Lethal Contribution by Mike Samec by Mike Samec - Read Online

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Lethal Contribution - Mike Samec

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Liam

Chapter 1

Billy Bourke had little chance at life. Orphaned at age two, when his mother overdosed and his father simply disappeared, his parents became The State of Georgia and his home The Boys Home of Macon. At least it was a chance for most of the boys here, but sadly for Billy, it was just an annoyance. A place to be unhappy. A place to hate. Life for all of these boys wasn’t always manageable, especially for Billy. In fact, it was arduous and a constant adjustment. He had difficult time learning inHome School and soon fell far behind the others his same age. That resulted in a one-on-one tutor which improved his grades, but did nothing for his personality disorder. He needed more than the other boys. He needed professional help.

Everyone at the Home, as it was called, knew Billy was different and had one peculiar hobby. He liked to cutout magazine articles and pictures, then tape them to his bedroom wall. They were innocent pictures, nothing lewd or provocative. In fact, many were just animals, buildings or an occasional truck. Most of the boys accepted it as normal as many of them cut pictures out for school or colored their favorite characters from time to time. But for Billy it became an obsession and carried through to his teen years. Despite many attempts to find the answer to why Billy had this odd behavior, one psychologist had this explanation: Billy coped with pictures better than dealing with real life.

At the Home he shared a bedroom with Creek; a boy similar to Billy, except, Billy was born in a hospital. Creek was born and abandoned on the side of a riverbed. Creek's story is just one of many sad stories all of the boys have. Fortunately, no matter how they got here, they have a place to live, food on the table, and a chance at an education.

One day, according to police accounts, Billy was in his room cutting out pictures from an old Field and Stream magazine. Seven year old Creek came in, tired from running on the playground, and plopped down at his desk. Billy walked over and placed a photo of a slain deer in front of Creek. It was an eight-point Buck with a bloody arrow in its side. As Creek stared at it, sweat dripping from his forehead, Billy gripped his scissors, drew his arm back, and plunged both blades deep into Creek's back. His scream echoed through the thin walls of the bedroom, through the house, reverberating out to the playground. It would be a sound the other boys would never forget.

Miraculously, Creek survived. Eight year old Billy Bourke was immediately taken from the Home and sent to Atlanta for special psychological examinations and testing. Criminal charges were discussed, but dropped. Several weeks later, after numerous meetings and limited options, the Georgia Division of Children reluctantly sent Billy back to the staff in Macon with the mandate that he would be temporarily isolated from the others, have no roommate, and placed under strict supervision. He was allowed to have magazines and tape, but no sharp objects and he would be re-evaluated each month for a year. After several surgeries, and weeks in the hospital, Creek was released and placed with foster parents in South Carolina to recover. He would never return to the Home.

After a long evaluation year, Billy showed signs of improvement and his sentence was reduced to periodic counseling sessions. He was allowed more freedom and supervised visits to the playground. The fact remained though that as long as he could tear out pictures, he was fine. As soon as the magazines were taken away, his mood changed to anger. This behavior prompted doctors and researchers to sit in with the counselor and study Billy’s intriguing personality. He also became an experiment in the area of Psychotropic drugs. His mood swings were dramatic, almost frightening according to several psychologists. Eventually, it became less of an experiment and Psychotropic drugs were prescribed regularly to stabilize Billy’s brain functions.

At age ten, Billy’s treatment was working so well, psychologists believed, with the drugs, he would be capable of living a normal life. At some point, his supervision was loosened even more and he was allowed limited interaction with others, particularly on the playground. He was even showing improvement in the classroom. Division of Children was impressed enough to even stop the periodic counseling sessions. It would be a misjudgment they would have to explain in the future.

One day, Billy grew tired of the same routine: breakfast, pills, class, playground, lunch, pills, class. It was driving him deeper into depression and no one could recognize it. He started getting agitated with others for no reason and one thing kept him boiling inside: name calling. Some boys would call him Bourke the Dork! and Billy hated it. Staff intervened as much as they could, but as some testified later, kids will be kids and the name calling was just part of a normal upbringing, especially in an orphanage. Billy’s internal demons were at the breaking point. Enough is enough. He had to do something. He decided he would ask Red, his best friend, to run away from the Home with him.

Two days later while on the playground, Billy seized the perfect opportunity to run. One of the boys fell from a swing and staff people ran quickly to render aid. He’d already spotted Red alone near a large oak tree, far from the swing sets. He hurried over and wasted no time in asking him to run away. Red laughed and thought it was just another Dorky plan by Bourke the Dork. It would be those laughs and the name calling which caused him to snap, Billy told the Police later.

A short time after staff members assisted the boy at the swing sets, one of the young kids found Red laying against the back of the large tree, bleeding profusely from the head, a bloody tree limb nearby. He was able to murmur, before he lost consciousness, that Billy hit him. By the time staff searched the property for Billy, he had a half hour head start through the woods. When EMS and the Police arrived, it would be too late for Red. His lifeless body, covered by a blanket, lay next to the tree.

A massive search ensued for the ten year old. Locating him wouldn’t take long. A local farmer called to report he was holding a young juvenile for breaking into his barn. Billy’s freedom only lasted an hour.

The Boys Home, with the help the Division of Children, thought they did their best with Billy. They were both wrong. He was immediately court-ordered to be sent back to Atlanta despite efforts by Prosecutors wishing to charge him with Murder and keep him in the Macon County Jail. However, Georgia laws were specific: Jail time for ten year olds was considered cruel and unusual punishment, even in the most heinous crimes. In Atlanta, Billy was placed in isolation in a specially designed room at Mission Hope, a facility housing the mentally insane for the State of Georgia. Sadly, this would be his home until the court system decided otherwise.

For several months, Billy would be the subject of more studies, just like he had been several years ago at the Home. Mental Health Counselors, Psychologists, Attorneys, and Researchers from several universities paid him a visit, sometimes talking to him, sometimes just observing through a glass window. It bored him and even annoyed him at times, but, like before, he accepted it. Strange as it was, as long as he was provided magazines and tape, he was happy. He spent his days tearing and taping, stopping only to eat, sleep and take the Psychotropic drugs to keep him stable.

The Georgia juvenile court system was typical, even with the importance of the Billy Bourke case. Hindered by enormous piles of juvenile cases, not enough judges to handle the case loads, and constant attorney requests for postponements, Billy’s fate remained buried for months. That judicial boondoggle became a godsend for Reverend Don Franklin and his wife Evelyn of the Macon Baptist Church. Who knew that a missionary trip to Atlanta would save this young juvenile.

It was purely by chance on how Reverend Franklin discovered Billy. While in a lunch line at Mission Hope, the Reverend struck up a conversation with Division of Children Supervisor, Janet Dawson. When Janet asked the Reverend what brought him to their great city, Franklin told her he regularly schedules prayer visits to hospitals when in Atlanta, primarily to see if he can make a spiritual difference in those who are sick or down on their luck. It was at that time that Janet brought up the sad situation of eleven year old, Billy Bourke.As they slowly walked through the line, she continued to tell his story and how this is the second time he’s been to Mission Hope. As she paid the cashier, she ended her story by telling the Reverend this will probably be his home for a long time unless someone, with a lot of luck, intervenes. After listening closely, the compassionate pastor was mesmerized in thought and thanked Janet for sharing such an inspiring short life of a troubled boy. As he ate his lunch, he thought about Billy, all alone in his room, being an experiment and agreed with Janet: serious intervention was needed, not with a lot of luck as she said, but with the help of God.

After a restless night, Don Franklin told Evelyn that he had to go back to Mission Hope and try to visit with one of the patients. He explained to his wife how his heart was burdened and God was calling for his divine intervention with this little boy, Billy Bourke. He needed more than someone always gawking at him or trying to figure out his brain waves. Reverend Franklin is just who Billy needed.

Within two hours, Don Franklin was sitting across the table from Billy Bourke, a much larger framed kid for eleven years old than the Reverend expected. He was certainly capable of hurting someone even much older than him. Several psychologists stood outside and observed, so Franklin arranged the chairs where Billy could not see them. At first, Billy didn’t talk or look up. He just flipped through a Car and Truck, stopping at a page now and then and ripping it out. The self-assured, experienced minister just watched, carrying on small talk while Billy ripped. Before long, Billy warmed up, realizing this was not an interview and he starting talking. Explaining why he did some of the things in the past. The skilled Don Franklin simply listened, sometimes offering kind, supportive words. He even prayed which Billy seemed to embrace more than the Reverend expected.

After what seemed hours, Don Franklin left, a heart heavily burdened by Billy’s situation. He didn’t see a human experiment inside that room. He saw a boy that needed God, who could do God’s work and be a witness of the word and who could draw thousands to the Lord. He realized that he needed to gather more information before he could fight on Billy’s behalf.

Time was on Don Franklin’s side. The juvenile court system continued to be inundated with cases. Weeks turned into months giving the Reverend time to do further research. However, time was not in favor of Billy. This young kid was being treated like a laboratory rat. He was constantly being observed through a window as if he was a zoo animal. Despite Franklin’s vehement objections, researchers continued trying different experiments by pumping and dumping all kinds of drugs in Billy’s system. It bordered on inhumane treatment and the Reverend and his wife were bound and determined to do something about it. They saw promise in Billy Bourke. He wasn’t a Murderer in their eyes. He was a future preacher. However, he needed two things first: a loving family and God.

It took four court appearances, two chamber hearings, a sharp constitutional lawyer, and six months of legal wrangling but the State Court of Fulton County finally ruled in favor of Reverend Don Franklin and his wife. Billy Bourke was court-ordered into the care, custody and control of the Franklins and would reside with them in Macon, Georgia, ironically only miles from where he was raised. Despite a strong fight by the attorneys for the state, who wanted Billy designated a danger to society, and committed permanently at Mission Hope, finally relinquished their battle, thanks really to the tactful negotiations of Janet Dawson. To her credit, Billy would spend the rest of his life under foster care of a loving family. The only responsibility the Division had was a yearly visit, accompanied by court-ordered psychologist, and an annual report on the well-being of Billy Bourke. The Franklins were required to continue with Billy’s drug treatment as a precaution. Any drastic behavior from Billy, and he would be remanded back to Mission Hope, forever. Reverend Franklin and his wife assured the court they would work hard to make sure that didn’t happen.

The years leading up to Billy's sixteenth birthday were great. Each year the Division and its Psychologist would file a favorable report to the court on Billy’s behavior. He stays in his room a lot, the Reverend told the court-ordered Psychologist every year. I give him magazines, he cuts out pictures, tapes them to his bedroom wall, and he also gets his education from Evelyn, as well as Bible study. He even helps out in the church office, opening mail, filing, and things like that. Even calls us Mom and Dad sometimes. I knew he was a good kid. Going to be a Preacher soon, he would tell the Psychologist the year Billy turned sixteen.

Billy enjoyed going places with the Reverend and his wife. Gave him a different perspective on life than he was used to. Never caused any problems and always polite to everyone he met. Sometimes, they would go to overnight trips to Columbus, Georgia so Reverend Franklin could preach at another church…a sort of reciprocal arrangement with another Pastor. Even in those times, he never experienced any incidents with Billy.

Then, on his seventeenth birthday, something dreadful happened to Billy. He snapped. Like seven years earlier, he did something terrible before he ran away. A search of his bedroom proved shocking and disturbing beyond belief. That day and the days to follow, would change the lives of several innocent people, including a bloody stabbing at the Macon Baptist Church.

Chapter 2

Wendy was sitting in a soft, leather chair, waiting for further instructions from her boss, PT Beckle. He was not one who moved very fast, except when he was reading and certainly didn’t like to be rushed. He moved methodical and business-like. He called it orderly thinking. Wendy called it turtle processing, but she wouldn’t dare tell him that no matter how slow he was.

PT was staring out the library window on the second floor of his mansion. Annoyance ended his orderly thinking as he turned to Wendy, his personal assistant, Let’s order some golf lessons for Mr. Engles, please. I’m tired of watching him chunk the ball every time he swings. He can fly every aircraft in the world but can’t figure out the mechanics of a golf swing. PT wanted everyone, who loves and plays the game, to use proper swing mechanics and techniques. He was particularly concerned about his own staff and the way they played the game. A decent golf game meant more clients and an improved bottom line.

I’ll make lesson arrangements after the briefing, sir, Wendy Connors said as she jotted down a reminder.

PT turned his attention back to the window and chuckled as he shook his head. He spends many hours in his striking library, which is finely detailed and large like many rooms in the Beckle Mansion. The ceilings are sixteen feet high. The volumes of books are perfectly organized, edge-to-edge, on shelves extending to the top, reachable only by a rolling, wooden ladder. Leather chairs surround a mahogany table near the tall, tinted windows. The view from the second floor allows PT to watch the golfers attempt to place their shots strategically around the ninth green, however many destroy their score by bouncing a ball off the rocks and into the surrounding creek. Some even hit a decent shot only to see the ball trickle down to the edge of the water because of the bowl shaped green PT designed. Most of the invited guests playing the course have no idea that PT may be watching from the two way mirrored glass above.

Today, PT is receiving an overview on his upcoming charity event called The Tenth Annual KidsLinks Golf Extravaganza. Each year, PT chooses KidsLinks golf teams from around the country to participate in the all expense paid event. The teams are selected, not because they won a golf league title, but because their team did something special in their respective hometowns. Charity work and giving back to the community are the important things to PT. That’s what he does...gives back. The more the golf teams give back to their communities, the more of a chance they have of being PT’s guest at the mansion’s premier event.

He turned back to Wendy, Go over it one more time, please.

She flipped her notes to the beginning and slowly read the extravaganza’s itinerary. On Thursday afternoon, all landscaping, including fresh flowers in the beds, will be completed. The new flag sticks will be inserted, banners hung at the front gate, the marina, and when the pavilion is completed, a banner will hang there also. The final signs will be installed late on Thursday. On Friday morning, Driving Skill will arrive and begin installation. At ten, a meeting with all workers will be held in the pavilion to finalize all assignments. The transportation team will already be in place at the airport waiting on the first arrivals. I expect the first teams to begin arriving here at the mansion around noon. Friday night, a pizza dinner is planned for seven at the pavilion. She paused as she turned to another sheet. Saturday and Sunday breakfast will take place on the Point near the water at seven a.m. Lunch is planned at noon Saturday around the pool. After lunch, the Hole-in-One event is scheduled for two o'clock. Driving Skill will be in full swing at that time, also. At three o’clock, the putting contest will begin on the south putting green. Chef Ortiz is working closely with Candy and her team for the meals. The charity dinner fish fry starts promptly at seven Saturday night with your presentations at eight. Before you ask, Pinch has already prepared the charity packages. Oh, and don’t worry, I’ll be on stage to assist you."

Beckle Enterprises have staff personnel around the world. Most, like PT’s personal accountant, Peter Carlson, work from offices in the Beckle Mansion. Some have nicknames like Carlson, or, Pinch as he’s called because of his habit of pinching pennies around the company.

PT was orderly thinking again as he peered out the window at the golfers struggling to par number nine. Engles was in the creek scooping out his ball. One was around the rocks looking for his wayward shot. The other two golfers made the green, but far from the hole.

Wendy knew he was listening and continued, "The parents and kids golf tournament begins at eight a.m. Saturday. As requested, your round will be with Dan Moseley, National KidsLinks President; Candy Spires, CEO of CS Catering; and, Randy Giencke, Mayor of Cumberland, Virginia. Your foursome will tee off at eight thirty after you address the golfers and their families. As you requested, it will be a shotgun start.

PT interrupted, Mayor Giencke has done remarkable things for the Cumberland KidsLinks program. Plays a mean round of golf, I understand.

My contacts tell me, PT, that twice he actually attempted Q-School but fell short both times. A very good golfer and a great mayor I might add, Wendy said.

Q-School, huh! PT sat back in his soft chair and cackled. We’ll see how he handles my ninth hole.

Wendy prepared to finish, For family members not participating in the golf tournament, they can go with Pringle on the Intracoastal sightseeing excursion, which begins at 9:00, or, go on the mansion grand tour at 10:00 with me.

PT was pleased, but was scratching his head, When do my surprise guests arrive? he asked.

This was always one of the most exciting parts of PT’s charity events. He enjoyed seeing the smiling faces of the invitees, when the guests first appear. His personal photographer, Alfred Bailey, would be there taking the photos of the guest’s arrival. He takes candid shots with five different cameras, at different angles, making spectacular pictures. Some of them have a chance to be archived and encased in the Room of Memories off the main entrance to the mansion. Only the ones approved by PT make it to this special room.

This remarkable room had a wall reserved for the photos of past KidsLinks teams at work in their home towns. One photo shows a team from Smyrna, Georgia, building a wheel chair ramp. The note below explains how the young golfers raised the money and built twenty ramps for the handicap citizens in their community. Another photo shows a team from Lima, Ohio, painting a sports mural in the main lobby of the Lima Municipal Center. The team raised the money to fund the entire project without any cost to the taxpayers of Lima. In the center of the wall was a large photo which could not be missed. It was one of PT’s favorites showing a team from Virginia working on a Veteran’s Community Center specially designed for returning war veterans. The note below emphasized how no tax dollars were used to build this center. These charitable causes are what inspires PT and why he likes to recognize these young kids every year.

At 1:45 p.m. Saturday, Wendy answered. You will greet them on the east side of Guest Quarters. From there, you three will be escorted to Driving Skill first, where we are expecting a large crowd. After they provide some tips, they will then proceed to the putting contest where they will judge and decide a winner. Of course, later, they will speak at the charity dinner.

Perfect! a smiling PT acknowledged.

Wendy placed all of her notes on the table except for one. She looked at it and continued, As I said, they will join you on stage at the charity dinner presentations that night. After the ceremony, you will personally escort them off the stage to their waiting limo for the send off. You will close the day at 9:00 p.m., when you will give your customary inspiration talk at the river’s edge.

PT held up an open hand as he looked out the window. Wendy’s mood changed to irritation. The raised hand was a signal for her to pause and take another breath, but she had expressed many times her disapproval with the raising of the hand. She thought it was rude and disrespectful and a man of his stature should never do it. One time, she reminded him that raising an open hand was done by many kings in the 1600’s to quiet servants and to display power. King Charles I, an early 1600’s King of England, was one of the worst.

PT argued that it was not rude, in fact, non-verbal communications was one of the most important and effective channels used to get a point across, and that went for King Charles too! His argument was supported by the fact that the popular King was an advocate of the Divine King of Rights.

Wendy countered it was true, but, King Charles I tried to gain absolute power and used different gestures to prove who was in charge. He did it no matter how rude. He was eventually executed, she would point out. She knew the real reason wasn’t his rudeness, but levying taxes without Parliament’s approval proved the King’s demise. She purposely ignored that little fact. Unknown to her, PT was well aware of why the King was killed as he had studied all the Kings of the 1600's. To debate him in non-verbal communications was one thing, but to challenge him on Kings of the 17th Century was a defeat for sure.

PT was back to gazing out the window, his eyes drifting slowly upward towards the thickening thunderheads developing in the afternoon Florida sky. He lowered his arm to his side. I love what the game of golf does to build character, He spoke as if he was speaking to no one in particular, his thoughts spilling out. If I had my way, every child in this country would participate in KidsLinks.

Seeing a chance to finish the briefing, she decided to proceed, On Sunday, the children and their families will eat a farewell breakfast at 7:00 a.m., attend a non-denomination church service at 9:00 if they wish, then prepare to depart. Arrangements have been made for those needing to go to the airport. Chef Ortiz requested that I tell you, he and his team are preparing a very special breakfast for these special golfers…golf ball pancakes, link sausages shaped like golf clubs, and orange juice in small golf bag shaped glasses. He’s really excited about it.

PT shook his head and smiled. I’ll thank the chef later for his extra effort. I know his team will be very busy for several days. He paused and laughed. No one will go hungry from what I’m hearing. It will be another memorable event for some wonderful kids. PT got up from his leather chair. A clue to Wendy the briefing was over and he apparently was very happy with the plans. She gathered her papers, closed her organizer and placed it all in her briefcase.

Thank you, Wendy. Another job well done. PT walked to the area of the bookcase containing a book switch to a secret door. He turned, I’ll be in my office until three,"

Yes sir, she said as she walked the other direction. She stopped and turned, Oh, I’m meeting with Sue Johnson shortly on the Thanksgiving plans. I’ll bring the information to staff tomorrow.

PT acknowledged with a slight movement of his head as he reached and pulled a book towards him and the bookcase door opened, making a faint, whirring sound. He walked through the opening into his huge office, pulling another book as he walked by. The book door closed behind him. Secret doors and passages were great features added by the billionaire when the mansion was built. Only his closest staff members even knew they existed somewhere in the mansion. It was one of several secrets he selfishly guards for his own security.

Chapter 3

As a billionaire, Preston Theodore Beckle lived the life of a Bon Vivant and his massive office was proof. Enter the double doors and the eyes bounce off the Brazilian cherry floors to the huge custom made desk from Madagascar. Its shining black lacquer finish and bright silver legs, supporting the large, smooth surface, was exquisite. From there, the eyes ricochet to the wall-to-wall Rosewood cabinets, hiding leather-bound, literary classics from Dumas, Melville, Dickens and hundreds more. The Latin words, Gratia Placendi, were inscribed high on the wall above the cabinets. The meaning, Delight in Pleasing is his inspiration as he works at his desk. The second half of the wall consisted of a bank of security monitors angled for easy viewing from the desk. Wireless cameras are strategically placed around the estate and send video signals to computer equipment in the guard house. From there, the signals are monitored by his security team and routed to the mansion. A sophisticated DVD recording system captures all video action.

At his desk, PT can click a mouse button, zoom in or zoom out, and see every square inch of his property either on regular monitors or a 56 inch master flat panel, which integrates into satellite TV or his security system. Behind his desk are two phones, one black, and the other red. The black is his regular phone. The red is a hot line which routes to his Security Chief, Larry Burnsen, or to the guard house depending on who he wants to talk to at the moment. He's proud of his security system, but it's not the thing he's most proud of. That honor belongs to his hidden room under his cherry floors. Only a few know about his personal office lavatory and locker area completely out of sight. Access to it is another one of his selfish secrets.

Push a couple buttons on a remote control in the right order, and part of the floor drops down, steps swing into place, lights come on and PT’s in. Once down, he pushes a button and the entire floor closes and, because of the floors unique design, no one could tell there was a hidden room beneath their feet.

His selfish secret was an opulent locker room with multiple sinks, a Jacuzzi tub, more Rosewood cabinets, a toilet, and a large shower, covered in beige Teso Colosus tile imported from Italy. Like the disguise of the room, there are also passage ways that connect from other areas of the mansion. To no surprise, only PT knew how to access them.

PT’s second floor office provided a sweeping semi-circle of tinted glass looking to the outside world. The east portion had a beautiful view of his marina, dock area and his pride and joy yacht, the Dr. Bev. The north view overlooked the Olympic-size swimming pool, waterslide and a cascading waterfall surrounded by palm trees. Looking to the south, PT's closing ninth hole.

If the Rosewood cabinets are the focal point on the right side of his office, then the conference table takes the honor on the left. It was a gift from former President, Ronald Reagan, for PT's contribution to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation to support his Presidential Library and Museum. In the middle of the cherry wood table is inlaid, in a gold plate, the presidential seal with Reagan's autograph directly underneath. It was one of PT's prized possessions. On the wall above were the words, Nam et ipsa scientia potestas est. The former President would certainly agree with the meaning, Knowledge is Power.

The conference table, however, was not where PT did most of his work. The fruit of his labor was at his shiny Madagascar desk, one of the largest of its kind in the world. So large and heavy, it was placed inside the office during construction. Despite its size, he keeps it clean and uncluttered supporting his favorite saying, Can’t see the desk…Can’t see the profits. His passion about keeping a clean desk was a management practice he has advocated to some of the top corporate leaders in the world.

Every afternoon, before his workout, PT sat at his massive desk and opened volumes of company mail. Because he had exceptional reading and comprehension skills, it was not unusual for him to read every letter, proposal and contract that came in the mail cart. Not only did he enjoy it, but it allowed him to keep his finger on the pulse of his multi-billion dollar steel and shipping business, aptly called, Beckle Enterprises.

Technology at Beckle Enterprises kept the blood flowing through the company and the pulse at a steady beat. State-of-the-art mail distribution kept the enterprise body alive and one PT was proud of. In fact, like other technologies in the company, he designed his mail distribution system and perfected it to one of the most efficient operations of its kind: a pneumatic tube distribution system.

Near his desk were eight tubes. Seven were for his senior staff members. The eighth went directly to a shredder. It was basic, yet advanced in an office setting. After he read a piece of mail, he would place it in the respective staff member’s container, sometimes with a note attached. When the container was full, he’d place it in the tube, push a button, and compressed air rushed the cylinder to the desk of the staff member. Once the mail was removed, the member would send it back either empty or with a written reply. It wasn’t a new concept by any means. Financial institutions have used it for years, but at Beckle Enterprises, combined with computer communications via e-mail, the pneumatic tube system was very efficient ensuring nothing fell through the corporate cracks.

Not all mail makes it to staff members. PT sends some directly to the shredder, to Wendy for further review, or he places it in his personal drawer. If it makes it to the latter, which is rare, PT is in a personal battle to make a decision on its disposition.

Any packages, boxes, or large envelopes received at the Beckle Mansion go directly to Chief Burnsen’s X-ray machine near the guard house. After it passes that scrutiny, it’s then distributed to the appropriate staff member.

After his meeting with Wendy, PT settled in at his desk for an afternoon of reading and mail processing. As technologically advanced and innovative as Beckle Enterprises was, the mail was still delivered in a cloth-sided mail cart. It was beside his desk as it was every afternoon. He reached in and pulled out the first piece. It was a thank you letter from a volunteer group in Abilene, Texas. It had slipped his mind, but two months ago he made a generous donation to Help Abilene to assist in the building of several homes in an underprivileged area of town. According to the letter, the homes were almost completed thanks to Beckle Enterprises. It’s what PT Beckle does and he felt good about. He placed the letter in Wendy’s cylinder for filing.

As the afternoon thunderstorms rumbled outside, he used his speed reading skills flip through letter after letter: a confirmation on a land contract; an Intent to Sue from the City of Greensboro for ignoring tree cutting ordinance, Bullshit! PT thought; an offer to paint his cargo ship, Elena. He continued to stuff cylinders until they were full, and then sent them through the tubes to the respective staff members.

As PT worked his way through the pile, he came across an envelope that caught his attention. It was addressed to him at Beckle Enterprises, but no return address. It felt light and empty. He opened it and out fell a small piece of paper. He picked it up, turned it around as his eyes fixed on what appeared to be a magazine cut out of a wooden-handled butcher knife. He looked inside the envelope; empty. He rotated it while orderly thinking and noticed the post mark was Macon, Georgia. His name and address was sloppily written with uneven and unconnected letters. He turned his focus back to the picture. He was absolutely perplexed on why someone would send him a knife picture, in a plain envelope, from Georgia, with no explanation. It didn't make sense. Befuddled, but excited because of the challenge, he put the magazine slick back inside the envelope and placed it in his personal drawer. Later, he would pull it back out and deliberate the reason for such a mailing.

Before he knew it, three o’clock had arrived, and it was time for his cardio-vascular workout, a common ritual in his everyday schedule. Throughout the years, he was always one who exercised both his mind and his body At Seventy years old, it has paid off.. Preston Theodore Beckle was in great mental and physical shape and he wanted to keep it that way. He rolled the cart in the hallway where he knew Wendy would soon be by to pick it up.

Back in his office, he glanced at the security monitors as he reached for a remote control. He pushed a couple of buttons and the cherry floor slowly dropped. He made his way down the narrow steps to his hidden locker room to change into his workout clothes. Inside, he reached for another button and the humming sound indicated it was closing as he walked over to his locker. The lighting was subtle, but bright enough as not to be too blinding. He looked around, always admiring this special room and the secrecy it holds, when he realized he was staring at the small exit door on the end wall. The door opened to a tight crawl space which twisted around and around to the first floor and an exit door to the outside. It was his escape should it be necessary in an emergency. As he dressed, it became clear that it was the time of year where he needed to test all of the tunnels under the second floor, especially this escape tunnel. He would make a mental note and put it on a calendar later. After tying his tennis shoes, it was time to head to the gym.

The fitness room in the mansion was also on the second floor. This made it convenient for his senior staff to work out during the day since Beckle Enterprise offices were on the same floor. It was not unusual for others to see someone heading to the fitness room in gym shorts. PT encouraged it as part of the work day.

The room looked no different than a gym found on a busy city thoroughfare, but had a few extras, always expected in a billionaires home. Mirrors made it look larger than it actually was. Treadmills, steppers, ellipticals, and free weights were positioned as if they were measured to allow the maximum space for walking. Several incline boards rested in one corner near a purified water cooler. Fresh, cool towels were neatly stacked in a refrigerated glass cabinet, which stood beside a blood pressure machine. A couple of flat panel TV’s were mounted strategically in the corners.

While PT would spend the rest of the afternoon raising his heartbeat on the cardiac machines, he could not help but think of the knife picture he opened this afternoon. He would face that challenge after his workout.

Chapter 4

Friday morning began with PT riding around in his golf cart inspecting the grounds as he prepared for the arrival of guests for the Tenth Annual KidsLinks Extravaganza. It was his first order of business