER, MAYHEM AND SUNKEN TREASURE, JUST ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE!”

The day started like every other day in Marathon. The fishing fleet and the sport fishermen crawled out of their beds at five a.m., packed up their boats and shipped out for the day or longer by seven a.m. Each of them dreamed of that record catch that would get their picture in the local papers and provide bragging rights until someone else came along with a bigger catch.

Inside his houseboat, Nate’s man cave, a retro fitted cargo barge, Nate was oblivious to the fishing crowd. Despite the marina being awash with noisy activity, he heard little if anything thanks to heavy-duty hurricane windows, and other sound abatement efforts.

Most mornings, Nate was up by nine, on deck, sitting in the shade of his huge umbrella, eating a salt bagel with crème cheese. He washed it down with an orange juice, or a Coke, which he drank from a large coffee mug because he was tired of people wondering why he wasn’t drinking coffee. He’s one in a million people, who is allergic to the coffee bean itself.

This morning, as with most mornings in Southern Florida, the sun had already begun making its presence known by driving the temperature above eighty before nine a.m. The onshore flow known as the sea breeze provided just enough of a cooling effect to make sitting on the rear deck of his houseboat for breakfast, a pleasant experience, but it wouldn’t last much longer.

The marina was its usual busy self, with people cleaning and prepping their boats, loading or unloading their cars or fueling up for the day at sea. Despite the early hour, several sexy ladies were already sunbathing on the poop decks, while their men did the manly things, like loading the boat.

After taking in the sights and sounds of the morning, Nate retreated into his man cave and began writing about his latest adventure. It wasn’t much of an adventure. He’d apprehended a pick pocket at the Marina’s Bar and Grill.

It was a friendly place, where locals and tourists mingled. It was well lit with bright and colorful neon signs, which hung on every wall, advertising beer and hard liquor. Despite the neon, it managed to have a quaint feel to it, due to the dark oak wainescoting throughout that matched the huge oak bar. Besides being dark oak, the bar was covered in ornately carved moldings, a dark granite top, with brass hand and foot rails that ran its full length. The bartender and owner, Randy, bought it from a demolition company in Boston. It had been scheduled to be destroyed along with the century old building it was in, when Randy stepped in and had it moved to South Florida.

In addition to the bar, Randy had rescued the huge mirror that had hung on the wall behind the bar which came complete with two glass shelves that ran the length of the mirror and held the extra bottles of liquor that wouldn’t fit in the well.

As usual, Nate watched the crowd in the mirror, which was his favorite pastime. To his surprise, he spotted a young guy in his early twenties, with black hair, of average height, and skinny as hell. He was eyeing a woman’s purse that was hung on the back of a stool. Upon closer examination, he could see the woman’s wallet was poking halfway out of the purse. Nate bided his time and continuing to watch the guy in the bar’s huge mirror, as he built up his courage to act.

Nate could tell the guy thought he was cool. He was wearing a wife beater T-shirt and gold chains. He watched as the guy double checked the crowd one last time and then made his move. He got up from his table and casually strolled right past the purse. As he did so, he brazenly grabbed the wallet and stashed it under his shirt at the small of his back in a quick smooth move, then strode toward the door. He kept his head down as he wove his way through the crowd, and the look on his face told Nate, he thought he had gotten away with it. Unfortunately for him, in order to leave, he had to pass by Nate. Nate was sitting at the far end of the bar nearest the door, and he was prepared to take this guy down as he approached.

As the guy drew even with the bar patron two stools over, still doing his best to act all innocent, Nate stepped away from his barstool, bumped into the guy and blocked his path. Acting as though he were drunk, Nate was in his element and relishing the chance confrontation.

“Hey, buddy, sorry about that, I didn’t see you there,” Nate slurred loudly, causing most of the other patrons, including the woman whose wallet the guy had stolen, to turn and look at the fat guy at the end of the bar bellowing.

“It ain’t no big deal,” the young guy mumbled, as he nervously looked around and tried to slip past Nate.

“No, no. I apologize. It was my fault,” Nate continued with his ruse and wrapped an arm around the guy’s shoulder.

“Like I said, it’s no big deal,” the guy choked out a little louder, as he tried to push Nate away. “I got to go.”

“Let me buy you a drink,” Nate offered, as he tightened his grip on the guy’s shoulder.

“No, it’s okay. I’ve got to run. I’m late,” the guy blurted out. Nate just continued pulling him towards the bar, causing the guy to squirm around in an effort to get away.

“Get off me, man!” the guy shouted, as he did his best to shove Nate out of the way with little success. That was when he made the big mistake and threw a wild punch at Nate.

Nate is surprisingly fast for his size, deceptively so. He shifted his bulk and redirected the smaller man’s momentum, causing him to stumble forward. As he went, Nate grabbed the guy by his shirt collar and twisted him around. To most of the onlookers it appeared Nate was trying to stop him from falling head first into the bar. In reality though, Nate had set the guy up to stumble backwards into it.

Nate slipped his foot behind the guy’s foot, turning the stumble into a trip, helped along by a small shove. The younger man fell hard, ass first into the bar, banging the back of his head on the hand rail with a loud thud. Dazed, he sat stunned on the floor in front of the bar for several seconds. This allowed Randy, the bartender/owner, to rush around the bar and grab the guy in a hammer lock as he started to get up. Randy angrily demanded to know just what he thought he was doing, picking fights with his regular customers.

In response, the guy began to struggle with Randy, while shouting swear words and calling Nate every name imaginable, ending with “fat sloth.” Nate just smiled and took a big swig of his Foster’s Lager, then reached out and pulled the wallet from the small of the guy’s back. He held it up, and the woman who owned it squealed, having recognized it immediately.

“That’s my wallet!” she screamed and bolted from her stool, stomping across the bar to where Nate was standing. The woman looked to be in her early to mid-forties, dressed to try to look thirty and on the large side. She grabbed the wallet from Nate, looked menacingly at the thief, still being held tightly by Randy and snarled, “You son of a bitch!”

She then coldcocked the guy breaking his nose and knocking him cold. It may have been her alcohol level or maybe she was just one of those women, but she followed the guy down to the floor, where she proceeded to beat the living crap out of him. Randy and the two men she was with struggled with her for a good five minutes, before they finally were able to pull her off the guy.

The woman was still piping hot when they finally managed to pull her off of him. “Damn it, I broke a nail,” she yelled as she glanced at her hand then back at the youthful thug. “You asshole, I hope you go to hell and rot!”

Nate wasn’t sure if she was damning him because she broke a nail while she was beating the crap out him, or if she was damning him for trying to steal her wallet. Maybe it was both. Either way, it seemed to signal the end to her rampage and with some friendly coaxing, she walked away leaving the guy on the floor a bloody mess.

Randy handcuffed the punk to the foot rail of the bar and gave him a damp bar towel to clean-up with. The towel was fine for a quick clean up but it wasn’t going to fix his broken nose or the numerous cuts and bruises on his face anytime soon. The back of his head where it had met the bar now sported a lump half the size of a grapefruit, as well.

Randy called the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department which he had on speed dial and reported the incident. He then went back to tending bar, leaving Nate to keep an eye on the troublemaker. Nate slid his stool back, just out reach of the thief’s legs, for he was trying his damnedest to kick him. This went on for several minutes until the guy grew tired and gave up. He then proceeded to attack Nate verbally.

“You’re a dead man, fat man! You hear me, you’re dead. I will feed your fat ass to the sharks, old man.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it all before,” Nate stated as he did his best to ignore him and watch the football game on TV. Nate usually didn’t watch the games at the bar, too noisy, but he had felt a bit isolated tonight so he decided to get out of the house and take in the ambiance of the local bar scene. He had to admit the entertainment was above average tonight.

“You know who you’ve messed with? I’m the nephew of the biggest crime boss in Miami, and he isn’t going to like you interfering with me.”

“Oh sure, he’s going to be real concerned about the nephew who gets busted by an old fat guy for stealing a wallet and then gets the crap beat out him by the woman he stole it from. If he’s anything like my uncles, he’s going to kick your ass into next week for being so stupid,” Nate informed the less than capable criminal.

“You don’t know nothin’, old man,” the kid snarled. Then he changed tactics and yelled, “My uncle will give anyone here five grand cash to get me out these fricking handcuffs and help me get out of here before the cops show up. That’s five grand people.” The young man smiled smugly at Nate, as if everyone in the place had jumped up to rescue him, but no one even looked his way.

“Does that include me?” Nate asked seeing the look of disappointment on the young thug’s face.

“Fuck you, fat man. You’re a dead man!” he snarled.

“Yeah, you said that. But if I could get you out of here, would you pay me the five grand?” Nate inquired, a sardonic smile plastered on his face. Yanking at his handcuffs, and growling, the thief thrashed about on the floor, until Randy leaned over the bar and poured a pitcher of cold water over him. It didn’t have the cooling effect, one might expect; it only seemed to make him hotter.

*********

Ten minutes later, a plain clothed detective from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department arrived and waited outside for backup. Detective Anthony Mason is an imposing figure of a man, he stands six foot six and weighs in at two hundred and forty pounds, all of it solid muscle. He is also a black man which only heightens the effect of his size. Two uniformed deputies arrived two minutes after Detective Mason and together the trio went inside. Detective Mason stopped a few steps inside the door, looked around and then, upon spotting Nate, went directly to him. He stood behind Nate’s stool a few steps, looking at the young man on the floor for several moments before saying anything.

“So, is this your handiwork?” Mason finally asked, as he looked at Nate in the mirror.

“Yeah, the son of a bitch framed me,” the thief whined.

“Shut up!” Mason barked, as he kicked the guy in the thigh, reinforcing his command.

“Nate, did you do this?” Mason barked. In reply, Nate pointed down the bar. Mason turned and looked, but didn’t see anyone that he thought capable of inflicting this much damage on someone.

Turning back to Nate, Mason roared, “Nate, turn around and look at me. I need to know who did this.” Everyone in the bar turned and looked in Mason’s direction, except Nate. He just stared at Mason in the mirror. The woman whose wallet the thief had tried to steal, leaped off her stool and came running down the bar, her broken nail not slowing her down at all.

“That son of a bitch,” she shouted as she pointed at the guy on the floor, “stole my wallet and I beat the crap out of him for it. I don’t need some man to fight my battles for me. That guy only kept him from getting away,” she informed Mason, as she pointed at Nate, enlightening Detective Mason as to what had happened.

“You did this?” Mason asked, as he pointed his thumb at the young man handcuffed to the foot rail, seeking to confirm what she had just said.

“That’s what I just told you. That rat bastard tried to steal all my vacation money, but that guy stopped him from getting away and that’s when I beat the crap out of him,” the woman proudly boasted.

“These people are fucking crazy, I didn’t do anything. They planted that damn wallet on me,” the thief interjected, trying lamely to defend himself.

“What did I tell you? If I have to tell you again, you‘ll beg to have her beat you some more, just so I’ll stop.” Detective Mason kicked him again, a lot harder than before.

“Ok, ok!” the guy whined as he squirmed away from Mason as far as he could. Once he thought he was safe, he yelled, “My civil rights are being violated. You all saw that.”

“Shut up!” the whole bar yelled in unison.

Mason started to grin, but caught himself before turning back towards Nate. “You wait right here. I’m gonna need a statement,” he growled at Nate.

“I’ve got nowhere to go,” Nate remarked offhandedly.

“You two,” Mason addressed the two officers, “wait here with these two.” he ordered, before turning to the woman saying, “Now Miss, let’s go over here and you can tell me the whole story.” Detective Mason led the woman away. As he walked past where Randy was cleaning the bar top, Mason looked over and asked Randy a question with his eyes. Knowing the look, Randy shook his head sideways, signaling that Nate hadn’t done anything wrong. Mason in reply raised his eye brows and Randy shook his head again, signaling he wasn’t changing his story, which seemed to placate Detective Mason for the moment.

While Mason and the woman discussed what had happened, Nate ordered another beer and a plate of steamed clams to help pass the time, while the thief continued to verbally attack him.

“My uncle has five hundred men working for him. Their job is to mess people up and they’re coming after you next, asshole,” the thief snarled at Nate.

“What happened to feeding me to the sharks? It was so much more frightening,” Nate egged the guy on, as the two uniformed officers, who normally would have been taking statements, simply stood there watching the suspect as though he were a circus freak or something strange that washed up on the beach.

Despite the bar being full and the potential for dozens of witnesses, Mason and the uniformed deputies knew it was highly unlikely any of the locals would admit to seeing anything. So instead of wasting time taking statements from people who would be claiming to have seen nothing, Mason would interview just the woman, Randy and Nate.

When Detective Mason responded to a call that had a minimum number of witnesses, he liked to do all the paperwork himself. Mason liked having his name appear as the arresting officer and as the sole interviewer. It played well at promotion time and he equated it to making solo tackles, which during his playing days, he’d been rather good at.

“You will beg for them to kill you, and when you’re begging to die, that’s when they will just keep on hurtin’ you,” the little pissant thief kept threatening Nate, and Nate just kept on egging him on.

“Those friends of your uncle’s, they aren’t with the AMA, are they? Now those guys know how to hurt someone. I know I’m in for it, when they say “you’ll feel a small burning sensation.” Shit, talk about an understatement. You ever have a colonoscopy? Damn! That’s a whole new kind of hurt.”

“Go to hell, fat man. I’m going to kill you and burn this damn bar to the ground. You’re a dead man,” the thief yelled again.

From across the bar the cry of “Shut the hell up, asshole!” rang out.

“Your fan club,” Nate smiled at the thief and took another swig of his Foster’s.

One of the uniformed officers stepped up and glared at the inept criminal, stifling any response. Nate, however, couldn’t resist the opportunity, and he verbally poked him again. “These old boys are going to rain all over your parade, if you don’t shut up.”

“Go to hell, fat man. You’re a dead man walkin’. You’re a dead man,” The young thug repeated for the umpteenth time. With such a limited vocabulary, the young thief wasn’t much of conversationalist, Nate thought and was about to say something, when Mason walked back over.

He gave the two uniformed officers a nod and they quickly unhooked the young thug from the foot rail, and slipped a pair of flexicuffs on him. They then escorted the guy kicking and screaming from the bar.

“You’re dead, fat man. You are dead. My uncle will have your ass fed to the alligators. You messed with the wrong guy this time. You’re a dead old man.” The diatribe went on all the way to the door.

As they reached the door, the young thief began struggling in earnest. The two officers lost control of him for a split second and the thief in his effort to escape, managed to smack his head on the door jamb, with just a little help.

“Oops, sorry, but you shouldn’t resist arrest so much,” one of the officers called out, as they dragged the now dazed miscreant outside. After the door closed, Nate went back to watching the football game. Mason spoke with Randy at the opposite end of the bar. When he had finished he walked back over to Nate, pulled up a stool and sat down next to him.

Mason, a ten year veteran of the Monroe County’s Sheriff’s Department, had been a professional football player before that. He had played for the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. He’d had a stellar career playing twelve years at middle linebacker and leading the team to four Super Bowl victories.

During his years on the gridiron, he’d been smart both on and off the field. He was student of the game and used that knowledge to earn all pro honors for a record setting twelve straight years. Off the field, he put his money to work making more money and had retired a wealthy man. Mason didn’t have to work but if he didn’t, he’d have gone crazy from boredom. What set Mason apart from lesser men, besides his inner drive, brains and being one of the few men who made six foot five, three hundred fifty pound Nate look little, was his hands. The man’s hands were the size of manhole covers and when he grabbed hold of you, you weren’t getting free until he let you go or he died.

The man had a whole NFL highlight reel dedicated to his one handed takedowns of the opposing team’s runners and quarterbacks. The only player who can claim that he escaped Mason’s grip is Barry Sanders, of the Detroit Lions. Mason had grabbed Barry by the jersey one Sunday afternoon and was about to fling him down, when a chunk of his jersey ripped right off in Mason’s hand. Barry managed to keep his balance and go the distance, seventy-five yards, on the play and it was the only example of anyone escaping Anthony Mason’s grip.

“Now tell me, just what the hell happened?” Mason always had a way of taking his time warming up to the subject.

“There’s not much to tell.” Nate said coyly, playing with Detective Mason a bit.

“Don’t play with me tonight, Nate. I am not in the mood for it. Just tell me straight up and let’s get it done,” Detective Mason strongly recommended.

“Like I said, there isn’t much to tell. The guy grabbed the woman’s wallet and I blocked his exit. That’s all that happened.” Nate gave Mason the ultra short version.

“That’s not what she said.,” Mason started in with his clarifying statements, designed to make most people nervous. Nate took it all in stride and waved Randy down, ordering another Foster’s Lager and offering to buy Mason a coffee, since he was on duty. Mason passed on the coffee, and sat staring at Nate in the mirror.

“Wow! The work you’ve been doing on your intimidating look is starting to payoff,” Nate liked to encourage Mason in his efforts to get his facial expressions just right for interrogating criminals or scaring opposing quarterbacks. “That’s the same look they always showed on television just before the game started. You know, when they were hyping the matchups.” Nate looked at Mason who was still staring at him. “Oh yeah, of course you don’t remember that,” Nate shared while suppressing a chuckle. You were playing the game, not watching it on TV. I have to admit, I’d be intimidated, if I cared at all about my life anymore. In fact, I might have even been a little intimidated if you were on the other side of the line of scrimmage from me,” Nate backtracked.

“Shut the hell up, and tell me everything, not just the condensed version. Let’s have it,” Mason growled.

“You sure I can’t buy you juice or something? I mean, I hate the way we’re always meeting like this. You being the only NFL Hall of Famer, I know.”

“Nate, I haven’t got the time tonight. Answer the damn question,” Mason roared, and the whole bar snickered, knowing it was just how Nate was. He could piss off Mother Teresa just by talking about the weather, but he’d also have been the one man she’d have turned to if she needed help. Nate was ‘that’ kind of friend, if he picked you to be friends with, he would help you bury the body and swear he saw the guy across town ten minutes ago and everyone would believe him.

“Well, why didn’t you say so? Jeez, I don’t want to hold up the county’s finest. I was sitting here watching the football game.” Nate noticed Mason was just staring at the note pad in front of him on the bar. “What, you’re not going to write it down?” Nate asked.

“I was just waiting to see if you were really going to say something, or get off on another tangent,” Mason tendered.

“You said you didn’t have time to waste right now, and yet you’re not even going to write it down. How am I supposed to take you seriously?” Nate griped.

Mason leaned over and put his huge right hand on Nate’s shoulder and quietly stated, “I’m listening now, Nate. Care to tell me what happened, or do I need to demonstrate just how much pressure this old mitt of mine can still exert?” Nate turned and looked into Mason’s big brown face with those cold as steel blue eyes of his, and tried to gauge, if he really would, start squeezing. Mason must have read Nate’s mind, because he squeezed his shoulder gently (for Mason) and Nate’s eyes grew just a little bit wider. He immediately started talking slowly.

“I was just sitting here, watching the football game, when I noticed, out the corner of my eye, someone moving down the bar. I glanced over and watched him as he worked up the courage to make his move. After a couple of minutes, the guy walks past where the woman is sitting and grabs the wallet out of her open purse. The purse was hanging on the back of the stool, it wasn’t secure. The guy was good, but not that good. He thought he was real slick, slipping it into his waistband at the small of his back in one smooth move, which no one caught but me.”

“You saw him do it,” Mason stated for clarification.

“The average person would have missed it, but not me,” Nate replied, bragging just a little bit.

“Oh no, not you,” Mason added which drew a sideways glance from Nate but he continued without commenting.

“Anyway, he grabs the wallet and heads for the door which happens to bring him right past me. I slipped off my stool and did my usual harassment act. You know, I acted as if I were drunk.”

“Yeah, I know. Get on with it,” Mason snarled.

“Okay. The guy went directly into panic mode and starts trying to get around me. Finally he shoves me and takes a swing at me. I didn’t swing back at him, though. I just let his momentum carry him into the bar bumper where he banged his head and slid to the floor. Randy ran around the bar about then and put him in a hammer lock before the guy realized what was happening. Once the guy came to his senses, he started running his mouth, blaming me for the altercation. Claiming he was just trying to leave. So I took the wallet out of the back of his pants and his mouth went into overtime. He said all the usual stuff like, he was innocent, that I framed him and that I attacked him.

He got real quiet when I held the wallet up for less than two seconds and the woman he stole it from came unglued. She charged down the bar, claimed her wallet and then without warning, starts beatin’ the crap out the guy. It was funny, actually. It took Randy and the two guys with her a good five minutes to pull her off of him.” Nate stopped talking and looked up in the mirror at Mason and smiled. Mason just shook his head and continued to write Nate’s story down.

When Mason finally stopped writing, he looked at Nate and asked, “When the suspect took a swing at you and missed, you didn’t by any chance help him collide with the bar’s bumper did you?”

“What? No way! I’m handicapped. I was lucky to have gotten out of the way. I had to move fast and being handicapped, I tend to lose my balance easily, especially when I have to make sudden movements. I must have moved too quickly, because I did lose my balance. When that happened, I might have used him to steady myself, otherwise I would have fallen on him and who knows what damage that might have done. Any contact between us, was entirely by accident and totally on purpo….achoooo, sorry I had to sneeze.” Nate sat there grinning, as Mason gave him that look again; the “intimidator” look.

“Nate, tell me I’m not going to get a call from the jail’s doctor, telling me the suspect has some broken bones or broken ribs…”

Nate interjected, “Ribs aren’t bones?”

Giving Nate a look that would have killed most men, Mason ignored his comment and continued. “No crushed vertebrae, no internal injuries, like a torn aorta, lacerated spleen, closed head injuries, ruptured kidney, punctured lungs, perforated intestines or a broken jaw?” Mason rattled off the list of injuries that Nate had inflicted on people in self defense in the past.

“Not from me.” Nate then looked down the bar at the woman.

“Okay. That’ll do. We may need you to testify against this punk, so please make yourself available. Otherwise, this guy will walk. I doubt it’ll get to court anyway. It’s considered a petty theft, and the assault, well you say it didn’t happen so that’ll get swept under the rug. The DA, will most likely plea bargain it down to a fine and probation, but be prepared. If this guy walks, he’ll more than likely try to sue you for assault or something. So, even if the court date isn’t until late spring, you need to be here. A conviction puts an end to his possibly of coming back on you,” Mason counseled Nate.

“Yeah, I’ve been there before. I can handle it. It’s hard to look at a cripple and believe he’s capable of assaulting anyone. Know what I mean? Besides, what assault? The guy stumbled into the bar. I never touched him.” Nate lifted his hands to show they were clean.

“Just show up when we need you, okay?” Mason pressed for Nate’s commitment.

“I’ll be there. Just let me know when.”

Just then, one of the two uniformed deputies came back into the bar and walked up to Mason. He whispered something in his ear.

“Yeah, I understand,” Mason replied. Then as the officer turned to leave, Mason ordered, “Hey, on your way out, get some pictures of the woman and her wallet. Be sure to spread the money out on the table so we can see just how much money was involved,” Mason instructed. The officer nodded and headed off in the woman’s direction.

Turning back towards Nate, Mason stated quietly, “We have a positive ID on the guy. He’s Ronny Deloore, ring any bells?” Nate shook his head no.

“His uncle is the head of the Miami underworld, and he just might have the clout to get his uncle to send some goons down to see you. So stay alert for any strangers taking an undue interest in you. How’s the alarm working on the barge?” Mason asked.

“Just fine. I tested it just a few weeks ago, and I’ll make sure that all my guns are loaded, too.”

“Don’t go acting all John Wayne. I don’t want any shootouts in the marina. You hear me?” Mason sternly warned Nate.

“I promise, if they don’t, I won’t. But if they do, I can’t promise I won’t finish it.”

“That’s what the alarm is for. Hit the panic button and hide. You got that?” Mason pressed Nate to promise.

“No, I won’t promise to hide. I’ll hit the alarm, but I won’t hide. They come after me, I’ll defend myself,” Nate stated resolutely.

“Okay, I tried. Are you coming over for chicken after church, Sunday?” Mason asked.

“You bet I am. Cyndi makes the best fried chicken I’ve ever had,” Nate replied without hesitation.

“Yeah, Cyndi and the kids like it when you come over for dinner. You’re so deprived of home cooking, you’ll eat anything. It’s always a bet as to what they can get you to eat,” Mason mumbled as he stood. “If you think Cyndi can cook, you should have been around when my Momma was alive, that woman could cook. Oh yeah…be sure to bring your fishing pole, we may go out on the boat afterwards and do some flats fishing.”

“How long you gonna let Cyndi think you like her cooking?” Nate asked.

“I’ll be taking that secret to my grave,” Mason stated. “And you’re taking it to your grave, as well.”

“I am?” Nate questioned sarcastically.

“Only, if you want to live past Sunday.”

“I’ll let you know Sunday morning, how I feel about ending it all,” Nate quipped.

“You do that.”

“I’m not going out fishing, if it’s too choppy,” Nate reminded Mason.

“If it’s too rough, we’ll sit out back on the patio drinking beers and swapping lies,” Mason stated, as he walked away.

That was how Nate’s new book started. It had been about two weeks, since the incident occurred and Nate hadn’t seen hide nor hair, of the loud mouthed, want to be, mobster, with the petty larceny itch that he just wasn’t smart enough to scratch.

 

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APOLLO ROAD

“What would you do if a psychopathic serial killer decided to make you his new best friend? A man who is unemployed, bankrupt and about to be divorced by an unfaithful wife is about to find out.” 

I was about to put the Chevy in gear when I noticed the visor wasn’t all the way up. I shoved it upwards, but it didn’t move. Pulling down on the visor to examine the problem, an envelope fell into my lap. Plop! It startled me! I must have jumped a foot. For several moments, I just sat staring at the envelope, but I didn’t touch it. I acted as though it was going to bite me.

While staring at the envelope, I couldn’t remember having placed anything up there. It then occurred to me that it was probably another set of court papers from the bitch. Yeah, that was it. The process server probably came by yesterday when I was on the phone or napping, and I didn’t hear her, so she stuck a copy of the papers in here. Yeah, right. Whoever heard of a process server breaking into a car to serve papers? No, someone else had to have left whatever this was.

I gingerly picked up the envelope, carefully gauging the weight. It was heavier than I expected. There must be twenty or thirty pages inside. Shit, how bad was this going to get? I thought again of how I might end it all and realized I was too much of a coward to actually do it. Shit. Accepting my fate, I opened the envelope.

I sat there stunned for several minutes. I just sat there looking at the contents. This was totally nuts! Who in the hell could have put this here? Why would they do this? I slowly counted the money. Five thousand dollars in what appeared to be new twenties and fifties. You know, the kind with the big picture of the president on the front. After counting the money for the fifth or sixth time, I sat there just looking at it. I was absolutely, completely stunned. I couldn’t move. It was like I’d become part of the car.

I could hear the engine running; I could see the clouds floating by; birds flying over; planes racing across the sky; and then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw another car suddenly race away from the curb a few houses down. As I turned to look, I realized the guy had been staring at me. Well, at least I thought he had been, and I suddenly felt very exposed.

I craned my neck, trying to see who else was watching me. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but having someone run up to the car and scream, “You’ve been punked!” came to mind. This had to be fake money and someone was playing a bad practical joke on me. Right? The neighborhood appeared quiet, but they could be peeking through their window blinds. Did they know the money wasn’t mine? Could they tell somehow other than by the look of guilt on my face?

I tried to tell myself that if asked, I could say I had no idea how the money had got there. But as I continued to sit there, I knew it was him—the wrong number guy. He said he’d left a part of what he owed me in the car. Why would he do this? It was probably stolen. Shit, what else could go wrong? I asked myself as I began letting my mind dredge up the worst case scenarios.

After another few minutes, I finally broke out of my stupor, turned the car off and went back inside the house. I placed the money on the kitchen table, where I proceeded to stare at it. After several long minutes, it occurred to me I would be completely justified in keeping it. After all, if someone was stupid enough to put the money in my car, it was mine. Possession is nine-tenths of the law, is it not?

With this money, I could find an apartment. But then, I thought better of that idea, and decided I’d stay right here, in my home, until the cops forced me to leave. This was as much my house as hers. She and her attorney could both kiss my ass if they thought I’d leave without a fight.

My mood had improved, so I stuffed the money in my pocket. I then had the sudden urge to change out of the tattered shorts and ragged t-shirt that I normally wore to work in the yard for something nicer. I had some money now and thought I should look the part. Hell, maybe I’d go out to lunch.

Just as I was about to leave, I noticed the sound the phone makes when it’s off the hook. You know, that annoying sort of whiny/beeping sound. It’s hard to describe, but it’s as obnoxious as hell. So, I hung the phone back up. As soon as I did, it rang and rang and rang and rang! I recoiled and stood staring at it, sure it was demonically processed. After a couple dozen rings, I finally answered, and it was The Bitch. I should have let it ring.

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