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The Gift of Murder

Daniel McNamara

God gives the gift of death. Satan gives the gift of murder.
Chapter One

Avery Perelle is born Averado Perillo in the Italian province of Avellino in 1935. He is an
unexpected surprise to his parents; Giorgio and Angelina, arriving ten years after his sister,
Cantalisa. Giorgio is Sicilian by birth and owns several vineyards distributing Taurasi, Greco,
and Fiano di Avellino, Italy’s most distinguished whites. Giorgio is the wealthiest man in
Avellino and unashamed of the years he spent breaking the smaller growers in the lush area of
Southwest Italy. His close ties to Palermo, Sicily is whispered among the villagers.

Their home sits in the center of their primary vineyard. Petrino, Giorgio’s personal guard
lives in a small one-bedroom shack directly outside the wooden gate that blocks the 100 meter
path to the home. Giorgio is not concerned about unwanted visitors from the rear. A single path
serpentines through the dense brush making this approach clumsy, at best. Giorgio keeps arms
close at hand, confident he can stop anyone who trespasses.

The Perillo’s massive dining room gathers dust as Giorgio insists on eating at the kitchen
table each night, precisely at 7:00 PM. It is the only tradition in their small family. Cantalisa
waits her turn as Mama serves Papa the lasagna she hand-made hours earlier. Giorgio pours
himself a third glass of wine as Angelina butters his bread, serves Cantalisa and herself, checks
on Averado in his crib alongside her chair, and finally begins to eat.

Dinner is consumed in silence until Giorgio pauses long enough to nod his completion of
the main dish. That is the cue for Cantalisa to tell her Papa about her day. Both parents listen
and smile.

Cantalisa stands and announces, “I’m learning to become an actress. Miss Scalia
selected me to be in a play that will be performed in front of the villagers in the Spring. I will be
a butterfly, bringing the beauty of the wild to the Princess, locked away in a castle.”

Giorgio beams his approval, “That is magnificent, my sweet flower. You were born to be
a butterfly. You must tell me when the play is performed.” He glances at Angelina, then
continues, “Mama and I will be seated in the front, cheering your performance.”

Cantalisa is excited. She devours her food, anxious to return to the practice of her part in
the yard out front.

It is now Angelina’s turn; her only chance in any day to speak directly to her husband
without distraction. She knows her time is limited and has rehearsed her concise lines while
preparing supper.

She starts, “I am ashamed to say the birth of our son last week exhausted me. I am too
old to be a young mother, bubi. I beg you to allow me to hire a nurse maid, if only for a few

“What, you have so much to do here? You clean a few rooms, cook a few meals, write to
your mother. Now, because you feed and bathe a baby, you need a servant?

“Not a servant. It’s just I am so tired each day. I fear falling asleep, leaving him
unattended, unprotected---”

Giorgio holds up his left hand, stopping her speech in an instance, “Enough.” He pushes
his seat back. They can hear Cantalisa laughing in the yard, her innocent joy insufficient to crack
the tension expanding in the kitchen.

Giorgio's upper lip forms a distorted sneer, “I have many questions for you, but only one
of importance.”

Bubi, please. You must stop with this---”

Giorgio’s open palm rises again, punching it toward Angelina, demanding her to stop
speaking. He pours a glass from the second of the three bottles on the table. He is long past
sipping and swallows the contents of the filled glass, slamming it on the table, raising his voice
at her for the first time in years.

“Why now, after ten years of love making several times a week, producing nothing?
Why now?”

“Giorgio, we have talked about this many times these past months. You said you
understood, that the baby was a gift, a gift from God.”

The baby begins to stir, disturbed by the raised voices.

Giorgio retorts, “That was before he was born. Now that he is here, I look at him. I see
nothing of me.”

Angelina is bewildered, “Bubi, how can you say such a thing. He is but an infant, fresh
out of the womb. His skull is still misshaped, his eyes are not even fully open.”

Giorgio shouts at her, “No! I felt different when Cantalisa was born. I knew she was
mine from her first breath. I do not feel it this time.”

Angelina’s eyes moisten as she struggles to look through the foyer, out the open door,
confirming Cantalisa is well out of earshot. In contrast to his toughness in public and the shadow
of fear that dominates their household, he is rarely this harsh with her.

Giorgio points at the cradle and continues, his voice now quivering, “He must be proven
to be my son. I will accept it is too soon to be certain, but as he grows, I will know. If he is not
mine, you will suffer. Of this I swear.”

Angelina loses control, “God shame you, Giorgio. You accuse me? I have done nothing
but care for you. I watch over your health, keeping you from drinking yourself to death. I pray
each morning and evening for God to save your soul. You have taken the wives and daughters of
many men and used them for your filthy lust. You accuse me? Damn you, Giorgio. Damn

Giorgio leaps to his feet, his open hand turns into a clutched fist. He is weaving in his
stance as Angelina fumes. He looks down at her and speaks with a furious voice, “Are you my

Angelina’s anger is trumped by unexpected fear. She looks at the cradle as Averado
begins a feint cry, fully awakened now by his father’s shouts. She lowers her head and looks
down as she whimpers her response to her husband, “Of course. Of course I am your wife.”

“Then stand up,” he shouts.

She feels an overwhelming dread. She hesitates. Giorgio grabs her by the back of her
hair and yanks her to her feet. She yelps in surprise and pain. The baby’s whines turn to cries.

Still holding her by the hair and nape of her neck, he declares in a fierce voice, “Yes.
Yes. You are my wife, my servant. And my whore. My whore, no one else’s.”

He throws her torso onto the table, shifting his powerful hand to the center of her back.
She is in shock as she is held by his force, her body and face smashed against platters of bread
and food, her baby is now screaming out the very terror she herself feels inside.

Giorgio does not allow her to move an inch as he pulls her dress up and over her waist.
He fumbles with himself, grabs the crotch of her underpants, pulls them aside, and manages to
thrust himself fully inside her, stabbing her still-healing flesh with his delusional rage. In
seconds, he howls like a viscous beast and pulls away as suddenly as he had begun, stumbling
backwards, buttoning his pants and falling into his chair.

He sits up and opens the third bottle, seemingly blind to the nightmare he just created,
oblivious to its aftermath.

Angelina lays across the table, sucking in needed air, coming slowly to her senses as a
bloody mess seeps out of her. She would choose to lay there and die. Let the world find her and
hang her husband for her death. Only Averado’s continued screams force her to her feet, taking
him in her arms, staggering to the porch.

Her baby suckles on her breast. She tries to smile as she waves at Cantalisa down by the
gate. She envies Cantalisa’s mindless play. Angelina is only beginning to collect herself,
knowing she is bleeding and choosing to ignore it. She looks back through the window and sees
Giorgio passed out in his chair. She does not think he will do any more harm tonight. His burst
of outrage has been gratified. It is more important for her to think about tomorrow.

Her images are vivid. She will poison him at dinner, after Cantalisa has gone to play. As
he collapses across the table, she will move Averado’s cradle into the den and return. There, she
will push his face into a plate of pasta and sauce and thrust the bread knife into him. She will
stab him the same number of times he stabbed her, and she will howl with the same gratification
in the end.

At dusk, she brings Cantalisa and Averado into the house, avoiding the kitchen and
moving up the front staircase to the master bedroom. She braces the door by tipping an ancient
wooden chair under the knob. Two of Giorgio’s loaded shotguns are within her reach on a rack
beside the bed. Sleep is sparse, interrupted by Averado’s demands. The night refuses to release
it’s hold, intentionally denying Angelina the birth of a new day.

Yet morning comes, and brings the dawn of reality. Her planned revenge requires her to
obtain a poison and she is without an idea of where to begin. The vision of inserting a blade into

his flesh repulses her now. The consequences, the destruction of her precious children’s lives
further destroy the remnants of her fantasy. She feels trapped, at the mercy of a man she cannot
leave and yet, cannot possibly love again.

That afternoon Petrino comes to the door. He introduces Angelina to Gracia, a young,
strong woman sent to her by Giorgio that very morning. Her arrival is an obvious message, an
apology from Giorgio. Gracia is a nurse, maid, cook, and a blessing to Angelina’s life.

Angelina finds a place to tuck away the horror of the prior night, but she never regains
her love, her hope, her dreams. The family continues its daily life, but the foundation has been

Chapter Two

Avery’s donna matura, as he refers to his mother, speaks to him each night. The five year
old is a cocco di mamma; a mama’s boy. Avery has feint recollections of her putting him to bed
with soft hands and hard words:

“You will be a strong. You must be superiore”

“What do you mean, Mama?”

“You are Averado Perillo. You are already a man. You do not need anyone. You will
show me.”

The young boy closes his eyes and smiles. He pictures himself a man, dressed in a white
suit, pulling up to a massive villa in a limo. Mama is on the porch, beaming with pride.

Giorgio’s more gentle treatment of his wife does not reflect any change in his irrational
suspicions. His coldness toward his son demonstrates his relentless reluctance to accept Averado
as his own. Angelina fears it is only a matter of time before her husband drinks enough to
convince himself he is not the father. She longs for a solution.

Time and world events work in Angelina and Averado’s favor. Mussolini leads Italy into
WWII in June of 1940. Angelina’s plea to her husband is an idea she hopes will bring peace and
safety to Avery, and to herself.

Avery is at play when Angelina speaks before dinner, cautiously, as she slices the bread,
“We must send Averado to live with my sister.” Avery’s Aunt Donatella lives in the North End of
Boston; Little Italy. Angelina prays Giorgio will give up his obsession once Averado is out of his

“You think you can hide him from me? That I will stop doubting you? Do not make me
a fool. If I learn you have betrayed me, I will kill you. It will not matter where he is living.”

“It is not for that stupid reason,” Angelina bluffs, “You should want to protect your son.
You know we face many troubles here. We have already sent Cantalisa to Crete. Why not save
your son as well.”

Giorgio scoffs, “My son?”

Angelina recognizes his tone and the return of the deadly look in his eyes.

“Yes, your son.”

She clutches the bread knife and awaits his response. He finally answers, “Do what you
want with him.”

He suddenly grabs her wrist, squeezing with such force her fingers open against every
ounce of will in her body. The knife drops and he releases her. The only sound in the room is
the water boiling on the stove.

Little Avery comes in, ready to eat, immediately engulfed by the tension in the air.
Giorgio ignores him and motions to Angelina to tend to the food. Dinner is served and eaten in

Aunt Donatella married and relocated to the US years earlier. Dona’s husband, Enrico
owns a local restaurant. Dona has no other children and initially welcomes the idea of caring for
Averado. Yet she pays little attention to the young boy after he arrives in Boston. Her husband
never once speaks directly to him. Avery is well fed, then sent to his room to complete his
lessons, each evening of his young life.

Avery feels abandoned by his father. He has no ties to Italy or America. He receives
letters from Mama every month. The letters keep him alive.

“I miss you, my strong man. I promise to write you and I will receive your letters with
joy. I will see you each year and the time we spend together will be wrapped with more love
than could be enjoyed if you were with me each day. Please believe your Mama, who loves you,
that you are better there because of the war. The war will not last forever and we will be together
again before too long.”

The war ends and Avery awaits word of his promised return home. Yet the following the
letters explain new problems; the disruption caused by the new government, then the poverty that
sweeps Italy, then the reconstruction, and so on.

Avery is a loner. His black narrow eyes push others away. His looks are nondescript, his
clothes uninspired. He makes no friends. He spends most of his time perfecting his English.

His interest and aptitude in linguistics lead to the study of Hispanic, Arabic and Mandarin
languages. He adopts a small field mouse he names Ricardo and practices his dialects on him
each evening. His aunt and uncle are bewildered by the mumbling sounds emanating from his

Every year, Mama and his uncle, Giorgio’s brother, Antonio visit Boston for a week. He
remembers these visits intensely; they represent the bulk of his childhood recollections.

The visits are his only chance for physical closeness to Mama. At each visit, Uncle
Antonio photographs him, measures him, and examines his fingernails, toenails, body hair
growth, skin blemishes, and teeth. As a child, Avery has no thought about his uncle’s odd
interests. Only later does he learn to understand his uncle’s purpose.

At age fifteen, he pleads with his mother during her visit, “Why can I not return home,
Mama? Why does Papa not want to see me? There is no more turmoil. Or, why does Papa not
come see me instead of sending Uncle Antonio?”

“Papa is working very hard to keep the vineyard. The Christian Democrats want to
disperse our property back to la poverta. He fears for your safety. It is how it must be.” Their
hug when she leaves is endless. Neither choose to release the other. Both are blind from tears
pooling in their eyes. Avery tries to be strong, but screams out to her as she boards the taxi,

“Non mi lasciare mamma. Non andare. Per favore! Don’t leave me!”

No letter arrives the two months following this visit. Avery pours through his stack of
prior letters, noting each postmark; one hundred and fifteen letters, none more than six weeks
apart. He pleads with Aunt Dona,

“You must call Mama. She has not written. She must be sick. Please. Please!”

His Aunt frowns, hesitates and then says resolutely, “Sit down. You do not know
anything. I will tell you and you must understand and accept. There is nothing you can do.”
Avery looks to the door, envisioning Mama bursting in with laughter, grabbing him, Papa at her
side, reaching and---.

“What do you mean? Tell me what? Tell me now!”

“Your mama is gone. She drowned on the return from her visit. It was an accident. I
have been afraid to tell you. I am sorry.”

Avery feels the sensation start in his jaw. It opens involuntarily, locking into position.
He falls on the floor, his arms and legs useless. He loses all control. His body vibrates along the
floor. His first Grand mal seizure. Unlike most, he does not lose consciousness. He is aware of

Dona reaches into his mouth to keep him from swallowing his tongue. He hears his
Aunt’s voice as if in the distance, but he is overwhelmed with a paralyzing pan, his jaw still
locked. He pleads with her with his eyes, but he cannot speak. The pain soars through him, yet
stays inside, drowning the remnants of his emotions as surely as the ocean has drowned his

Days later, he questions his Aunt on the details of his Mama’s death. He senses her
evasiveness. He rereads all of Mama’s letters with a new cognition; seeing now signs of a
persistent fear woven within her words and tone. He closes his eyes and waits for her image to
appear. He sees the desperate look in her eyes each time his uncle examines him, he envisions
his father’s face with a scowl of rejection.

He finally absorbs and accepts what has happened.

He leaves quietly the next morning, taking all the money and jewelry he can find in his
Aunt’s home.

Dressed in corduroy pants, work shoes, and a pea jacket he seeks the steward of the
Azienda Comunale per la Navigazione Interna e Lagunare.

Uncle Antonio talked of their last trip over, about the people on the ship; the Azienda
steward is a native of Avellino. His name is Joseph Argenio. Avery confirms the ship is at
harbor. He asks up and down the pier. Avery searches until he finds him sitting alone in The
Whale, a pub catering to dock workers and ship hands. He approaches the black-bearded, tattoo-
laden sailor with fierce determination,

“Lei, Argenio, I am Averado. I must get back to Avellino. You must let me work for you.
I need no lira.”

The scowling steward looks him over, sets down his mug and shakes his head, “You are
too young to be here. What are you doing? Where are your parents?”

“My mama was Angelina Perillo, the woman lost on your ship two months ago.”

Argenio is startled, his eyes shift from Avery to his own glass. Argenio knows more than
he wants to know about the drowning.

“Ah, I see. I am sorry, son. May God bless your mama’s soul. Sit down. Where’s your
papa, why does he not send for you?”

Avery sits and leans forward, fighting the sounds of helplessness trapped within his
voice, “My papa does not accept me as his son. He is wrong. I must return to convince him I
am his flesh and blood.”

Argenio assesses the young lad, admiring his assertiveness, yet concerned about his
naivety, “How will you do that? If he has doubt, he believes he has reason. How can you
overcome his reason?”

“I have not seen my papa for ten years. He will look into my eyes and see I am his son. I
know this to be true. I simply know.” Avery leans back in his chair, exhausted by the release of
his emotions.

Argenio drinks from his mug, then sighs, “Ah, but what if he doesn’t ‘see’? It will
destroy your spirit. Or worse, you will become obsessed to find your real papa. Why? You are
young. You are in America. You should accept what God has given and live your life without
such questions, without such answers.” He shouts to the bar, “Hey, barista, bring me another.
And one for the lad.”

Argenio continues, “Besides, I have no need for another seaman, a seaman without
experience. A boy. My chief mate will never approve.”

Avery is prepared for this response, “You are right. You must explain me in some other
way. Perhaps I am your nephew?”

“Ah, why would I do that?”

“I can be your busone. I am an innocent lamb. I will do anything you ask.”

This remark takes Argenio by surprise. He chastises himself for his interest, yet looks at
the slim man-boy and says, “Do you know what that means? Do you understand what I will
expect of you?”


“Do you know I may wager you and you could be at the mercy of one or more of---let me
better describe for you---one or more of the less gentle of the men on the ship?”

“I understand. It is what I must do.”

Chapter Three

Avery steals a bicycle in Salerno after disembarking. His satchel is all that he has in the
world. It fits snugly in a basket behind the seat. It takes three hours to reach the Avellino area.
He stops and uses his converted currency to purchase six 8-liter containers. He fills two of them
at a petrol station two miles from the rear of his father’s vineyard and villa.

He hauls them by foot up and down the hilly terrain in the dark. His plan is repeated in
his mind, “Papa’s guard will not see me approach the villa. I know the rear path from the north
side.” He stops every twenty minutes to rest, exhausted from his journey, both physically and

When Avery arrives, he weaves through the path he remembers as a boy. He treads
slowly and quietly to the corner edge of the villa, sets down the containers and cautiously peers
through the kitchen window. As expected, Giorgio is sitting there in a sleeveless T-shirt, a platter
of capicola meat and several provolone balls half-chewed as he drinks from a bottomless

He makes two more trips, each time hauling two filled containers of gasoline. He gazes
into the window again. Papa is still sitting there, drinking and mumbling to himself. Avery
stands, leaning against the villa wall, glancing too often into the kitchen, waiting for over an hour
until his father finally passes out, as expected. Giorgio’s head drops to the table, a wine glass
half-filled in his motionless hand. Avery waits patiently for movement. Fifteen minutes pass
before he is satisfied this is his opportunity.

He selects one of the thirteen-gallon empty oak barrels stacked behind the villa, rolls it
silently onto the porch, and sets it to the side of the kitchen window. The emptiness of the night
is alive with locusts, telling Avery his father is letting the vineyard deteriorate.

He slowly fills the barrel with the gasoline and adheres in place a sheet of thin plastic on
top of the fuel. He takes three one-pint containers of 70% hydrogen-peroxide out of his jacket
and pours their contents on top of the plastic. He gently, yet firmly places the lid on the barrel,
sufficient to trap the peroxide fumes already oxidizing the plastic. He steps away without
looking back until he reaches the outer edge of his father’s property. He takes Ricardo from his
pocket and strokes him. He gazes at his birthplace in anxiety, beginning to doubt his efforts.

Suddenly, the explosion erupts. It is magnificent in its size and power. The orange and
yellow ball expands, enveloping the entire back of the villa. Roof tiles and debris shoot into the
air like miniature rockets glowing in their rise, then falling like hailstones within yards of where
he stands without flinching, watching and smiling for the first and last time he can remember.

“Benvenuti all’inferno, pappa. Welcome to Hell.” The boy walks through the paths to
find his bicycle, never to look back.

Chapter Four

Avery returns to Boston by the same ship with Argenio. They never speak again after he
disembarks. He sleeps in a halfway house near his aunt’s home, but avoids seeing her again. He
finds work delivering food from street vendors near the La Costa Nostra clubhouse, knowing he
will be contacted by them in time. It doesn’t take long before he is recruited.

Separated by the Central Artery (I-93), the gangs of Little Italy are allowed to prosper and
eventually challenge the Irish dominating the rest of Boston. Once the Irish mob starts fighting
among themselves, the Sicilian’s take control of the drug trade.

Avery spends two years running drugs and messages from the clubhouse to various
clients and confederates. His nondescript appearance and low-key demeanor is useful during
these turbulent times. Even so, he is arrested three times by Irish cops and beaten twice. Small-
time independents offer him bribes and women. He refuses, always reporting everything he sees
and knows back to the clubhouse boss.

It is an early afternoon when Louie Recchia tells him to sit down, “I gave you that
package this morning knowing it contained twice the cash I told you to deliver. If you delivered
it intact, I would consider you a fool. If you kept the excess, I would know you are a thief. You
returned it. You are neither a fool nor a thief. I now know I can trust you.”

At Recchia’s recommendation, Avery is recruited by one of Frank Costello’s aides and

moves to New York City. Avery is under development for a rapid rise in the mob. In January,
1956, he receives his first serious assignment. Two months later, Recchia is visiting from Boston
and sits with young Avery at dinner in a private room at Puglia’s on Hester Street. By the time
the second round of wine is poured, the restaurant is nearly empty.

Recchia ties the checkered napkin to his necktie, “So, you are growing quickly. They
gave you a big job. Tell me about it.” Recchia pushes a meatball into his mouth and appears to
be sucking it of flavor before he begins to chew.

“Hey, it was an odd job. I’m sure you know what happened.

Recchia swallows early, wipes his chin and says, “No I don’t. I just heard it’s a good
story. I thought I’d wait and hear it from the horse’s mouth, ya know? Tell me what happened.”

As he looks down at the table, Avery’s feint grin is sheepish, at best, “Of course. I guess
it is kinda funny.” Avery perks up. He rarely has an opportunity to talk openly about anything.
He relishes the chance to tell someone he trusts what had happened.
"It was a simple hit, that's why they gave it to me as a first, I guess It was that old man,
ya know, Tommy Dorsey, one of the Dorsey brothers, the old guys with the TV show, national,
ya know.”

Recchia holds up his hand, commanding a pause, “I know who they are. These guys led
a big band in the old days, before your time.  They’re doing a replacement show, for Jackie
Gleason, right? Gleason is Ol’ Ralphy boy, the Honeymooners, right?”

Avery nods and begins his descent into his more comfortable silence.

Recchia tosses up his left hand, gesturing “Hey” and adds, “So, why’d ya stop telling
me. What the fuck happened?”

Avery regains control and confidence, “Well, “The Dorsey Brothers Show” is a song and
dance show.  The kind of variety show people are getting tired of, right?"

“Yeah, I know. Sullivan, Allen, Berle. Too much.”

"So the stalk is a snap. I just sit in the back of the audience each Sunday, checking the
place and the guy out before, during, and after each show. I get lucky.  This guy, Dorsey, has a
dent, a routine that makes the MO obvious.  The guy sneaks out the back stage door every
Sunday, right after the show, between 9:00 and 9:05 PM, like a clock, ya know. He is always the
first, way ahead of anyone else. He walks down an empty alley about nine hundred feet, turns
right and gets into his Caddie, always parked in the same illegal spot; cops know who he is and
ignore his car each week."

Recchia interrupts, “Alley’s always empty; no bums, whores?”

“Hey, this is a TV studio. All the bums and whores are on the inside.”

Recchia bursts out laughing, sauce splatters across the table. Avery wipes a speck off his
tie and grins ever so slightly.

Avery continues his story, "Anyway, two gems: never anyone in the alley, and no one
else ever leaves after him 'till 9:20 or later.”

“So, I track it another two Sundays. I’m over cautious, but it’s important for me to get
the first one right."

"I hear you,"  Recchia appears to be enjoying this; Avery feels like he’s sharing war
stories with Capone or somebody.
"I run through it with my driver a couple of times, physically, in the alley, ya know?  He
walks by, once out of peripheral vision, I grab him by the back of his collar, yank him down,
poke him at a 45-degree angle, pull six inches to the right, you know what I’m saying, and walk
away, right?”   

"Right. But hey, the first one's hard, hard for everyone." 
Avery is anxious to continue, ‘So, I'm sitting in the audience at NBC studios.  Never a
problem getting in. They’re hustling tourists in each week, just to fill up the place. I figure,
tonight's the night.“

"The show is fine, about the same as every week. Dancers, jugglers, a lame comic, that
sorta thing. Figure I might as well kick back and enjoy it, right?  Don't have to be to the 'office'
until 9:00 PM."  Avery snickers. Recchia laughs too loudly again. Avery is careful not to finish
his story until Recchia is ready to listen.

Recchia motions with his fork, “Go on.”

"Well, all is well. The show is dragging on. It's like 8:40 and the old fart comes on stage
and introduces this deejay, who then introduces this singer, some new guy, stirring things up
down South. I'm thinking, shit, some hillbilly's waiting to go on national TV.  Probably crapping
his pants right then."

Avery explains to Recchia, "Anyway, it’s that friggin’ Elvis guy. Never heard of him.
Nobody sitting around me seems to know him, or care either. Then he starts to sing.”

Avery goes on reliving the moment, "Other than a couple of groupies up front, the
audience is slow to react, but when he starts jumping around, all the young broads in the place go
nuts. You know, everybody’s talking about the guy now. But that night, it was a shocker. Pretty

soon, half the audience is screaming, the other half are shaking their heads in disgust. Finally
this Elvis Pelvis guy leaves the stage. Time for me to get to work.” 

"That’s a real gem, kid.  So, what happened?" 

"Well, it's like five minutes to nine, I walk out, go to the back alley and wait to do the hit.
It’s the same as planned: quiet, empty, perfect, right?"
"Right. So what the fuck happens?"
"A fuckin’ parade happens, that’s what happens. No elephants and crap, but there must
have been a hundred people, mostly teenage broads, they start running up the alley. They stop at
the stage door.  There's even a couple of guys with cameras.  The press, right?"
"Right." Recchia’s expression is more intense.
"So the stage door opens, the broads start screaming, shouting Elvis the Pelvis and shit,
and, of course, old man Dorsey walks out.  They start booing the poor bastard."
"Hey, that’s ain’t right. Fuckin’ punks.”
"Yeah, so Dorsey just shakes his head, jumps off the side of the stoop, and starts walking
down the alley, as usual.  Walks right by me, like the plan, but I had to let him pass, of course."
Avery reflects on the moment, still in disbelief.
He continues, "Anyway, the beauty of it all is it worked out for the best, ya know.   My
hit had to do with the show; the boys wanted Dorsey off, they had that quiz show thing ready.
Dorsey wouldn't go along with ‘em, had a contract and shit, right?"
"But everybody’s going nuts over this hick. Dorsey's ratings go through the roof. Elvis
is on the show every week for six weeks. The best part is the boys are making more off Dorsey
than they were going to make off the quiz show thing.  They tell me to drop the hit. Something,
really something. Right?"

Recchia nods slowly, eerily quiet as he reaches across the table and takes Avery’s left
hand and squeezes it, at first as if to console. He leans forward, moving his face half across the

table and speaks softly, “Okay, you fuckin’ pezzo di merda, you listen to me now. I didn’t come
down hear to eat dinner with a fuckin’ spacchio suckin’ fuck up for my health.”

Avery is stunned. Recchia squeezes his hand tighter, painfully, and goes on, “You think
‘cause you fuckin’ lucked out, that the hit wasn’t needed after all, you think that means you
didn’t fuck up? “ Recchia tightens his grip to the point where Avery’s hand bones are about to
crack, “Do you?”

Avery tries to defend himself, “But---how was I supposed to know that---’

Recchia lets loose of Avery’s hand and sits back for a moment, “Cause it was in the
fuckin’ papers, you fuckin’ puttana. The fuckin’ New York Times.” Recchia pulls a news clip
from his jacket pocket and tosses it on Avery’s plate. Avery scans the article, written two days
before the show, buried on an obscure page, about Elvis and his followers crowding around his
exit after his shows, speculating on the reaction he will receive in New York.

Avery hides the pain in his hand and his head, focusing on the surreal moment as if he is
watching it on a screen, thinking about Recchia, “Christ. I believed in this guy, what he thinks.
I think of him like an uncle, a papa. He doesn’t give a shit about me or anything. I can’t fuckin’
take this any more. Never again. Never again.”

Avery gazes into Recchia’s eyes with false humility and speaks, “I understand. I do. I
understand. You’re right. I’m a piece of shit.” Avery folds the clipping and puts it into his pants

Recchia pulls close to Avery’s face again and says, “Listen, the boys like you. They like
you a lot. They think you’re smart, book smart, street smart. They have plans for you. This was
a test and you fucked it. You know the deal. Three fuck-ups and your dead, no matter who you
are. This is number one for you. You gotta a lot a years and a future ahead. You can’t afford to
fuck up again, you understand?”

“Yeah, yeah, I get it. I appreciate the lesson. I get it.”

Recchia frowns, grabs and tightens his hand hold again and says, “No. You don’t get it.
Not yet. You see, I recommended you. So this is my fuck up too. And it’s my second. You fuck
up again and it will be my third. So, let me explain. If I pay the price, you need to know I’ve
made plans. Someone will be feeding you your balls, one at a time, while they’re still chewy.
Now do ya get it, you testa di merda?”

Avery doesn’t respond because he knows the threat demands no response. Avery will
never forget this conversation, this lesson. This evening changes him.

Recchia relaxes. The customers and staff have all left. Avery reaches over to the next
table and grabs two fresh glasses. He pours them both a glass from the bottle of grapa the waiter
left for them. Recchia starts telling stories about his glory days, his war stories. Recchia’s
laughter fills the room of the empty restaurant as Avery listens patiently, trying his best to act

Chapter Five

The next night, Avery is sitting in the back of Frank Costello’s limo, riding slowly down
Mulberry. Costello is dressed to perfection; thin black lines of his twill weave suit match the
shade of his ebony hat. Dean Martin croons “Memories are Made of This” softly from speakers
along the floor boards. Ricardo II stirs in Avery’s suit pocket. Costello gets past the small talk
and speaks,

“I’m a happy man. You made me smile today.”

Avery is surprised, pleasantly. He didn’t expect to be alive this long.

Costello continues, “You did what we expected you to do. Very clean. Tell me, how did
you get that roll stuck in his throat without breaking his teeth first?”

“I drugged him. He was out cold. It was easy.”

“Ha! Easy. I like that. It was easy. Ha!” He calls to his chauffeur, “Hey, Mike, the kid
here knocks off Lou Recchia and says ‘It was easy. Ha!” Costello slowly stops laughing and
places his hand on Avery’s knee.

“Two important birds for me at the same time. I get that fat fuck Recchia out of the way,
clean. And my young piccolo proves himself to me. I am happy.”

Avery is relieved, but uncomfortable with Costello’s touch and tone. Never again will he

Costello continues, “You work for me now. You fucked up, but everyone needs to fuck
up once, just to know how it feels. I give most three strikes. You, I’m only giving two. Don’t
fuck up again.”

“I won’t,” Avery answered, speaking more to himself than to Costello.

“Keep clean. Keep doing your job. I don’t want to hear about you. I don’t want to read
about you. You got potential, kid. Don’t fuck it up.” Avery doesn’t respond.

The silence is welcomed by Avery, but it is brief. Costello continues, “You stay close
and you stay smart and you will be happy someday. You understand me?

Avery nods, “I understand you, sir. I understand.”

Avery never hears from him again. The attempted assassination of Costello by Vito
Genovese in 1957 leads to the emergence of the Genovese Family. Avery receives instructions
every few weeks and continues to do his job, expanding drug distribution, overseeing a growing
array of hookers, pulling off an occasional hit.

The Kennedy Administration begins to pressure mob activities. Genovese is jailed on

drug charges in 1962, but continues to run the mob using Gerado Catena as his underboss.

The Washington pressure subsides after JFK’s assassination. Avery receives instructions
from Catena to spend a few years in South America, using his language skills to convince the
locals and rebels to increase the production of poppy. Avery goes further and develops a network
of small processing plants, exceeding US heroin demand. Avery gets approval to form his own
company, Hampton International, and set-ups export operations to several other markets. The
boys are pleased with the results. Avery is pleased with the rewards.

Chapter Six

In April, 1968 Avery is summoned to New York. He spends weeks waiting, meeting with
various underlings, keeping in touch with his South American contacts. Most evenings, he’s
alone in his hotel room, stroking Ricardo IV, changing channels between Laugh-in and tributes to
the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. Finally, he receives instructions. He is to meet secretly with
Carlo Gambino.

Gambino looks and acts like a powerful mobster. In fact, he has little or no say in the
mob’s business. He receives orders from “The Commission” and carries them out without
question. Avery thinks, “Does it matter. He’s got the muscle. Who cares who calls the shots.”

They meet in a suite at a luxury hotel on West 58th. Avery is seated by one of the two
men protecting Gambino. Gambino comes in, nods at both of his men and sits before Avery.
Gamino’s face is scarred and disfigured. His eyes are tightly spaced and his squint hides all
signs of whiteness. Only the black beads of his pupils stare at Avery as he starts,

“I don’t like to speak. This is what you need to know.” Gambino pauses. Avery
speculates Gambino is trying to remember the sequence of his orders.

Gambino continues, “I am impressed by you, so far. I have had you watched for six
weeks. My men are rarely spotted, even once. You spotted them twice.”

‘Four times,” Avery mumbles.

“Four?” Gambino looks up at the thug at the door. “You spotted them more than they
know?” He shakes his head, “You know you just cost someone their balls, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I know” Avery continues to glance down.

Gambino seems thrown off tempo, but gathers his thoughts and regains control as he goes
on, “We tailed you to confirm you were trustworthy. Fine. The real point is to be sure no one
else is tracking you. You are of no interest to anyone from what we can tell. That matters.”

He reaches for a folder and pulls out a photo, hands it to Avery and says, “Here’s the

Avery looks at the photo and catches his breath, careful not to show any emotion, but
inside, he’s overwhelmed for the first time in years.

Gambino understands, “Yeah, I know. Pretty big deal.”

Avery appropriately considers Gambino’s comment the understatement of the century.

He’s determined to keep his cool as he asks, “What do I need to know?”

“Relax. We don’t expect you to do the hit yourself. Hell, we don’t want you to. This kill
has to be as removed from us as possible.” Gambino hands Avery a file with a second photo.
Avery is puzzled.

Gambino explains, “He’s an Arabian nut-job. He’s gonna to try to make the hit no matter
what we do. We just want one of us to guide him, make sure he pulls it off. That’s your job.”

Avery scans the file, already planning his actions.

“You make sure he gets it done. That’s all. We think he’ll get shot the minute he makes
the score, but if he’s not, you make sure he doesn’t talk.”

Gambino adds, “Stay in the background. If you are so much as questioned afterwards,
you’re a dead man.”

Avery nods, trying not to show his disdain, “Got it.”

“If it all works out, we may give you some trucking, maybe some packaging. Make your
little company more legit. We’ll see.”

Avery considers the promises an overkill, so to speak. Not necessary. The boys must
want this bad, real bad. They know he’ll get it done. They wouldn’t have given it to him
otherwise. He walks out of the suite, determined. His sole comfort is Ricardo IV stirring in his

Chapter Seven

Bobby Kennedy expected to run for President in 1968 from the day his brother Jack was
nominated in 1959. His father made it clear to the three of them. First Jack, then Bobby, then
Teddy; a twenty-four year American Presidential regime. Of course, none of them expected it to
turn out this way; Bobby running to recapture the position following LBJ’s bungling of the
presidency since Jack’s assassination in 1963.

Bobby doesn’t have his older brother’s charisma. He knows he does not compare to Jack
as a public speaker, an articulate leader. Yet he has his own strengths. He leads from his heart.
And he is fearless. It takes awhile, but the party gradually sees Bobby can win, that he can beat
Humphrey, then the Republican nominee, probably Nixon. The ground swell for Bobby takes
hold in early 1968, eight months before the election.

Public sentiment regarding Vietnam is shifting Bobby’s way daily. His support of Israel
expands his funding. His reputation as Attorney General under his brother’s administration and
later as a Senator, including his daring stand against organized crime arms Bobby with credibility
and credentials. He is destined to be the next President of the United States. The mob
understands what that means to them.

Avery has no difficulty locating Sirhan Sirhan at the race track. The twenty-four year old
is a stable boy at Santa Anita. Avery watches him for a couple days, comfortable Sirhan is the
real thing. Avery waits patiently in an empty stall in one of the stables, standing obscurely in the
shadows when he first speaks to Sirhan in Yiddish,

“I am a spirit summoned by your friend, Alvin. I am here to guide you to your destiny;
to save the world from this Zionist devil, before it’s too late.”

Sirhan is captivated in an instant, clearly needing someone to understand why Kennedy

must die. He drops to his knees, bows his head and listens to his new spiritual guide.

This is no stab in the dark. Avery knows of Sirhan’s obsession, his belief in the occult.
Sirhan’s desperation in talking about killing Kennedy to his garbage collector, Alvin Clark is
one of the ways the mob knows of Sirhan in the first place. Avery is merely playing on this
knowledge. From this moment forward, Sirhan is Avery’s puppet. Avery stays in the shadows,
encouraging Sirhan, talking about when and how to act, how close to get, how rapid the shots,
how to escape, even though Avery knows escape is impossible.

On the evening of June 4, 1968 Bobby Kennedy wins the California Democratic Primary
and gives a rousing speech at the Ambassador Hotel. He speaks of Vietnam and shares his
mourning of Martin Luther King, Jr. He finishes just after midnight.

RFK shouts into the mike, “It’s on to Chicago, and let’s win there!” The supportive
crowd cheers. His wife, Ethel, pregnant with their eleventh child beams with pride. He is
escorted through a door behind the stage, through the pantry area where the kitchen staff wait to
greet him as he passes through. It’s a historic exit route, used by Presidents past.

Sirhan is allowed into the Embassy Room without question, without a search. In 1968,
the US Secret Service is not responsible for presidential candidates. That changes after tonight.

At Avery’s suggestion, Sirhan is standing and listening to RFK, ready to follow the
entourage through the exit door.

Bobby stops in the kitchen to shake hands. He is talking with a busboy as Sirhan pushes
forward until he is close enough to RFK to touch him.

“Kennedy, you son of a bitch!” Sirhan’s Iver-Johnson Cadet revolver fires at RFK at
close range. Two or three bullets enter Bobby from the front, other bullets fly wildly.

Avery is standing behind Kennedy. He sees Sirhan’s shots are not fatal. In the midst of
the mayhem, with all eyes focused on Sirhan, Avery places a single bullet into Bobby’s brain
stem from behind, then fades into the crowd.

There is pandemonium as pro football player Rosey Grier and others pounce on Sirhan,
gold medalist Rafer Johnson and writer George Plimpton catch Bobby’s fall, helpless from the

Bobby is on his back, arms outstretched. The busboy manages to place a rosary in his
hand. Ethel is pushing through the crowd yelling, “Get back, all of you! For God’s sake, give
him room to breath. The loudspeaker is shouting for a doctor. Kennedy, not yet unconscious,
speaks his final words, “Is everyone all right?”

Bobby Kennedy’s twenty-six hour struggle to survive never has a chance When RFK
dies, the nation mourns. First JFK, then King, now Bobby.

Avery is disappointed Sirhan is not shot down on the spot. However, he is confident the
crazed radical has nothing to say to implicate Avery or the mob.

As expected, Sirhan’s rambling confessions and withdrawals only serve to confuse

everyone, including the prosecution. Sirhan is found guilty amid a replication of the kind of
conspiracy theories that trailed his brother’s assassination; a second gunman, CIA involvement,
anti-Castro sentiment, and the like. The coroner’s discovery that the “death bullet” was fired
from behind is largely ignored.

No one connects the killing to the mob.

Avery leaves LA and awaits word from Gambino. It takes three months, but it comes.

Gambino starts, “You pull out a gun and shoot Kennedy in front of all those people? I
told you not to get involved directly.”

Avery stares him down, “You told me you wanted Kennedy dead. What’s the problem?

“What if you’d been ID’d, or grabbed?”

“You’d of had to been there. I could of been the fuckin’ pope and nobody would have
noticed. Not at that first few seconds of panic.”

Gambino seems to get it, still he adds, “Yeah, but the coroner is yackin’ about the bullet,
different angle, different gun.”

“So? Gun’s clean. Worse case is they know there’s a second hitter. Doesn’t connect us,
in any way.”

Gambino tries to think it through. He finally says, “I see. Yeah. That works. Pretty
smart, kid.”

“I’m not a “kid” anymore. I’m a businessman, with a successful company that washes
cash faster that you can print it. I need more business, more volume. You said you’d take care of

Avery Perelle is a hero within the organization. He takes advantage and grabs control of
large portions of trucking, container distribution, and all of South American prostitution, melding

it into his obscure shell of a company. In coming years, Hampton International becomes a
convenient laundry for much of the mob’s activities. It is an arrangement that Avery enjoys

Chapter Eight

Organized crime flourishes in the 70’s and 80’s. Congress is preoccupied, first with
Vietnam, then Watergate. In 1971, The Godfather becomes a runaway best seller. Avery is as
interested in the story as are his associates. Mario Puzo, the author walks a thin line between fact
and fiction. His depiction of the Mafia wars are eclipsed by the real gang wars that follow,
killing thousands. Ironically, as the war bodies pile up, the public lines up, fascinated by this
new genre of film.

Gambino is sharing drinks with Avery at a private bar in Harlem, “So, who am I, Pacino
or Deniro? What?”

Avery means to be sarcastic when he answers, “Neither. You remind me of Sonny.

James Caan, ya know?”

“Caan? I like that. I was like him, once, ya know. Used a trash can to beat the shit out of
guy, too. Yeah. I like that. You, you’re Pacino, all the way.”

“No, I’m not. I’m Averado Perillo, superiore.”

Avery manages to grow in power by staying out of the gang wars and slowly amassing
power from his bases in Columbia, Peru and Mexico. By remaining remote and elusive, he
manages to benefit from all sides of the conflict.

By the time the 1990’s arrive, Avery Perelle is one of the most powerful men in the
world. Yet, few have ever heard of him. He remains in the background; he cannot be tied to any
of the dozen legal and illegal businesses he now directs internationally. As best as can be
determined he has not been seen by more than a half-dozen people in the past decade.

No one can provide the number of deaths and suffering caused by Avery Perelle over
these years. Directly ordered hits and personally administered murders are in the dozens.
Indirect deaths as the result of his drug and prostitution rings and his role in propagating Latin
American rebels, and Muslim tribal and regional wars total in the thousands.

To work for Perelle is a challenge. Key confidants like Bill Brinkley in the US need the
management talent to oversee Hampton’s legit businesses, such as packaging and trucking, and
the street smarts to manage the more discreet businesses of prostitution and drugs.

Bill Brinkley is CEO of Hampton Enterprises, USA. There is no one like Brink. He
stands out in the mind of everyone he encounters. He has all of his life.

Brinkley is a very large man. He cannot be described adequately without the adjective
“huge” leading the charge. He believes a massive frame is a useful distraction from a birth
abnormality that bothers him more than being overweight. His head is gigantic, twice the size
anyone would consider normal. As a young boy, he is constantly teased. Cruel classmates call
him “pumkinhead” and “balloon-brain”.

“Hey Billy, I can set you up with Barbara. She’d love to give you a ‘little head’.”
Classmates laugh thoughtlessly.

Brink rationalizes it is better to be fat in order for his head to be proportionally-sized.

Such a goal is not as easy as it looks. Constant consumption is a skill, like any other.

At six foot-two and three hundred plus pounds, he’s determined to inflate his body
further. Yet, Brink doesn't act or move like a fat man. His presence cuts like a cleaver, carving
away his surplus flesh. The impression he conveys is clear. Step aside. Brink is coming

His success story is equally unique. He is born in 1960 to poor parents; immigrants who
move from NYC to the West Coast when Brink is a small child. In spite of the odds against him,
he excels at all school subjects and graduates at the young age of fifteen from South High. It is
notable for an adolescent boy to do so well academically while getting an equivalent education in
the streets.

By age sixteen, Brink is dealing horse to fifty year-old dying junks in the alleys of South
L.A. That is when he is accepted into the biggest gang in the area: Florencia.

He is their only white member and is let in for two reasons. One night as he passes three
of the gang's members walking down Florence, one of gang members calls Brink a "fat head".

Brink stops and turns. He irrationally swings at the guy. His punch connects but does
little more than piss off the three of them. Two of gang-members grab his arms, working to hold
up his monstrous frame while the third pummels him mercilessly. They proceed to beat the crap
out of him, nearly killing him. They stop just short of his final collapse because, not only does

he never stop fighting back, throughout the beating Brinkley never utters a sound. Not a cry, a
groan or a word. The gang members are impressed. They let him drop to the pavement.

"El orgullo." one of them says. Pride.

The second reason is his color. Even though their territory is predominantly Hispanic, it
comes in handy now and then for the gang to have a white guy available, a ‘cracker’ they can

From sixteen to nineteen years old, Brinkley gains a reputation within Florencia. If you
disagree with him, you have to kill him to stop him and, he is smart; if you need to put a complex
deal together, bring him in early.

He rises high within the gang, spending much of his time mapping strategies with third-
generation pachucos and their ‘firms’. He uses the money he makes during these years to build a
personal college fund. Brink wants a college education to give himself a permanent edge over
ninety-nine percent of the thugs in the business.

He is living at home with his parents in Inglewood. His father lays carpet by day and
works most evenings bussing tables at a nearby diner.

His mother, Mishea is not permitted to work. She is an avid reader who spends her life
immersed in fiction. It is not easy for her to face the reality of an abusive husband and an
uncontrollable, unsightly son. When she finds a steel case full of cash in Brink’s bedroom closet,
hidden behind a stack of boxed, plastic-wrapped muffins it takes her days to finally address him.

“Where did you get this money” Mishea pulls the case from her son’s closet.

“I---play the numbers, Ma. I’m very good at it.”

“You do not. I know what you do. This is Satan’s money. Get it out of my house or I
will tell Papa.”

“No you won’t. You won’t tell Papa anything. I know that. He’ll blame you, not me.
He’ll silence you, tie you up again, whip you again. I want to use this money to save you and me
from his bitterness, his control. You have to trust me, Ma.” Brink opens a can of salted almonds,
empties half its contents into his palm and pours them into his open mouth.

Mishea stares at him with determined finality. A leaf blower stops its roar outside his
rust-crusted screen window. Her eyes moisten as she kneels before him on the bedroom floor,
“No. I do not deserve to be saved. I do not want to be saved. Just go, leave this house. I will
tell Papa nothing. He will not care if he thinks you ran away, if there is no one to blame. You
know that is true.” A long moment of silence sustains the reality of their dysfunctional family.
Brink touches and gently pats her thinning scalp. He begins packing a second small case and
leaves without another word. Mishea stands in the doorway, her head nodding slowly. She
knows her son is driven to Hell. She tries hard to absorb all of the guilt.

Chapter Nine

At age twenty, Brink has enough money to quit the streets and start classes at UCLA.
That is not enough for him. While taking classes during the day, he markets several street-
walkers, putas initially, working Torrance and Gardena at night. He is one of the first to use the
Internet, pre-Al Gore by the way. It works. In three years, along with earning a BS in
Management he upgrades his “product” and begins developing a high-priced call girl network
throughout Southern California.

It takes a decade, but Brink continues to grow. In 1990, he is operating out of four states
with two hundred and ten girls.

Sitting in his one room apartment in Torrance, Brink answers the unexpected call
reluctantly, “Who is it?”

“I’ve been watching you for three years. Quite remarkable.”

Brink doesn’t recognize the voice, except that it is scrambled.

“Who is this?”

Avery responds, “You may know my name someday. We will meet perhaps, if I learn to
trust you. It doesn’t matter right now. I want to acquire your business. I’m quite impressed.”

“Why would I even talk with you?”

“Because I know------” Perelle tells him something Brink believes no one except his
immediate family knows; a closely held secret.

“How do you know that?”

“It doesn’t matter. Just sell me your business.”

“Why on earth would I sell my business. I’ve got it made. I don’t need money.”

“You don’t need money to live, but you don’t have the money it will take to expand to the
level you would like; not the kind of money I can provide.”

“I’m not going to negotiate with someone who refuses to identify himself. I don’t even
know if you have what it would take.”

“Call your bank and check your balance. I will call you back in fifteen minutes.” The
phone goes dead.

Brink is amused by the mystery man’s bravado. He calls his bank.

“Eleven million? Did you say eleven million? As of when?”

Brink answers the stranger’s second call with a new attitude.

Brink tries to restrain himself, “You’ve already transferred the funds? What makes you
think that’s enough?”

“Because it’s two, maybe three million more than the number you had in your head.”
Perelle is careful not to make any “head” jokes.

Part of the acquisition deal is for Brinkley to stay on and manage the expansion,
reporting, yet never meeting Avery Perelle. He is successful for several years and at age thirty-
five is appointed by Perelle to his current position at Hampton USA. Hampton USA includes
several trucking and packaging concerns, US heroin distribution, and all US call girl operations.

Brink delegates Hampton’s three legit businesses to his COO, Tim Anthony. Brink
continues to oversee drug distribution and the call girl operation personally, with the help of his
6’ 8” HR Director, Jack Smoley.

The call girl operation is complex. Brink runs it like a business "because it is a business,"
he often proclaims. He looks after a network of two thousand girls, outcall only, in forty states.

The girls, between the ages of eighteen and thirty are independent contractors earning
consulting fees paid out of their gross profits, incentive compensation, weekly medical exams
and a car allowance, all reported appropriately on 1099 tax forms each year. The business is
listed as “image consulting”. It is the most lucrative call girl network in the world. Brinkley
gives himself much of the credit, deservedly so.

The girls fix their own prices and options. Some girls prefer to generate revenue through
volume. Others choose to attend to fewer clients, offering more specialized or unusual services.
Each girl has a weekly minimum revenue target. Last year, ninety percent of his girls met or
exceeded their minimums. He is pleased with that ratio.

Brink’s business education is helpful in developing a method to monitor the operation.
The girls are on an honor system, reporting all of their dates, times, locations, durations, and
transmitting/wiring their net revenue weekly via encrypted e-mail.

Brink believes in Reagan's notion of trust, but verify. His "honesty audit" confirms all
dates and revenue are reported precisely.

There is one field auditor for every fifty girls, forty auditors in all. The girls don't know
their auditor, so there is no chance of complicity.

Each girl is audited two to three times a year on a random basis for a seven day period.
No girl knows when hers will take place, so they are always at risk if their weekly report is
inaccurate. Like an IRS TIP audit. During the audit, the girl's phones, apartment and PC are
tapped. Several times during the week, they are tailed by the auditor with stops recorded for
comparison with subsequent reports. Any disparity constitutes an infraction.

One infraction, typically an unreported date, costs the girl twenty percent of her
commission for the following thirty-day period. Two infractions cost her fifty percent. Three
infractions result in termination. And a finger.

Jack Smoley is sitting next to a petite blonde in Brink’s private conference room. Brink
is standing as he speaks sharply to the fear-stricken woman, “Look, you blew it. You know the
rules. You know in some organizations, you’d be deep-sea fish food tonight.”

“Mr. Brinkley, I’ll do anything.” The girls starts weeping, her mascara pouring down her
cheeks. “I’ll work free for a year. Just please, have mercy on me. Please, I beg you,”

“Look, I’m not without compassion. I’ll give you a choice.”

“You will? Oh, thank God. Oh thank you sir. You won’t be sorry, I promise.”

“In fact, I’ll give you ten choices. You pick the finger. Smoley, take it from here.” Brink
walks out of the sound proof conference room abruptly as Smoley grips her arm.

Brink stands at the urinal, looking down pointlessly; his bloated stomach has hidden his
manhood from sight for years. He likes his job, except for the hard parts, which can always be
passed on. He reiterates his management philosophy, “It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do

it.” He chuckles to himself, “I’m just grateful it’s Smoley and not me. I love management by

Chapter Ten

It is June 1998 when Bill Brinkley receives the word; Avery Perelle wants to meet him.
He is excited, saying to himself, “The most powerful man in the world wants to meet me.” He
shouts aloud, “Whatta ya think of that, Dad?”

Brink meets Perelle at Daniel’s restaurant. They prepare to dine in a dimly lit private
room in the cellar of one of NYC’s finest.

The bread basket is half emptied by Brink before the conversation goes beyond a simple
greeting, “So, I finally get to meet the notorious Avery Perelle.”

“Thank you. Enough of that crap though, alright?”

Brink speaks with bread and buttered teeth, “I understand. It’s just that I tried very hard
to learn more about you over the past few years. I couldn’t find anyone who ever met you, knew
anything about you. The few that seemed to know something about you shut up the minute I
mentioned your name.”

“Hey, I give you credit for learning my real name. That tells me I’m still vulnerable.”

Perelle glances at the handsome server waiting in the corner, ready to take their order.
Avery calls him over to the table and introduces him, “Brink, this is Josh. He doesn’t work here,
except for tonight. He’s my personal assistant.”

Brink looks the man over. He is tall, slim, muscular.

“Josh will take our order, he’ll select and pour the appropriate wine, and he’ll kill you
with his bare hands if you say or do anything I don’t like. Nothing personal; standing orders.”

Brink swallows, unable to ignore Josh's mannerly nod and calm confidence, “Sir, I get it.
What do you suggest we start with, to eat, I mean.”

Perelle looks up at Josh, “What do you suggest based on what you have tasted?”

“It’s a superb menu, sir. May I suggest the lamb, or the veal?”

“Go ahead, Brink.”

Brink smiles at Josh, “That sounds good.”

Josh frowns and asks, “Which one, sir?”

“Both. Make the veal my appetizer, rare, with a side of catsup.”

Perelle looks up at Josh, “I’ll trust you on the lamb, lightly pink, mint jelly, no potatoes.
And I’ll have some broth as Mr. Brinkley enjoys his appetizer.”

Perelle continues with Brink, “So, I’m sure you know I’m not here to discuss trivial
matters. As do you, I enjoy the fruits of the hooking business, but the real money is in heroin, at
the source. That’s the core of my position, it’s why the boys put me where I am, and it’s where
the growth is in the future.”

“I understand, sir. I handle the US distribution, as you know. Am I doing something

wrong?“ Brink is anxious to hear how he will tie into all of this.

Avery ignores his question, “South American supplies are drying up. Politics and rebels
and all. The source of poppy for the future is in the Middle East. There is a new, major
opportunity out of Afghanistan.”

Brinkley vaguely knows where Afghanistan is located and bluffs, “I’m aware of that,

“Really? Well, the poppy will come out of Afghanistan and into a processing operation
I’m setting up in bordering Pakistan. It’s complex. What I want you to do is solve the global
distribution problem. You have sixty days to develop a system to effectively distribute major
volumes of heroin out of Pakistan and into ports in Asia, Europe and North America. Josh will
give you a spreadsheet on the projected volumes when we depart tonight.”

“I can do it. I can make that happen. I understand logistics and supply-chain manag---”

“I know what you know and I have confidence in you. I have a very strong lead for you,
a company headquartered in LA. I leave it up to you to make it happen. If it works, you’ll be in
on the take, long-term. And if you shine, the boys will take notice. I’ve got what, another dozen
years? Structurally, I will be replaced by a Sicilian. But you could be the guy taking over
Hampton International.”

Brink can’t believe his ears. This is what he has dreamed of all of his life. To be
internationally powerful, feared, respected, yet anonymous, rarely to be seen. They toast. The
dinner is quick, but by the end, Perelle likes Brink’s attitude and is somewhat amused by his
shameless gluttony. Most important, Perelle is confident Brink will do what he says.

Chapter Eleven

Brink understands the plan. Steward Pharmaceuticals manufactures and ships most of
their products from their new plant in Pakistan. Their legitimate exports are perfect to transport
quantities of heroin that can be added to each shipping container before leaving the port of
Karachi to ports in NYC, Seoul and London. The only problem is the head of Steward
Pharmaceuticals, William Steward is not willing to cooperate. It is not an insurmountable

Brinkley sits in a jet-black leather, structurally reinforced chair. His colorless office is on
top of the Hampton building in Santa Monica overlooking the Pacific. Every visitor to his office
says, “That is the most beautiful view I have ever scene!” or words to that effect.

Brinkley looks up, hearing the same words so often, “Oh, that. After awhile, it gets
boring, like looking at a cheap painting.”

In an exquisite suit, Brinkley dresses like the maitre d’ on a luxury cruise line dining
room; late seating. The Italian shoes are new.

Brink explains to Smoley, “I go through a pair of shoes every two weeks. No choice, the
smell of shoe polish ruins my appetite.”

It’s a redundantly sunny Monday morning, Brinkley is tearing open the wrapper of a
Butterfinger and licking the chocolate off before chewing on the bar. He asks Smoley, “We have
any girls in the LA area who aren’t afraid to get their hands a little dirty.”

Smoley doesn’t hesitate, “Yeah. The girl I have in mind may be perfect. Connie Watson.
I hired her myself. She’s not quite twenty. On the run from something heavy that happened out
in Orange County. She’s only worked for us a few months, straight out off the streets, but she
already has a reputation for totally satisfying her customers. Two of our wealthiest clients have
booked her back to back, so to speak. They refuse to work with anyone else.”

“Has she dated William Steward?”

Smoley checks his computer, “No. I don’t know why. He just hasn’t got around to her

Brinkley is pleased, “Good. She sounds like just the one I need. Get her in here.”

Smoley phones her, “Connie, Mr. Brinkley wants to discuss a business opportunity with
you.” He pauses, listening, “I know. No, it’s fine.” He pauses again, “I’m sorry, didn’t know
you were working.” He pauses again, “Well, no kidding, you can’t talk. Just get here in the
next couple of hours. Okay?”

Chapter Twelve

She is born Constance Torres on November 21, 1979 on the outskirts of Yorba Linda,
California. She becomes Connie Watson years later. She grows up in a small, pinkish, run-down
adobe ranch home encircled by a chain link fence.  
She’s an only child. Her father, David Torres is a car mechanic. Her Irish mother,
Audrey doesn't work outside the home.
When Connie is five years old, her father suddenly leaves. Her memory of him is only as
a handsome, soft-spoken man who openly regretted not having enough time for his daughter.
She doesn't understand why he left and why he never tries to contact her. It still makes no sense
to her.  
Her mother is devastated and bitter about the abandonment. With little money, Audrey
has no skills or experience. At age thirty-four, she looks weary, recycled, her skin like open
cartilage. Her make-up blotches her pale complexion. She dresses as though her clothes are
tossed on with a pitchfork,
Connie wraps a piece of last week’s dinner in foil and puts it in her bag each day for
lunch. Her thick red hair is always pulled back into a ponytail. Her two or three outfits are
bought from a Salvation Army store, so she is never in style. At school, that seems to matter.
"Pathetic enough?" she yells to one of the pop stars in her class.  

Connie lives to read. Books substitute for an absent father. She brings home books each
day and reads them until bedtime. She reads the Miss Pickerell series at age six, most of Twain
by nine, Defoe at eleven, Beowulf at twelve, War and Peace at thirteen, American Psycho at
"I'm surprised you managed to get through Beowulf," Mrs. Peterson said.  The librarian is
older than moon rock, "I'm very impressed."
"Oh, it's just a story about an indifferent dragon fighter and a demon mother who loses
her head."  Connie giggles, simplifying the plot. Connie is not dumb, just removed a bit from

Mrs. Peterson and Connie's teacher, Mrs. Farmer encourage her to try writing.

"Start with fictional short stories. Create a situation with believable characters. Outline
the plot first. Always know where the story is headed. We think you may have natural talent."

"Oh, do some of the kids have unnatural talent?" Connie responds with a smile on the
outside, a smirk on the inside.
She writes dozens of thumbnails, jotting down ideas in a notepad she keeps with her at all
times. She submits her first completed short story.  Ms. Farmer and Ms. Peterson are
intentionally frank in their reactions,  

"The story is simplistic, loaded with obscure analogies and has an incessantly confusing
"Thank you," Connie reacts, "Mysteries are supposed to confuse you. That's what makes
them fun."
At age sixteen, Connie starts to blossom. She grows to be 5'8". She is still plain; her hair
always pulled back and she never uses make-up of any sort. Yet her features are striking. Her
cheekbones and jaw line are those of a comic book heroine. Her eyes are like emeralds, her look
hypnotic. Her lips grow full and are faultlessly shaped. Her body develops quickly. Her breasts
grow so large the effort to maintain her posture strengthens her stomach muscles.

Almost overnight the boys who used to knock books out of her hands are knocking
themselves out to get her attention. She is not interested. All she cares about is her mother and
her future as a writer.

The only family she knows is Uncle Ted, a popular local minister. It is Uncle Ted who
comes to school that day to tell her the shocking news.

"What? She's not dead!" Connie gasps, "Don't tell me that! You’re lying!”

Ted speaks gently, "No dearie, I'm afraid it's true. The Lord has taken her to a better

Connie shakes her head sharply. She is devastated. She screams in pain and fear,
"Mommy! Mommy! No! God! No!" as she runs down the school hall and bursts out the front

"Get in, I'll drive you." Connie doesn't see or hear him as he drives beside her. Her mind
keeps shrieking, "No! It can't be." She smashes through the front door and darts from room to

"Mommy! Mommy! Where are you?"

Her mother and her boyfriend, Jack split up the night before. The emotion overpowers
her, raising her already high blood pressure. One might say Jack literally broke her heart. She is
found with her hairbrush in her hand, leading to the conclusion it was instant. Lori finds some
relief in that, but she howls in pain each night nonetheless. She blames Jack. She blames her
father. She blames Uncle Ted. She blames God.

The funeral is on a Sunday morning. The bright sunshine and warm breeze offend the
sorrow overhanging the burial. The funeral is small. Connie secretly thinks her father might
appear, somehow learning of her mom's death. Uncle Ted leads the service as a small tape
recorder plays "Amazing Grace."

Connie morns inwardly, “Mom always loved bagpipes.”

Chapter Thirteen

Connie moves in with Uncle Ted. She is not quite eighteen, so she has little choice.
Uncle Ted provides her with her own room and bath, but she is not comfortable. He is fine
during the day. In the evening he changes. He starts drinking; first wine, then Scotch and water,
then Scotch, then home-brewed beer. The sweet man he is during the day turns into an angry
drunk most evenings.

Uncle Ted is not a handsome man. His eyebrows are bushier than the hair growing out of
his ears, which is considerable. He is overweight and dresses sloppily. Connie is embarrassed
by his appearance. Yet he casts a twinkle of light from his eyes when he speaks. He preaches
with passionate reverence. The church is brimming each Sunday morning.
One Sunday in June of 1997, Reverend Cummings speaks from the pulpit:
“Starting today, you need to think of God and His creations in a new light.”
“We are all grateful to the Lord for creating the earth and giving us bodies to house our
lost souls.”
“Today, I want you to ponder the extra gifts He provides.  The things God does for us
that are not essential; the parts of His creation intended to bring us pleasure while we are here
trying to save our pathetic selves.”

“God gave us the ability to hear and speak, to help us communicate. However, he also
added a gift: the gift of music, for no reason other than our enjoyment.”

“He created this planet, Earth, but was not content with its bland function. He added
colors, scents, hills and valleys, butterflies, dolphins, clouds, stars. These are among the millions
of accessories God provided to create a better life for us, to ease us into the wonders of Heaven
to come.”

The organ strikes and holds a single Middle-C note.

“God gave us beasts to share our burden, to nourish our bodies and to allow us to grow
and prosper. Nevertheless, he gave the meat flavor and provided us taste buds, purely for our
delight. Another gift.”  

The organ climbs to a sustained E-flat note.  

“He gave us the instinct to procreate, to multiply. And then added intense pleasure to the
experience, as a gift.”

The organ reaches upward to a sustained G-note. His flock begins to stir.

"And finally,” the Reverend pauses for dramatic effect, “He gave us his only begotten

The organ shakes the room with a full C-chord followed by an expanded B-Major chord,
reminiscent of “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” the opening theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The music stops suddenly. There isn't a sound in the room as the parishioner’s absorb the
Reverend’s message. A shout of “Amen!” rings out from a single voice in a far corner. Then
another, then more, then all the parishioners in unison, “Amen!”

“Ah, you all say Amen; let it be. Let it be so.”

He suddenly begins shouting, vibrating through the room, “That’s not enough!” Gasps
from the disquieted crowd rob the room of air.

“It’s not enough to let it be!”

The preacher glares down at his disciples, scowling at them with his piercing black eyes,
“Satan is not content to sit idly by as God bestows these blessings. The Devil provides gifts as
well. The gifts of gluttony, perversion, malice and greed. And as early as Cain, the gift of

The room is hush. The silence shattering the fragile, humid air.

“Satan offers you a choice. His demons want to enter your body, take possession of your
soul, and suck you into Hell to join him in his eternal struggle to dethrone Our Lord, forever.

“You” He points at the folks in the first pew, “And you” He raises his head and arms
searching toward the back row, “And you. And you. All of you. You must fight him, beat him,
throw him off you, and grind him back into the Earth’s core!”

There is no hesitation. Immediate shouts of “Praise the Lord” echo throughout the

Connie is finally proud of her uncle, his disgusting looks aside.  

Chapter Fourteen

Years later, Connie lies naked next to her lover and relates what happened the night of
Uncle Ted’s sermon:

As usual, Uncle Ted goes into one of his drunken diatribes, "Damn that Mrs. Flatow, and
that Pennington fool. Damn the whole congregation. Goddamn them all!" He then gulps down
a water glass full of Scotch.

So he turns to me and says, “And who do you think you are? You're just like your mother.
You'll never amount to anything. You won't even make a good waitress."

He calls all the women whores and says they all want him. Can you believe that? Uncle

Then he stands and steps over to his back pack on the table and starts calling me names.
He’s yelling, pointing to a copy of The Zodiac Killer I brought home from the library. He’s like,
“How dare you bring this sinful trash into my home?”

I was upset. I said, “This is a highly praised best seller.”

He doesn’t even listen to me. He walks with the book to the sink, strikes a match and
lights it on fire. He drops it, letting the book fill the room with stink and smoke.

I can’t believe it. But I stay cool. I just pick up the dishes and place them in the
dishwasher and lock myself in my room. I hear him stamping around, muttering, then yelling
some profanity. I hear his bedroom door close and of course, I start felling better.

I’m undressed down to my bra and panties. I have on yellow ones, when he knocks on my

"Open up," he roars, "I want to talk to you."

I am scared. Really scared, ya know. I answer though, "I can't right now. I'm not

He rattles the doorknob. I grab a towel just as the door blows open. Uncle Ted lurches
into my room.

"You'll not lock me out of a room in my own house," he says. He is rubbing his sweaty
forehead, sneering and gazing at me with a look that I can only describe as lecherous.

He yells at me, something like, "You prance around here in your little shorts, bending
over in front of me, trying to get me to breach my oath to God, trying to control me! You're no
different from all the other tramps in my parish."

I am stunned by his words and terrified as he comes at me, He says, “I’ll show you who
is in control, you little tease, you evil little tramp!" His shouting at me now as he’s unbuckling
his belt.

He grabs me by both arms and throws his weight on me. He begins pawing, trying
pathetically to kiss me, thrashing my forehead with his bushy brows. "I'll be scarred for life,"
I’m thinking. I struggle with all of my might, but I know I won't be able to fight him off and that
he will take me. I begin to panic at the image of what is certain to happen.

I manage to wrench my right arm free as he is tearing off my panties. He is fumbling

with himself. There is no question what he is going to do.

I desperately try to reach my notebook on my pillow. I swing my hand like the claw of a
derrick, barely able to touch the pad, and tip it, causing the pencil inside to roll onto the bed. I
grab it just as he is about to enter me. I know what I have to do. I have to do it! I know I only
have one chance. I hold the pencil tight in my fist with my thumb against the eraser and with all
of my might and determination, I shove it smack into his left ear!

It is really weird then, like some spirit or something is lifting his body off of me. He
seems to almost float backward, his eyes popping out and his tongue swelling up. He pulls the
pencil out of his ear., looks at it, looks at me in shock, I guess, and then looks up. He sucks in a
huge mouthful of air and falls face forward. He hits the bedstead on his way down. Suddenly,
everything is silent. He doesn't move. Neither do I. I just stare at his fat body on the floor. I
know he is dead.

It is creepy reaching into his pants to get his wallet. I find over two hundred dollars in
cash and his car keys. I’m not a thief but I need the money and car to help me get away.

I have to step over his body a dozen times to put together a bag of my essentials. It is
hard to ignore his smell.

I lock the doors and leave. Several lights and the TV are on. I don't want anyone
snooping around because the house is too dark, at least until I can get away.

His brown Buick is in the driveway. I have never driven a car in my life. I am frustrated
with the keys, can’t find the slot. Finally the key is in, the ignition is on and the engine is
running. I only have a rough idea of what to do. I know the brake pedal from the accelerator
and the purpose of the automatic gearshift. I put it in R and jerk the car down the driveway. I
focus on only one thing. The entrance to the freeway to LA is three blocks away.

Once here, I live in an cheap extended stay hotel. Desperate for fake ID, I hook up with
the wrong crowd. I did some crazy stuff.

That was back in 1997, a year before I started working for your mom.

Chapter Fifteen

Connie walks into Brinkley's office and is dizzied by its rawness. She's a bit anxious.
Few of her peers have met Mr. Brinkley. None have been to his office. That makes her proud,
though she is not sure why.

There is a white leather couch to the right and two black leather chairs to the left of the
stark white reception area. Muzak is playing a string medley of Metallica’s “Master of Puppets”.

She takes a deep breath, thinking, “God, get me through this, ahead for a change.”

She's 5'10" in heels. Her red hair sizzles the air above her. Her eyes are a deeper green
now; green, hungry panther eyes. An apple-shaped woman sits at the reception desk is doing a
Crisscross puzzle with a felt marker. Connie is impressed.

The woman puts down the phone, coughs and announces, “Mr. William Brinkley will see
you now.”

Connie is told Brinkley is a lot to swallow. It is an inadequate warning. She is startled

by his overall appearance, and what she sees as a hint of self-destruction seeping from his grey

"Hold on a minute, I'm just finishing a movie," Brinkley is watching something on his
iMac 15” display,

"Okay, it's over."

"Was it good?" Connie asks, trying to be polite.

"Eh, they all end the same, never a twist."

"A mystery?"

"No, a porno." Brinkley bites into a Twix bar as Connie seats herself.

"We have an opportunity for you. Something that will allow you to put your outcall
career to rest. Permanently, I would hope."

Connie's interested. She’s been burning out on different men each night. Absurdly
lacking confidence, she bends toward volume in meeting her targets.

"I'm all ears, Mr. Brinkley."

"No," he says snidely, "you're all pussy." He chortles aloud.

She starts to rise and says, without thinking, "Nobody talks to me like that, fat ass."

Brinkley doesn't mind being called a fat ass. Fat head? That's a different story.

"Wait, wait. Calm down. Bad humor. Inappropriate. I know." He sounds sincere.
Connie sits back down.

“This is a serious matter.” He wants to re-arouse her interest.

"Okay. What is it?" she asks, trying to be patient, knowing she could not get away from
him even if she wanted.

"This is a picture of William Steward.” He draws a photo from his desk of an

older, ebony-eyed man posing in a battleship-grey suit. "He's part owner and CEO of a company
called Steward Pharmaceuticals. Maybe you've heard of him?"

"No. Does it matter? Does he have a dick?”

"No, it doesn't matter. Yes, I’m sure he has a dick.” His eyes glow again as he shakes his
head, popping a handful of Reese’s pieces.

"It's actually good you don't know him. Steward prefers a fresh, ah, face. We need his
cooperation on a special business deal we’re developing.”

"Okay. So, is there a problem?"

"He's refused a very lucrative offer. Totally irrational. He needs the money, but---"

Brinkley pauses, reflecting on his plan before describing it, "We believe his wife, Rosa is
a bit more, let’s say, pragmatic about meeting our needs. She's influenced by her mother. We've
done business with her mother in the past."

"You want me to take this guy out? Listen, I'm no saint, but..."

Brinkley strikes his right fist on the table. Water spills and a plate of peanuts falls to the
floor. Connie is taken aback. Brinkley hates it when people jump to conclusions. He quickly
begins to collect himself. And the peanuts.

"I’m not asking you to kill anyone. I'm telling you to simply help set him up, that's all.
There is no risk to you. Someone else will do the score," Brinkley’s voice calms with each word.

“I will explain. Steward has already booked Suzie Reynolds---you’ve worked with Suzie
before---to go with him and two of his buddies for golf and sex on Thursday. Suzie has been
asked to bring along a second girl. That would. of course, be you. After the ninth hole, it will
be your mission to lure William into the rear of a secondary clubhouse, into an unused private
dining room. You’ll simply secure the door and give him a beer. There will be five cans of
William’s favorite, Coors Light lined up in the room’s refrigerator. Just be certain he drinks the
middle can. Someone else will take it from there. Any questions?"

“What’s in it for me, besides the usual?”

“Once the business deal is complete, I’ll need your eyes and ears to monitor the Steward
family. You’ll be head mistress or something at the Steward estate. I’ll pay you twenty-percent
more than you are averaging now and there will be no sex involved. It’s like a---” Brinkley is
seeking the right words, “---an executive position.”

Connie is trying to digest her good fortune. “Will I still be an image consultant?”

“No, in fact, we’re taking you off the books entirely. We’ll help you set up a new
corporation, you pay yourself from the profits. That way nothing ties us.”

“Why not let Suzie handle this?” Connie doesn’t know why she keeps asking questions.

"Why wouldn’t I want my best, most trusted, hottest person handle such a vital mission.
This isn't a job for a call girl. It's a job for a professional, intelligent, faithful member of my

Connie's flattered. She’s not often complimented by a man without first taking off some
part of her clothing.

"Your staff? I'd be working under you, on your staff?"

He bites his tongue. No sense upsetting her again.

"Yes, that's the long-term scenario. Listen, Suzie couldn't pluck your brows. And she
couldn't come close to becoming an “executive”.” He opens her file again and says, “Look at
your IQ. It’s 129.

"Does Suzie know what's coming down?" Connie’s head is throbbing.

Brinkley reaches across the desk and touches her hand, "No, I'm counting on you."

Connie agrees, then asks facetiously, "The middle can could also be called the third can,

Brinkley smiles warmly and pats her hand in reassurance, "Now you know why I picked
you---for your brains.”

Chapter Sixteen

William Steward is a walking contradiction. He loves his wife, Rosa, yet betrays her
with other women almost daily. He runs his company with vision and care, but wastes scarce
cash on endless, redundant research and development. He champions nonprofit efforts to
strengthen DUI laws, yet drinks himself into a stupor every night.

It’s 9:00 am on a Thursday in June. William is helping his fifteen year old son, Jonathan,
work on his putt in the front yard of their home in Beverly Hills. As he always tends to do,
Jonathan is humming an appropriate song, "Hit Me with Your Best Shot."

A new 1998 red Lexus pulls up, honking. It's William's friends, Sid Thomas and Steve

“Bill, throw your clubs in. Let’s go,” Steve shouts out the car window.

“Dad, can I go with you? I can help with your clubs, find lost balls and....”

“No, son. The people we’re meeting would have a problem with you being there. Trust
me. Sorry.”

"Have a great time," his wife, Rosa, yells from the parlor inside the house.

"I will."

William enters the backseat. He needs a day like today, a break in the pressure. He's
been wrestling with Bill Brinkley all week, trying to resist his proposal. He thinks about last
Sunday’s meeting at the Club:

“You need the money,” Brinkley prods him again, “You’ll never get another chance like

“I just can’t do it. My father built this business from scratch. He entrusted me to run it
when he died. He’d spring back from the grave if I sullied it by cooperating with you.” William
is resolute.

Brinkley uses a line from a popular TV quiz show, “Final answer?”

“Final answer,” William replies, his eyes fixed ten inches from the fat man’s massive

The course is nearly empty. Suzie is riding in the front cart with Sid and Steve. Connie
is riding with William in a second cart. Everyone's been drinking rum and Coke. They ran out
of Coke an hour earlier. It doesn’t matter as long as there’s plenty of Captain Morgan’s.

Connie's been massaging William's upper thighs all morning, "I can't wait to be alone
with you,” she murmurs in his ear, lightly licking on his lobe. "We don't have to play this entire
game first, do we?" She pouts as she teases him with obscure promises.

"I was here yesterday, ya know," she told him off the edge of the ninth green, "There's a
room in the back of the clubhouse. We could go in there. Wouldn't you be willing to skip the
tenth hole? For me?"

William likes her. He reaches over to kiss her. She sucks his chin in response.

"Hey Sid, I'm skipping ten and eleven," William announces, “Connie and I are gonna
have a little private talk."

All three of the men laugh with unidentifiable crudeness.

Sid says, "Mind if we join ya? Ya know, 'join you!'" Connie worries Brinkley's plan
might be foiled by their intrusion.

"You guys can do whatever you want," William says, "Connie and I are a matched pair,
not a threesome, foursome or five-some." Everyone laughs again. Connie tries to hide her relief.

"See, baby?" she says, pulling him into the room, "Complete solitude, just for us."

She turns on one of four light switches, only partially lighting the room, "Can I get ya a
beer? There's some Coors Light in here." She grabs the middle and the right can, certain to hand
him the right one, that is, the middle one.

He tips the beer and to her delight downs the entire can in four monstrous gulps.

"This place is a dining room. Just tables and chairs. What can we do in here?" he says,
looking around.

"Well, that’s up to you" she says playfully. Connie is stalling, hoping he will pass out
quickly. She raises her skirt and lays back on one of the tables.

"Hmmm. How did you know I like my turkey without dressing?" William tries to gather
his thoughts, “I’m wasted. Shit, I can hardly stand up, much less....”

He stumbles toward her. She closes her eyes, dreading his inevitable cold warmth. She
is relieved when she hears the thump of his head hitting the table.

The closet door opens to her right. Doc Beasler, a tall, lanky man steps out, dressed in an
olive golf shirt and beige pants. He's holding a satchel in his rubber-gloved hand. He's bearded,
craggy, with a dark mole in the center of his forehead.

Lincoln, after the play.

”You're the guy, right? Why'd it take so long?" Connie asks, slightly panicked by the
time that has passed. He doesn't answer.

Connie repeats herself, loudly, "I said, why'd it take so long?"

He looks around as if he hadn't noticed her until now, "Quiet down, I'm getting ready to
kill somebody." He purses his lipless mouth and finally responds, "People differ. Weight.
Water. It's fine. He's out for a good twenty minutes. More than sufficient."

He speaks with the staccato of an old Remington sans the bell, "Here, help me lay him
on the floor on his back." Connie grabs William’s left arm and shoulder, straining to hang onto
the dead weight.

Beasler removes William's right shoe and sock, takes a syringe out of his satchel and
spreads William's second and third toes apart. He sticks a needle in and fills the syringe with
William's blood.

He takes a tiny piece of gravel out of his bag and rubs it between William’s toes, marring
the needle hole, making it appear the stone caused the minor trauma. He puts William's sock and
shoe back on, careful to align the sock's logo to his ankle. He walks on his knees around the
body, stopping with William's head firmly between his thighs.

"He could suddenly convulse. That would be untidy." He's looking at the opposite side
of the room as he talks, seemingly speaking to the coat rack.

He opens William's right eyelid. William's dark eyeball looks like a cat-eye marble: it
stares into nothingness as the nasty man inserts an extraordinarily thin needle into its center. He
angles it slightly to the left, penetrating the Anterior, the Iris, the Pupil, the Lens, and directly
through the eyeball via the Hyaloids Canal.

Once he reaches the retinal blood vessels, he slowly pushes the syringe, letting the blood
flow into William's brain. A syringe can normally be emptied in three-five seconds. This needle
is so thin and the syringe slide so intentionally slow, it takes almost a full minute to empty.

Connie had asked Brinkley, "How's this not going to look like a murder?"

Brinkley explains, "Most people think the eyes are attached to the brain. Actually, the
eyeball is a part of the brain itself. The cornea of the eyeball contains an ever so tiny pinhole. A
needle, as thin as an eyelash carefully inserted into that hole will not be detected by the coroner.
We've done this before. It's cool."

Doc Beasler sits back on his haunches, shudders and mutters, "That should do it."

William's body jerks once. Beasler feels for a pulse, first his wrist, then his throat. He
checks both again. Nothing.

"How can you do that?" Connie asks, not thinking.

Beasler's eyes rotate. He looks startled, then cross, then deadly, his expression changing
with each passing moment. He doesn't say or do anything threatening, yet Connie never felt so

"I've been a doctor for twenty years now. How long have you been a whore?”

He immediately adds, “Never mind, don't answer. You and I are alike. You ruin people.
I ruin people."

Doc Beasler smiles a caked-up yellow-toothed grin, "Good day."

He walks out the door that leads to the clubhouse side exit. Her final job is to call 911
and report William has collapsed and "seems dead”.

She reaches for her brick-size cell phone. The rear door rattles.

"Bill! Bill! Ya in there?" It's Sid. The door shakes again. "Come on, there's a big group
coming up behind us. We don't want to let them play through. Let's finish."

Connie flashes back to her training. In a situation like this, behave the way an innocent
person would respond under similar circumstances.

"Oh my God," she shouts, "Oh my God!"

Sid looks at Steve, "Sounds like he's not done yet." Steve laughs aloud. The door flies
open. Connie runs out, clipping them and wheezing for air. Sid and Steve look at each
other, "What the fuc...?"

"I think he's dead," Connie cries, looking down wagging her head, then gazing at Steve
and Sid, "I think he's dead!"

"What?" Steve is frozen in his footsteps.

Sid pushes into the room with Steve right behind. They see William on the floor

Sid checks for a heartbeat. Nothing. He listens for a breath. Nothing. Sid's almost in
shock when he turns to Steve, "He's gone, man. He's gone."

"What the---" Steve yells out the door to Connie, "Hey you, what's your name. Get in
here. What the hell happened?"

"Nothing," Connie says with a certainly that sounds plausible even to her, "I was lying
next to him, right there. We were, ya know, touching each other, that's all. His body jerked.
Nothing new. Then this." She points at William's body.

Steve is badly shaken, "Shit. Call the cops! 911. We've gotta report this."

"Wait a minute! We're here with two hookers and a dead guy and you want to call the
cops?" Sid pleads with Steve, "I don't know about your wife, but mine will fry my nuts. Get the
girls out of here at least."

"All right.” Steve points at Connie, “You! Get out of here. Take the other broad with
you. Don't speak to anyone. Got it?" Connie fakes an expression of panic, nods three times and
darts out the door.

Steve says, "We can't explain finding him in this room. The cart's outside. Let's load him
on and head toward the next tee. We can stop along the way and call 911.”

Chapter Seventeen

Rosa Steward, William Steward's wife and widow is a strong, smart, ruthless lady. Rosa
is like anyone though. She has her strengths and weaknesses.  

Rosa is born Rosalina Cantano in Detroit in 1959. Her mother, Eileen, considers herself
a full-time mother and homemaker. Her father, Romero is a stern, yet passionate man who will
do anything to support his family. He often works two jobs; backbreaking work in a steel mill
during the day and four hours as a dishwasher at night.  His brooding looks and muscular frame
combine with his dark eyes and scant use of broken English resulting in a man most people try to
avoid. That is fine with Romero.
He is a strict father who believes in corporal punishment. Rosa receives harsh spankings
whenever she misbehaves. To this day, she cringes at the sound of applause.
Romero is convicted of murder in 1968 when he hits and kills a pedestrian crossing West
Grand Boulevard, not far from a home bannered “Hitsville, USA” later to become known as
Motown Records. Rosa is only ten-years old.

The prosecutor is able to convince the judge that Romero has ties to the mob and the
pedestrian is on the Federal Witness Protection program. The death is no accident. They can’t
tie Romero to any particular mobster, of course, but they manage to get a confession from
Romero, citing racism as a motive.
A week after Romero is sentenced Eileen receives an envelope. The package contains a
note from Romero:

“You and Rosalina are my chiarore delle stelle. The man promises this for you. The
name in the bank means no thing. I love you and Rosalina. Jesus will save you.”

Enclosed is a bank account passbook in the name of 'Judy Withers’. There is a $10,000
balance. Included are fifty withdrawal slips signed by Judy Withers.  The amount columns on
the slips are blank. There is also a Social Security card in Judy Withers name. Most remarkable
is a driver's license in Judy Withers’ name with Eileen's picture on it. Eileen cries aloud,

“How could you leave me? For this? You fool. You stubborn fool!”
Eileen doesn’t understand why Romero would risk his freedom for a mere $10,000. It
isn't until she makes her second withdrawal five weeks later that she discovers an additional
$10,000 deposit. Every month from then on, there is another deposit of $10,000. She and Rosa
never go without again.
Eileen tells Rosa, “Your father was paid to murder a man and try to make it look
accidental and to keep his mouth shut.”

“We have to go see him, let him know we are there for him. We have to try to get him
out. Please, Mom, please. Dad needs us.”

“No. We will not see him. He did nothing to be proud of. He was determined to provide
for us, but this is too much. I know it broke his soul to do what he did. I never asked him to do
it. I begged him not to. Now we're alone. It is his doing. He does not deserve to see us weep
for him.”

“Mom, it is not just for him. It is for you. And me. I miss Dad.” Rosa bursts into tears
and runs out of the room. She writes to him weekly, but soon her ten-year old mind and life
leave little to say. Within a few months, she accepts it all and focuses on growing up.

Chapter Eighteen

Jackson Prison, Jackson, Michigan holds a wide range of convicted persons. In the early
eighties cells are filled daily with young men caught selling ‘dime bags’ of crystalline. All too
often, these felons are assigned cells with men serving time for armed robbery, assault, rape, and
murder. Johnny Clinton doesn’t know he is lucky to be sharing a cell with Romero Cantano, a
thirteen-year veteran of the prison.

Johnny speaks in a daze, apparently without choice, “You’re in for murder? Man, I can’t
handle that. I mean, I’m cool with it as long as you don’t slay me but, man, you gotta chill out. I
mean, I can get you a g-pack to clear you out, forever, man.”

Romero eyes this man-boy sitting in his cell. To him, he sees nothing but a pale, queer-
looking punk, like so many of the recent arrivals. ‘Slut-masters’ they call them on the inside.
Romero worries what kind of world his daughter is facing as a young adult. He decides to speak
to the warden, see if he can get some support for his coming parole hearing.

Two words from Romero cease Johnny’s rambling, “Fermata perlando” He wants him
to stop speaking.

Johnny doesn’t know anything about Italian, but he understands just the same. He stops
and looks at Romero for the first time. Romero’s vacant eyes send a chill through his body.

It is their last conversation. Two days later, Johnny hands Romero a broken piece of
chocolate he scrounged from the cafeteria. Romero hesitates, then accepts it, nodding briefly
before turning away in his cot.

Romero is working in the laundry the next morning as three convicts surround Johnny
and begin pushing him toward the corner closet.

Johnny’s expression is perplexed as he pleas, “Hey guys, what’d I do? Mellow out.”
The sole guard, who may have been there since the prison opened in 1842 is sleeping at his post
across the room. Romero knows Johnny is about to be raped. He is not surprised. One of the
men slug the boy hard on the side of his head. Johnny topples, half-blacks out. The men bend
the boy over a hamper and start pulling off his pants.

Romero tries to ignore it, yet watches out of the corner of his eye. One man is standing
in front stuffing a wash rag into the reviving victim’s mouth. Another is grabbing at the boy’s
flesh from behind, ready to begin the assault. The third man starts using a butane lighter to
sadistically burn a brand into Johnny’s back.

Romero steps toward the third man, gestures to the lighter and says, “Too much.” He
turns and walks away. Suddenly, he is grabbed from behind by his hair and yanked fiercely back
and onto the floor.

Two of the three men are on him, pinning his limbs. Something is crammed into his
mouth causing him to gag. Romero looks down in shock and horror as the third man pulls out a
shiv and pushes it deep into Romero’s now bare stomach. The men proceed to rape him in turn
as he slowly bleeds to death, praying with his final breath. He hears Satan’s laughter ringing in
his ears.

Chapter Nineteen

Rosa and Eileen receive word of Romero’s death the day after Rosa's twenty-third
birthday. Eileen goes into shock, unable to walk or speak for days. Rosa sits at her bedside,
desperately trying to erase the incessant images leaping in and out of her mind.

The bank deposits stop. Apparently the mob feels it is no longer necessary to provide for
them. Eileen raises a question with the prison about the motive for her husband’s murder, but
stops, unable to comprehend the possibilities. The day after the funeral, Eileen and Rosa pack up
and move to Southern California.
Eileen has been a remarkably astute investor over the years. The bank balance at the time
of Romero's death is over $1 million even after withdrawing money each month for living
expenses. When Eileen and Rosa arrive in LA, Eileen already has an apartment in Bel Air
reserved. Eileen has plans for Rosa, including living among or respectively near the money in
Southern California.  
Two days after moving into their apartment, Eileen tells Rosa to sign up with several
temporary help agencies in the West L.A. and Hollywood areas.

Rosa has grown into a lovely brunette: young, intelligent, and personable. Eileen likes
the agency idea because Rosa will be exposed to dozens of companies until she finds one with a
promising and interested suitor.

Rosa works two to four week stints at seven different companies during the first year.
She is often picked as a receptionist due to her looks and charm. She receives many passes from
men, but they are all either married or too low on the company ladder to interest her mother. It
isn't until she takes an assignment at Steward Pharmaceuticals that Eileen's strategy pays off. It
is there that Rosa meets William Steward.  

William inherited the business from his father. He takes control at age thirty-one and
doubles revenues in two years. The Wall Street Journal names him one of America’s ten most
promising executives in 1967. His first wife passes away in 1973. William becomes one of LA's
most eligible bachelors, photographed with dozens of starlets attending Hollywood's most lavish
parties. He loves women but never considers any of his romances serious. Then Rosa shows up
and it’s “love at first sight”. In 1981, he is ready to start a family.  He falls head over foot in love
with her.  

"Mother, he's too old. I'm only twenty-four. He's almost fifty!"

"Forty-seven to be precise," Eileen interrupts, "Rosa, don't you see the positive? He has
a family history of coronary heart disease. His father died at fifty-five. He doesn't exercise,
except for golf. He eats poorly and drinks to excess every night. Trust me, his days are
numbered. His company is valued at $19 million and their expansion plans will double their
volume in the next four years. His primary drug is patent protected for seventeen more years.
You'll be a wealthy widow by your thirties. You’ll have plenty of time for real romance then."

“Mother, he wants me to bear children!”

"So? Give him one or two. They will be helpful to you when you are my age." Eileen
and Rosa connect through this indirect compliment.

“Mother, I still don’t know.”

William proposes, giving Rosa a 10-carat flawless diamond engagement ring; it’s big
enough for Rosa to decide.

After the wedding, William, Rosa and Eileen move to Beverly Hills. William buys a
four-acre estate consisting of two homes and a stable. They tear down one of the homes and
move into the house that is now the servant quarters while starting construction of a mansion.  
Unfortunately, nothing is as sound as Eileen had hoped. After Rosa becomes pregnant,
William starts coming home later and later.
The tabloids run pictures of him with various women around town, many of them known
to be high-priced call girls. Rosa is upset, but eventually accepts it. She doesn't love him and he
is so thrilled to become a father she knows he won’t leave her. She is permitted to purchase
anything her or her mother choose.

The company is not without its shortcomings either. R&D continually eats away at their
cash. It is in continual financial difficulty. William and Rosa spend far in excess of whatever is
Rosa bears William a son, Jonathan. The baby is born happy. Jonathan seems to come
out humming, his head filled with music since birth. He is a beautiful baby with dark eyes, an
olive complexion and the sweetest smile. William and Rosa love him dearly.  
For the next fifteen years, Jonathan’s mere existence holds the marriage together in spite
of William's public womanizing.
Then William has his “stroke”.
After his death, Rosa is uncertain she will be allowed to take over the company. With
only forty-one percent ownership, she has to persuade at least one other board member to vote
with her. She is surprised when one of them comes forward to support her: Steve Winover.  

Chapter Twenty
The day after her appointment as CEO, Rosa receives a request from a long lost college
friend of William's wanting to stop by and pay his respects.  
It is Bill Brinkley. He comes to the house alone and meets with Rosa and Eileen in the
parlor. He sets his briefcase on the coffee table. Eileen is afraid he will turn out to be some sort
of salesman. She doesn't know the briefcase contains only an envelope and the most
sophisticated language-scrambling device on the market. And a Poor Boy sandwich; Brinkley
doesn't take chances.  
He takes the plate of wafers off the coffee table and places it on his lap. He bites into one
of them, puts five of the remaining nine in his pocket and passes the plate to Eileen.    
Brinkley starts the conversation by admitting he is not a friend of William,

“Actually, I’m a friend of the people who helped Eileen after your father, Romero was
imprisoned.” Eileen and Rosa instantly know what he represents.

Eileen nods and pours Brinkley a cup of tea, "You must pass on our gratitude to your
people, Mr. Brinkley for the support they provided. I'm sure mobsters have feelings too."  The
sarcasm slices like a Samurai sword.   

Brinkley continues speaking, turning to Rosa, "I'm here with a proposal for you, Ms.
Steward. I am CEO of a company that provides among other goods and services, an import/
export network with warehouses, ocean containers and shipping rights all over the world. It's
called Hampton Enterprises. Perhaps you've heard of us."  
Rosa responds disrespectfully, taking the risk in order to gain control, "I'm still trying to
grasp the world of computer systems, drug wholesalers, Medicaid rules and hospital promotion
programs. I’ve yet to pay much attention to truckers.”

"Well, then," Brinkley is amused as he sips his tea, "my proposal will be easy for you to
accept. Hampton Enterprises would like to be your exclusive importer/exporter out of your
Pakistan operation. We will guarantee competitive delivery times, insure against all loss and
damage, and provide rates that are twenty percent below your best quote."
Rosa smiles and says, "I see. So you are not here to make me an offer I can't refuse. At
least not yet.”    

"I hear that a lot. Am I that obvious?"

Rosa is unclear if his response is genuine or sarcastic. She replies, "Why at this time,
Mr. Brinkley? Why didn't you make your pitch to my husband?"  
Brinkley is prepared to lie, "We didn't think about your company and it’s potential until
we read about poor William's death. My condolences, by the way. When my associate read
about his untimely passing, he connected you and your mother. He thought, given our past
relationship," he nods to Eileen, "there might be some potential for us to work together again."

Eileen smiles from one side of her mouth and nods in return. Rosa is smart enough to
know there is something else, something unspoken.
"Assuming I could make such a commitment without raising eyebrows around the
company," Rosa continues, "why would I?"
"A twenty percent reduction is nothing to sneeze at," Brinkley answers, "It could allow
you to drop your product prices three percent below your competitors. That will help you grow.
Your growth will further help us.”
Relying on her natural indecisiveness, Rosa hesitates, "Well, I’m not sure I want to get
involved. We’ll think about it. Thank you, Mr. Brinkley. Give our best to your goon buddies."
"I'm sorry, Ms. Steward," Brinkley laughs and slaps his knee, "I forgot to mention this."
He opens his briefcase and hands Rosa the envelope.
Eileen looks over Rosa’s shoulder as she opens it, recognizing the blue passbook with a
new alias and all the rest. Rosa opens the book and looks at the balance, stone faced. Eileen
nabs it from her hand, looks it and utters a gasp.  

"Look, Mr. Brinkley," Rosa reacts, "we appreciate the offer. This is not an easy request.
Employees on the assembly line, on the docks, people in accounting, our auditors; all of them are
likely to question why we would change suppliers after years of satisfactory service. Frankly, a
million dollars is not nearly enough to raise my interest."
"I'm sorry again, Ms. Steward," Brinkley said, repeating the slap on his knee while
continuing his strange laugh, "Given your mother's experience," he looks apologetically at
Eileen, then back to Rosa, "I thought you understood our, ah, monthly deposit system. We don't
like to transfer too much cash at any one time. I'm sure you can appreciate that."

Eileen starts to speak, "Do you mean...?" 

"Shut up, mother!" 

"You shut up, bitch!"
Rosa reaches out to shake Brinkley's hand, "We'll talk about it. How do we reach you?"
"Just send me a press release announcing the change, the date and who in your operation
we should work with here and in Pakistan." He stops and touches Eileen's hand as a goodbye
gesture. Eileen withdraws her hand into a fist.

"One more thing," he continues as he is sucking raw sugar from his finger, "We'd like
you to hire one of our people, a young lady, perhaps as house manager. Connie Watson is her
name. Lovely person. You'll find her very efficient and resourceful. We’ll take care of her
salary. She will not be spying on the family or reporting to us, except in the event our
arrangement is somehow, shall I say, placed at risk. Surely, given the amount of investment, you
can appreciate this step added precaution."  
While leaving, Brinkley pauses alone on the porch. He spots something he must have
spilled on his tie during his first lunch. It's a strange color, but it's chewy.
Rosa visits with her Chief Operating Officer, John Daly the next morning. She has
prepared a list of changes she wants within the company; some organization changes, revised
policies on travel, an office renovation plan, a new profit report format and, buried within the list,
the use of Hampton Enterprises for all import/export operations.  

He asks her a few questions, including why the switch to Hampton. Her and Eileen had
determine that if Daly agrees, they will go ahead. If not, Rosa will be forced to make a tough
decision. She’s not sure she can handle it.

“William negotiated a worldwide reduced rate with this company before he passed away.
I’m surprised you didn’t know, John.”

Daly is embarrassed. He is eager to impress his new boss and accepts all the changes
without additional questions.

Brinkley receives the press release from Rosa. Steward Pharmaceuticals' Pakistani
import/export business will be handled exclusively by Hampton Enterprises effective July 1. He
notifies Perelle.

Chapter Twenty-One

Randolph Rasoone a.k.a. Ras grew up in a military family. His father was old enough to
fight in the infantry in Korea and young enough to die as an Officer in Vietnam. Ras’s memories
of his father are vivid,

“You must build strength not just in your arms, but throughout your entire body. We will
start with you neck.”

The six-year old boy strains to lift the weights attached to a rope strung around his nape.

“Fifty, forty-nine, forty-eight....” His father will not slow down his cadence. It’s up to
Ras to catch up. “Twenty-nine, twenty-eight....” His young head is searing in pain, his neck
throbbing, he starts to have trouble breathing. He hesitates a moment, then feels his father’s
cleated boot stab the back of his left calf muscle, “Arrggh,” Ras falls, grabbing his limb, the
weights striking his arms and chest. He breaks into a painful cry.

“Get up. Get up. Right now.” His father grabs him by his hair and pulls him to his feet,
then places the rope back around his neck, pushes him forward and starts his count, “Fifty, forty-

He remembers his father's last words to him before shipping out:

"Your body is your shell casing. The explosive is within you. Strengthen and use your
body as an extension of your mind. It is all you will need."

The young boy thinks of nothing else. Through college, he works out six hours every day,
hating excess flesh, reducing his body fat to 18.5%. He is all muscle. With lean limbs come
swiftness and coordination. In high school, he is the fastest runner, commander of the bars,
regional welter weight boxing champion, swimmer and diver, third degree black belt and
swordsman extraordinaire.

Scholarship offers abound. Ras' future is set. However, he finds the entire idea of college
and a traditional career unbearable.

He leaves his family one night without a word and goes out into the world to make a
living. He becomes a mercenary soldier, initially recruited in Libya by Muammar al-Gaddafi. He
advances in notoriety. By age twenty-seven, he is Gaddafi's top assassin.

In 1983, Ras is recruited by the mujahideen in Afghan to train resistance forces against
the Russian invasion. He works with unskilled, under armed rebels; the sons of farmers and
craftsmen, creating a mini-Special Forces unit that strikes terror into the heart of the Soviet
forces. In 1992, he receives a personal medal from Abdul Rashid Dostum, the former leader of
the Afghan militia he once trained his unit to defeat (Dostum had switched sides after the Soviets
withdrew). Dostum praises Ras as his greatest opponent during the war.

Rasoone’s reputation and respect among the Afghan rebels is legendary.

In 1998, Ras is sitting in a coffee shop in Jalalahar in the Eastern Province of Nangahar,
Afghanistan. A European man wearing Prado sunglasses steps over and sits at his table,

Ras looks at him. The older man acts confused, trying to decide what to do with his
coffee stirrer. Ras isn’t buying it. He spotted him ordering his drink a few minutes earlier. The
old fool obviously knew what he was doing. Why the fake now?

“You European or American?” The man asks as he puts the stirrer in his shirt pocket.

“American,” Ras returns to his newspaper.

I’m from Canada. We are practically related. My daughter lives in Florida. She has
given me a wonderful gift, a grandson!”

Ras tries to be polite, yet always cautious, ever skeptical, “Good.”

“Took him to Disney World last month. He loves Mickey. Unbelievable. I’ll never
forget it.” He reaches into his shirt pocket and pulls out photos. Three stir sticks clumsily spill
onto the table.

Ras flips through the photos. The child is cute. The last of four photos is not of the child.
It’s a picture of a note reading simply, “Avery Perelle”. Ras is one of a handful of people who
knows the near mythical name. He looks up and the man is nodding, “Can I buy you another

They take a stroll. Perelle walks with a false limp as they talk for two hours. Avery
speaks with assumed dominance, “You handle procuring the poppy and getting it into Pakistan.
The processing plant is already in place to transform the poppy into pure-cut heroin. I’m
working on an international distribution system. I’ll be ready when you are.” He explains the
system being developed by Brinkley.

Avery continues, “The new ‘Steward Solution’ as I call it, is simple. The employees at
Steward's will pack bottles of their main product, Eglitar, into cardboard cases. They don’t have
a clue. Each case contains three tiers of thirty-six bottles of Eglitar per tier. An ocean container
easily accepts four-hundred cardboard cases. That’s a lot of product.”

Avery glances at his Patek watch and flashes it at Ras, “It’s a Patek-Phillipe, the finest
watch in the world. Never trust a man wearing a Rolex. It is a false symbol of success. A truly
smart man will have the best. That is why I am talking to you. You are the best.”

Avery smiles for the first and last time in their relationship.

He pulls Ricardo XII from his pocket and continues, “Steward personnel will load the
cases into Hampton-owned ocean containers and provide my drivers with the necessary
paperwork. The drivers will stop at my facility en route to the port and the container will be
quickly unloaded. Robotic equipment will remove the Eglitar bottles and place them into similar
cases already packed with a bottom tier of identical-looking bottles filled with the heroin. The
bottles will be coated on the inside to deal with the drug-sniffers.”

“I have similar facilities on the outskirts of New York, Seoul, and London. The cases will
again be removed from the Hampton container, peeled away and the bottles of heroin removed.
The Eglitar bottles will be repacked and delivered to various Steward Distribution centers. No
one except the CEO of Steward knows what we’re doing.”

“I’m a numbers guy, so bear with me. Each container will yield $864,000. The Stewards
ship one hundred-fifty containers a year. That’s almost $130 million a year. I will pay eighteen
million to the farmers and tribal leaders, less your take of twelve million, one million in local
bribes, twelve million to the Steward CEO, and one million to my employees. The boys will get

50% of the net. My share, combined with the profits from my other industries may make me a
wealthy man someday.” Ras snickers at the facetiousness of Avery’s last remark.

Ras envisions a future under Perelle. He likes the idea.

It takes two months for Ras to secure supply agreements with five Northeastern tribal
leaders. He meets with the Taliban ruler of the Khyber agency of FATA and arranges for
protection and payments. Many of the payments find their way to Bin Laden training camps.

Raw product starts to flow across the border into Pakistan in late June. The Hampton
processing and repacking operation starts up. Steward Pharmaceuticals begins shipping Eglitar
via Hampton ocean containers on July 1. Within weeks, the total system is proven flawless.

It runs so smooth for so long, it’s odds of discovery by customs decreases with each
passing year. At export and at import, Hampton containers are routine, expected. A couple of
cursory inspections in the early years soon become pointless, then non-existent.

There is a disruption in poppy production during the US invasion of Afghanistan. It only

proves to raise street prices resulting in the same profits to everyone involved. Once the US
shifts attention to Iraq, volume is restored. Perelle sees the irony of the US efforts.

In 2004 Perelle speaks to Ras on a scrambled phone, “I need you here. I’ve got other
work to do and as my personal assistant, you can help me on a daily basis. My assistant, Josh
has let me down. He’s no longer with me, so to speak. I need you to take his place. Your take
on the poppy deal will continue.” Ras accepts.

Ras enjoys the daily challenge of working directly for Perelle. They travel continuously;
secret meetings with government officials, tribal leaders, rebellion commanders, an occasional
close call, an assassination here and there. He feels like this is what he was born to do.

Besides, Avery Perelle is the best lover he has ever known.

Chapter Twenty-Two

In LA, the Stewards prosper. Connie is accepted from the beginning and within a year is
promoted to house manager. She sorts through existing staff, gets rid of a couple of questionable
gardeners, hires a better chef and overall, takes to the job with ease.

She maintains a home in Calabasas, but stays at the mansion, incognito and rarely goes
out, happy to retire to her room and read, write and watch TV. Though her time as a call girl was
brief, it was enough to sour her on men and on the relationships and marriages she helped them

There is one exception; a piece of forbidden fruit that she fantasizes about as she satisfies
herself during her most private moments. It is the Steward son, Jonathon. He has just turned
sixteen when Connie arrives. She captivated by the teenager’s radiant blue eyes, his chiseled
jaw, his frame, his scent, everything about him.

Connie understands the libido of a sixteen year old boy. She toys with him. but with
exhausting discretion, knowing anything considered intentional would be frowned upon, to say
the least. Her favorite is to leave her bedroom door open a crack on Sunday mornings, minutes
before he will be passing by her room on his way to the stables.

She sits on her vanity chair with her silk robe open, parts her legs and uses a pair of
trimming scissors to shorten her sparse red hairs. She hears him walking down the hall, passing
and stopping. She’s amused that he doesn’t realize the silence of his tiptoeing back is a dead
give away; that he is peeking in, watching her. She puts down the scissors, pours some lotion on
her hands and rubs the creme with both hands up and down her thighs. She stands and rubs the
excess up her belly and briefly across her breasts. She then abruptly closes her robe and steps
into her bathroom, leaving Jonathon in a sweat outside her bedroom door.

It is an erotic show she performs for him each week. One Sunday, for her amusement,
she turns the chair around so her back is facing the doorway. She knows he is out there,
watching as usual, but must be frustrated he is denied the show that has become the core of his
world of sexuality. She sees him throughout that day. It is obvious he is having a bad day,

slamming doors, moping around the estate, walking in circles around the property. The
following Sunday, she turns the chair back. The show goes on.

Two years later, when Jonathan turns eighteen and is preparing to leave for college, he
asks Connie to Sunday Brunch. She is a little uncomfortable with the idea, asking,

“What about you mom, and grandmother?”

Jonathon beams, “They’re still sleeping. They won’t mind. Come on, it will be fun.”

In a corner booth at Le Prizzi, Connie lets Jonathan sip on her Mimosa’s, followed by her
Gimlet’s. After sharing the forth one, both of them are feeling no pain.

“I know I’m younger than you, but I have to tell you, you are the most beautiful woman I
have ever laid eyes on, including every model, every actress, Hell Berry, Jenniver Amniston,---”

Connie is turned on in spite of, or perhaps because of the consequences, but stops him
with a finger to his lips, “Jonathon, you’ve had too much to drink. You will meet and fall in love
with someone much prettier and younger than I. Before you finish school, I’ll bet.”

“No. No I won’t. There will never be anyone but you. Give me a chance, let me show
you I can be a man, I can be your lover, I can---”

“Jonathon, shush.” She moves closer to his side and places his hand on her bare leg, just
above her knee, cruelly teasing him. She gazes at him with her emerald eyes wide open, “I do
admire the size of your hands, Jonathon. They so---so big.”

Jonathon melts. He bends to kiss her, but she pulls away. “No Jonathon. Not here.”

He looks at her with desperate eyes, “Please,”

In the limo, as Robert is signaling the turn into the gate, Connie sips on her Screwdriver “
To Go” cup and says within Robert’s earshot, “Well, Jonathon, we will all miss you. Good luck
with your studies.” Connie confirms Robert is watching the road as places her hand on his crotch
and she kisses on the mouth. The kiss lasts only seconds, her tongue digging deep into
Jonathon’s mouth as she squeezes his firmness in her grip. That’s all it takes.

“Oh my God, I’m so sorr---”

Connie pours her drink onto his pants and quickly interrupts, “It’s okay, Jonathon, I
shouldn’t have brought it into the car. Here, use this to wipe up.”

That ends it. They enter the mansion, each going in their own direction. Jonathan is
quietly humming “What a Wonderful World.”

The next morning, Connie frowns, looking in the mirror, admonishing herself in a
whisper, "Quit acting like a slut. You’ve got the gig of a lifetime and you’re risking it for a kid?
Grow up."

Rosa is outraged when Robert tells her about the incident in the car. Jonathan has already
left for college. Rosa calls Brinkley, “I want her out of here. Molesting my son, I won’t stand
for it!”

“I can’t pull her out. She did, ah, something to earn her job. I’ll talk with her. I can
assure you nothing like this will happen again.”

Brinkley understands Rosa. He wants her satisfied.

Rosa puts the matter aside. She avoids Connie for weeks until Brinkley calls a meeting
in the parlor. Rosa, Eileen and Brinkley are enjoying a sip of “tea” when Connie comes in with a
folder of papers.

Brink begins, “Okay, time for business. Rosa, Hampton has made a major banking
change and as our largest customer, we need you to sign these documents.” Connie hands the
papers to Rosa. Rosa notices Connie’s distorted left hand. She looks at Brinkley. He is working
hard to hold back his grin.

Cruelly amused, Rosa thinks to herself while signing the papers, “I bet she regrets giving
him the finger.”

As he is leaving, Rosa pulls Brinkley aside, “I knew you were going to have a talk with
her about Jonathan. I didn’t expect her to be harmed.”

“It wasn’t that. During our talk, she called me a name. Something unacceptable.”

“What name?”

Brinkley clutches Rosa’s left hand, “You don’t want to know.” He smiles and and looks
around, "Is there a Chili's around here?"

Chapter Twenty-Three

Jonathon is gone for almost a year. He returns the first summer, anxious to speak with
Connie alone. She avoids any communication, even the simplest eye contact. On the first
Sunday, he steps quietly into the hall after waiting up all night for this moment. Her door is not
ajar as he had hoped. It is shut. He tries the knob. It is locked. He whispers, “Connie. Connie.
I need to talk with you.”

Connie sits inside on the edge of her bed, ignoring his pleas. He tries to speak with her
several more times, and is ignored at each turn. By the end of the summer, Jonathon has given
up all hope.

He returns each summer and spring and over the holidays, never again speaking with
Connie in private. He earns his MBA from Harvard and in 2008 takes two years off to live in
Europe; Venice, Stockholm, Berlin, London, Barcelona.

Jonathon’s social life is endless. His looks and wealth and charm are irresistible. He
rejects opportunities to be with gorgeous girls and women of all nationalities almost every night.
The dozen times he allows himself a night of pleasure, he learns he cannot perform until he
closes his eyes and pictures Connie. Their brief moment together in the limo builds up in his
head, haunting him every day.

He carries a picture of her he keeps in his room, along with copies he keeps in his
suitcase. He carefully wraps the original in brown cardboard, placing it last, on top of his carry-
on each time he packs. He kisses her image gently most nights, dreaming of another life in
which they could be together.

It’s 2010 before Jonathon comes home for good. To Rosa’s delight, he immediately
immerses himself into Steward Pharmaecuticals. Rosa has lost interest in the company, acting
more as Chairman than CEO. She seems distant to her staff, often seen sitting in her office in a
daze. She knows she must stay involved if for no other reason than protect the distribution
arrangement with Hampton. But it’s getting hard to stay interested; so much of her simply
doesn’t care anymore.

Jonathon is appointed Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer of Steward
Pharmaceuticals. He is elected to the Board and soon recognizes his mother’s neglect of the
firm. He’s intent on helping her, to relieve her troubles. He’s determined to learn every aspect of
the business, working most nights pouring over sales reports, profit margins, expenses, public
relations, government affairs, legal claims, patents, personnel. Rosa shows her appreciation, but
she continues to drift off at each meeting. Jonathon’s worried about her.

Chapter Twenty-Four

The gloved hand punches the security code into the pad, overriding the alarm to the
Steward mansion. He enters through the side door furthest away from the downstairs living area.

It is midnight. Quiet and dark inside. The nearest bedroom, occupied by Eileen,, always
asleep by 9:00 PM is on the second floor. He knows Jonathon is in Chicago on business.

He inserts his key into the private elevator which rises quietly to the third floor. He opens
the master bedroom door.

"There you are," Rosa speaks sweetly, "I was starting to worry."

He is carrying a leather bag which he sits on the nightstand.

"Hi sweetheart. You look lovely tonight. I like that robe." He immediately starts
undressing, "Get me a little drink, will ya hon."

Rosa pours him a Scotch, straight up, and hands it to him as he rolls his naked flesh onto
the mattress. They chat idly for a few minutes, then watch an episode of “How I Met Your
Mother”. Rosa is casually fondling him, frequently looking into his eyes, trying to be patient.

Finally, he says, "Ready?"

"Sure," Rosa takes off her robe and lays nude on top of the blanket. She is flat on her
back, arms to her side.

"You're gonna love this stuff. It's the best."

He draws something out of his leather bag, "Only the best for you, baby." He ties a thin,
brown rubber hose around Rosa's right arm just above her elbow. He flicks the largest of the

veins swelling in her forearm. He tests the syringe and inserts the needle, injecting her body
with the finest heroin in the world.

"Sweet dreams, baby."

“Thank you, Brink. You're the love of my life.”

Rosa feels the rush flooding through her. Her mind soars, escaping to the heavens. An
image hovers in her sight; it’s her father, Romero peacefully resting, waiting for her and her
mother to join him.

This is what she lives for now. This is all she needs.

Chapter Twenty-Five

Weeks after his return, Jonathon finally gets Connie alone, in the combined storage/utility
room behind the kitchen. Rosa and Eileen have gone shopping. Jonathon speaks to Connie with
uncharacteristic bluntness,

“Connie, I have given our, ah, relationship a lot of thought. I admit I was enraptured by
you, your beauty, your heart. Yet, this is the start of my adult life. I have a tremendous
responsibility to mother, grandma and, of course, my dear departed father.”

Connie scoffs, “Jonathon, haven’t you been paying attention for the past eight years? We
don’t have a “relationship”. We never have and never will.” She rubs her thumb across the stub
on her left hand, constantly reminding her of the price of disobedience.

She adds, “Jonathon, I have nothing to---”

He grabs her and kisses her with a passion that has boiled over, night after night, year
after year. Connie pushes him, struggling to break free. She is punching him, trying to turn her
head away when, without logic or warning, her own pent up desire explodes inside of her. She is
pressed against the back wall. She grabs his broad shoulders, opens her lips and pulls his tongue
inside, then pushes it back with her own.

He clutches at her left thigh with his open hand. She twists her body, shifting his hand
closer to her fire. They break their mouths away to gasp and then reconnect just as Jonathon’s
hand reaches her. She erupts, soaking his palm, her legs giving away, her entire being
collapsing, only to be held up by this beautiful, strong, lustful man.

Jonathon moans to her, “I must have you.”

“Yes. Yes. You must have me.” She entwines her left leg around his upper thigh. They
never stop kissing, licking, biting as they fumble with clothing, Jonathon finally entering her, not

moving until she thrusts against him. Their bodies move in perfect rhythm, climaxing together
and collapsing onto the washroom floor.

Neither move for minutes; Jonathon on his back, Connie aside him, her head against his
shoulder. He begins to object when she starts to get up. She touches his lips with her index
finger, “Shush. We will talk later. Say nothing of this to anyone, promise?”

“Of course not, I don’t---”

Connie presses her finger harder against his lips, cutting off his words. She stands and
fluffs her hair, smoothes her skirt and sneaks out, rushing to her room to clean up. Jonathon lies
still another moment, stepping outside himself, viewing what just happened in disbelief. His grin
widens, his years of longing for her is replaced by an indelible surge of pure joy. He rises,
straightens his clothes and proceeds to his room, humming Daughtry’s “Home”.

Chapter Twenty-Six

Tuesday morning at breakfast, Jonathon says, “I’m leaving for Pakistan now, Mom.”

No reaction.

“Mom? I said I’m leaving. I’ll be back in a three weeks, not two. I’ve decided to stop in
Hawaii on the way back for a chance to recharge.” Jonathon gives his mother and his
grandmother a long hug.

Eileen is concerned, “You be careful out there. They kill American’s ya know. Try to
act like you’re from Russia.”

Rosa comes alive for a moment, interjecting, “Mother, he’s fine. Jonathon, this is your
first visit to the plant. Be sure the employees know we’re thinking of them, grateful for their

Jonathon goes to his room to gather his luggage. On the way out, he stops by Connie’s
room and leaves her a ticket under a lace mat on her dressing table. A first class ticket to Maui
made out to Monique Andrews, along with a matching passport. On the back of the ticket
envelop are directions to the hotel, a property map, and an Executive Pass Code allowing her to
get settled in her own room without checking in.

The sun is setting when Jonathon arrives at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Kapalua, Maui. His
suite faces the ocean with two private lanais. On the dining room table, he finds a drawing in
pencil of a hammock between two palm trees, letting him know where he can find her.

Jonathon is dressed in a rich-blue linen jacket, contrasting with tan slacks. His Bruno
Magli loafers slip onto his feet with ease. He stops at the lobby bar for two Volcano’s and walks

into the lush yard bordering the beach. Connie is swinging gently in a hammock, wearing a
green thong bikini and a braided sun hat, finishing a Zombie. She looks up through her
oversized sunglasses as Jonathon approaches and says, “Jonathon, what are you doing here?”

“Is there room in there for me?” Jonathon asks. He sets the drinks on a glass-top table
and, without waiting, throws himself onto the hammock, rocking it, nearly causing it to tip.

Connie laughs, “Whoa. Aren’t you going to feed me first?”

Jonathon kisses her, then looks at his watch and tells her, “There is a five course dinner
being served in my room in, ah, twenty-two minutes. I will try to keep my hands off you during
our meal, but no guarantees, my Monique.”

“You’re assuming we can get out of this hammock together without a disaster. Poor
planning on your part, Mr. MBA.”

“Call me ‘Theodore’.”

Their lips lock, their hands grab at each other. The hammock rocks and flips, dropping
them both, causing them to laugh in delight as they roll on the grass.

They enter Jonathon’s suite; the only Ritz-Carlton Suite in Hawaii; 2650 square feet of
space. Connie feels completely free, perhaps for the first time in her life. No one knows her. No
one is judging her. Jonathon is enraptured by her, treating her like a woman, not a whore. He’s
humming “Pretty Woman.” Connie makes the connection and is amused.

After dinner, while still at the dining room table, Jonathon starts. He stands behind her
and, with a mouth warm and moist, begins with her neck while softly caressing the center of her
back. He unzips her and lightly scratches her under her shoulder blades, the same way he did the
first time they made love ages, or was it only weeks ago.

He continues his journey, stopping for seconds to linger on distinct parts of her. He lays
her on the table, removes her clothing gently and kisses, licks, and suckles for endless moments,
raising her anticipation of what he will do next.

He can read her. The pressure and movement of his lips are as perfect as if she could kiss
herself. Her body soars in sweet convulsion, rising higher and higher with each magic moment.
She explodes, shattering the night with her glorious scream.

She has to stop him. She can’t take any more. He knows it as well and brings her body
and soul in for a soft, gentle landing.

They sit on one of the lanais, both in Ritz terry-cloth robes, wine glasses in hand.
Jonathon speaks,

“In Pakistan, a driver, Mr. Fajid, greeted me and drove me in a broken-down Town car to
my hotel. The hotel is rated five stars and priced accordingly. My expectations were dashed by
the smell of urine, the grit, and the insects rushing under the moldings. I sank into the bed and
slept for nine hours after arriving.”

“Did you get laid?”

“Connie, I’m not like that. You know that, don’t you?”

“Who’s Connie. I’m Monique. And by the way, you’re Theodore, but I’ll call you Ted.
‘Ted and Monique’; Part I’.”

They click glasses and laugh.

“Anyway, be patient with me, Ted. I’m having a hard time believing I’m with a real man.

Jonathon reaches over and kisses her gently, “I am for real. That you can take to the
bank.” Connie thinks his remark is ironic.

“Anyway, the plant manager, a Mr. Bahaar greets me in the lobby of the plant the next
morning. I know him by telephone only. He is a first rate operator on top of his plant every day.
Bahaar says he hasn't taken a vacation in three years.”

“So, I visit the various work stations, wanting the people to understand they are important
to the company and the family.”

“I spend hours learning how the plant tracks in the raw material, how quality control is
executed, how sampling techniques help assure consistency and purity. I go through their
computer systems, shipping and export documents, and packing and loading procedures. I
watch as they complete loading an ocean container headed for the US. By the end of the day, I
feel like I made great headway in better understanding how the operation really works.”

Connie yawns, “I’m excited for you. Can we go to Ka’anapali for lunch tomorrow?”

“Of course, my sweet. So, as I’m leaving, the last Hampton semi, hauling a loaded ocean
container headed for the US is pulling out of the lot. I tell Mr. Fajid to follow the container to
the port, just to watch it get delivered. It is completely incidental.”

Connie sits up and listens.

“We are on the main highway. Mr. Fajid stays a half-dozen car lengths behind the truck
when suddenly, the semi pulls off onto the first exit. I figure the driver has a girlfriend or

“The driver continues down a secondary road and flashes his right turn signal. I see a
service station on the right and assume the driver is stopping there. If so, I’ll introduce myself
and ask if I can ride with him to the port. But the driver turns onto a dark street just past the
service station.”

“So, I ask Fajid to go down the road a bit. We drive past a number of low-rise
warehouses, all dark. I notice some lights from a building up ahead at the end of the road. The
car stops three-hundred feet short of a fence that surrounds the dimly lit building.”

“I can see the semi backing against the building's loading dock. Two men with forklifts
are unloading the cases from the container.”

Connie fakes bewilderment, "What on earth?"

Jonathon continues, “I’m thinking, are they stealing the drugs, replacing them with
capsules filled with something worthless; sand perhaps?”

“I can't see what they are doing to the cases inside the building. What surprises me is the
forklift drivers are reloading the cases almost immediately.”

“I’m thinking, they must be adding something to the cases, Are they smuggling
something? Weapons? Child porn? Drugs? Bootlegs?”

“I don’t trust informing the authorities in Pakistan. I’d be a be a rich American accusing
local citizens of what? Unloading and reloading a container?“

“So, I figure, whatever these guys are doing, they have to undo it at the other end. There
must be a similar "stop" between the pier in New York and our distribution center in New Jersey.
I’ll get the NY authorities to seize the container as it leaves the Port in New York and inspect its
contents before the container is stripped.”

Connie is focused, “You can do that?”

Jonathon finishes his thoughts, “I didn’t want to risk spying any longer. I got back in the
Town Car and told Fajid that I forgot; Hampton sometimes reconfigures our containers to see if
there is more space, to save costs in the future, ya know.”

Connie dares ask, “So, what are you going to do?”

“I’m flying to LA on Tuesday to meet with my attorney, get a subpoena going, then head
straight to New York to personally meet the container. I’m going to blow this wide open. From
there, I’m going back to Pakistan and press charges against whoever in our company is behind

Connie concludes Jonathon doesn’t have a clue what is really going on. To be certain,
she asks, “What about your mom?”

“I’m not going to bother her with this. She’ll appreciate it when she hears about it after I
make the nab. Until then, I’m keeping her in the dark.”

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Connie calls Brink, using her cell from her room later that night. Brink tells her, “You
know what you need to do, right?”

Connie hesitates, thinking about what is going on around her. She likes Jonathon. Likes
him a lot. She hesitates a tell-tale moment and says, “Yeah, I know. Look, this needs to be a
homer for me. Tell me it will be, what will happen afterwards?”

Brink speaks firmly, “You know what you need to do, right?”

Connie hangs up. She understands Brink’s message. She thinks about a possible future
with Jonathon, “He’s a rich guy. He’s hot. He’s hot for me. Why not bet on him instead of
those creeps?” She rubs the stub on her left hand, deciding, “I have to look out for myself.”

They order from room service again the next night, Jonathon saying on the phone, “Ah,
we’ll take two of every appetizer, four Mai Tai’s and a bottle of 1994 Chave Hermitage.”
UB40’s ‘Red, Red Wine’ hums from his lips, matching the steel drums playing at The Beach
House bar in the distance.

After making love, Connie tells him of her background, including the killing of her uncle.
She leaves out the part about setting up Jonathon’s father.

Late that evening, at Connie’s suggestion, they drive Jonathon’s convertible down the
road to an isolated beach near Makena. The night air is glorious. The sky is a moonless
planetarium. The road to a randomly selected beach is deserted.

They arrive in pitch darkness. Jonathon asks, “Are you ready for a little snack?”

Connie doesn’t respond. She jumps out of her seat and runs toward the water, stripping
off her beach cover on the way. She’s naked when she reaches the sand. She calls back to
Jonathon, who is trying to bring a food basket along and laughs, “Drop that thing, and your
drawers, and get ready for a new kind of surfing.” Connie is up to her neck by the time Jonathon
enters the water.

They lock their arms around each other, squirming against each other in the cool water.
They drift out to a twelve feet depth when Connie pushes him under. She swallows a chest full
of air and follows him down, pulling on him as she moves underwater, her lips kissing his chest
and belly.

Down they go. She’s above him as she takes him into her mouth, trying her best to bring
him total pleasure.

Jonathon is carried away by the eroticism of the moment. He lies back and drifts to the
bottom with her. His body is suspended, her lips and hands are stroking him, caressing him.
He’s in heaven.

His survival instinct kicks in just in time to signal her; they must go up for air. She nods
and pulls away, but places her feet on his chest, kicking both legs downward, shooting herself to
the top as she pushes him back to the bottom. She breaks through and gasps fiercely for air.

Jonathon is desperate to breathe. He squats on the sandy floor and leaps upward to the
surface. Connie sees him about to surface. She pauses for an endless nano-second, doubting
what she is doing, then immediately stops his rise with her legs, again pushing him downward.
She feels his grasp around her ankles, trying to pull himself upward, trying to climb her body to
the surface. She almost panics when, as suddenly, his grip melts.

She is paddling on the surface beneath the black sky. She looks back and forth, and
around a dozen times before she’s certain he’s not coming up. She begins her short swim to the

On the beach, she looks around again, this time assuring herself no one is in sight. She
stares out into the light surf, half expecting him to float in or much worse, swim in. She dons her

beach wrap and waits minutes more. She walks toward the car. Jonathon’s clothes lie atop the
food basket left on the ground.

With pre-lacquered finger-tips, she carefully opens the basket and extracts one of the two
wine glasses, and one of the two sets of silverware Jonathon had brought from the suite. The
light breeze is already covering their tracks in the sand. She picks up her handbag and walks
toward the road, further away from the Ritz, ending a mile inland at the Makena Inn. She
checks-in as Constance Torres and pays in advance in cash.

After gathering her effects from the Ritz, she shreds her “Monique” ticket and purchases
a flight out of Honolulu to SFO. Once in Sausalito, she reads about the “Young, wealthy eligible
bachelor drowns in Maui.” Connie is grateful the story is so brief.

She calls Rosa from her cell, “Rosa, I’m so sorry to hear about----”

Rosa’s voice crackles in response, “You are the last person on earth I want to talk with.
I’ve already told Brink I want your crap out of my house. And I told him to take out the trash on
the way.”

“The trash? What do you---?

“You. I want your ass out of my house, out of my sight. I don’t care what you or Brink
or any---” Rosa breaks down in tears, dropping the phone. Connie waits in silence until Eileen
picks the phone up,

“Connie, dear. She’s upset. I don’t think it’s a good idea to speak with her right now.
Maybe you should speak with Mr. Brinkley before returning. Do you like that idea?”

“Of course. Thank you, Mrs Cantano.”

Connie calls Brink at once, “Why is she upset with me? Does she suspect something?

Brink swallows the rest of his eclair and responds, “Nah. She just never got over that
thing with you and Jonathon years ago. Anyway, we really don’t need you there any longer.
Rosa is not going to talk about our relationship with anyone. You need to get back to work. I’ll
help you out; I’ll have you back on your knees in no time.” Brink chuckles.

“Fuck you. I did what you wanted and I expect to get paid, big time.”

Brink tries to calm her, “Relax. We’re going to take care of you. We just need a little
time to pass, that’s all.”

“How much time? And how much money?”

Brink assures her, “Just a few months. It will be over a mil.”

Connie is forceful, “I want two. Not a penny less. Or else.”

Brink takes offense, “Or else what? You’re the one with blood on your hands. You
gonna go to the cops, confess? Get real, girl.”

“There’s nothing to confess, because there’s nothing to prove. It’s the Feds that will be
interested. In your little Pakistan scam.”

“Stop the crap, Connie. I told you I’d take of you. You need to trust me. In the
meantime, stay home, work if you want, or don’t work. I don’t care. Just stay away from the

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Three months later, Connie is sitting on her back patio overlooking her sparsely
landscaped yard. She is fuming inside, shouting to herself, “That fat-ass is not going to get
away with this. I gave him my best years. What I did for him!”

Connie is provided a couple of dates. She finds it almost impossible to endure in her
thirties the things she accepted at twenty. The first man demeans her, forcing her to crawl naked
and lap vodka from a bowl on the floor. The second customer is worse. She runs a couple of ads
and begins finding her own clients.

She writes a plan out in her head, “First, I need some protection, then I’m going after
Brinkley and his entire bullshit organization. They will buy my silence. Then, I’m out of here.
The South Pacific, maybe Australia.” She picks up her phone and calls an old regular, Shawn
Broderick. It takes her three days to get through to him. He’s an Assistant DA, LA County.

“Come now. I know you remember me. Connie, Connie Watson. We were, ya know,
very close in the late nineties, when you were working for Macmillan and Schmidt.” She listens
to his response and smiles to herself,

“Yes, yes. I knew you would remember.” Connie listens with a hopeful grin.

“Ha, yes, of course I remember that.” More listening.

“No, I stopped that years ago. I worked in real estate in BH for the past twelve years. I
made a few good investments, channeled it all off-shore. Here I am, retired would you believe?”
Her confidence swells as she judges the tone of his response.

“I know. I didn’t call you for that. I just thought we could get together, have a few
laughs. You are a special memory for me.” Her grin breaks into a smile, certain she has him on
the hook.

“You’re wife doesn’t know you’re on Facebook?” Pause. “Sure, I’ll send you an invite.
We can exchange profiles, although I’ve seen your picture already. How have you managed to
stay so fit?” More listening.

“Got it. Take a look. I think you’ll be pleased.” More listening, her eyes beaming with

“Yes, believe me, I understand. We are totally on the same page. I want nothing but
simplicity in my life. I’m just reconnecting with a very select number of old friends.” More

“I look forward to it.”

Connie disconnects and congratulates herself, her mind racing forward, “Brink won’t
touch me once I’m seeing Broderick. That would be crazy.”

Chapter Twenty-Nine

William Brinkley sits on a park bench off Santa Monica Boulevard scanning the World
Series stats, munching on fortune cookies, stopping to read each slip as the bag empties;

Beware. All accidents have purpose.

A tall, slim fifty-something man in an olive green suit strolls up. He looks like a doctor,
perhaps because he is a doctor, provided you consider an optometrist a doctor. He sits himself
casually on the opposite end of the same green bench as Brinkley.

Brink is a friendly guy, “How ya doin’?”


“Want to know your future?”

The odd looking man scratches the large mole on his forehead, “Huh? Oh, I see. Thank
you. Don’t mind if I do.”

He takes the last cookie and bites it in half, pulling the narrow slip of paper out of his
mouth. It reads:

Connie Watson 24826 Pso Primario 91302. Any style.

“Good one.” He hands the slip to Brinkley and they both nod and smile. He offers Brink
a cigar, which is politely refused. As the man lights up a rare Gurkha for himself, Brink,
apparently bothered by the smoke, wishes him a nice day, gets up and walks away with his hands
and the fortune in his pockets.

Doc Beasler understands “Any style”. It means it doesn't matter if it looks like an
accident, a murder, natural causes, whatever. He also knows it is urgent. Messages from
Brinkley are understood to be urgent.

Beasler pauses for a moment to look out over the sea. He expresses his frustration to
himself, “I spent my first thirty-three years longing to live next to this mass of water and here I
am, twenty-two years later rarely bothering to come down here.” He takes in a mouthful of
smoke and salty air, holds the blend for a mental count of six and releases it through his nostrils.
He heaves heavily and exhales faintly, looking down at his aching body, taking a quick snapshot
of his status, “I’m getting too old for this.”


“Leave the man alone, Matthew.” The young mother looks up from her boy to Beasler,
seeing his face for the first time, “I’m sorry,” The overly tanned, disconcertingly thin young
woman in a terry-cloth beach cover-up immediately looks away, apparently more interested in
the two men jogging across the shore line.

Beasler stoops and buries his rare cigar into the sand and speaks to the four year old boy.

“Hi there. How old are you?”

“This many.” The child struggles to display the correct number of fingers while tugging
away from his mother’s grip. Beasler’s facial expression remains stoic, his stare at the boy lasts
a second too long. The mother notices and starts to pull her son away.

“What’s this in your pocket?” Beasler points his finger at the boy’s jacket, hardly
touching him. Mom frowns.

The child looks down and digs his fingers into his pocket, pulls out a small yellow and
orange stripped Superball and beams at his mother with delight, “Mommy, look!”

The mother smiles and nods to Beasler, “Very impressive. You must be a magician. Are

“Yes, I am. Among other rather obscure talents.” He regrets his smile, knowing it
accentuates his life-long homeliness.

The mother quickly looks away, telling her little boy, “Thank the man, Matthew. Thank
him.” The encounter ends pleasantly, yet the woman steps away from the odd-looking man at a
too fast pace.

Beasler lingers a bit longer, reflecting, “I was the perfect child, an honor student, an
excellent magician, a great optometrist. I shouldn’t complain. Life has been good to me.”

Chapter Thirty

Beasler’s stark white Chevy van is parked less than a block away, still hot from the trip to
the beach. His twenty-year old son, Jeffery is at the wheel, waiting, anxious. Jeffery’s laptop is
at his fingertips.

“Well Dad, what up? You get something?”

“Connie Watson. Lives on Primario in Calabasas”

Jeffery starts keying her name into his Mac Air, “Got it. 24826?”

“Yeah, that’s her.”

Jeffery spends another couple of minutes pumping his keyboard, then announces,

“Lives alone. Small neighborhood. Good topography. House sits above the street.
Vacant foreclosure directly behind. She’s thirty-one. 2005 Mercedes, E-class, black on black.
Not working, at least not on record. Let’s see.”

“Craig’s list. Outplacement modeling.” He digs a little deeper, “Dad, she’s a hooker.”
He hacks into her LinkedIn bio and photo, “And wow, she’s a looker. A hooker and a looker.

“I know. I met her some time ago. 1998 if I remember.” He holds his hand up in
objection to an unexpressed question, “No, I wasn’t a ‘john’. Of course not.” Beasler is
reflective for a moment, “She was early in her early twenties then. She didn’t like me. I didn’t
like her. What else?”

“Ah, Visa, Platinum AX, Nordstrom's, Bloomingdales. A 630 credit rating from Equifax.
Not good. A lien from a paving company. Here it is: Comcast; TV and internet. Ready?”

“Go.” Beasler orders. Jeffery starts the van and pulls out, ignoring the oncoming traffic.

They drive the twenty-four miles to Connie’s neighborhood. Jeffery is talking too much,
as usual, “Dad, what are you making for this? I mean, is it enough?

“It’s plenty.”

“What will you do if you get caught? What will mom think? Are you sure it’s worth it?
Why not reopen your....?”

“Stop talking. Just drive. You know where you’re going?”

Jeffery pulls to the side of the isolated entry street. He gets out and opens the back door,
reaches in and pulls out two magnetic “Comcast” signs, adhering one to either side of the van.
He takes a blue-stripped shirt off a hanger, slips off his sweatshirt and buttons the shirt up,
casually brushing lint off the name tag sewn above the left-hand pocket. He grabs the black
handle on his orange plastic toolkit and closes the door. It refuses to shut without fighting back.
Finally, he gets back in and drives the van further, taking a left onto Pso Primario.

It starts to drizzle. The wipers pump in rhythm to the throbbing in Jeffery’s head.

“Dad, if I get in there and there’s no one else around, why don’t I just----?

He turns to get a reading from his Dad, “Dad, I can do it.” Jeffery is worried. He
observes his Dad’s ever-rigid profile, seeing him perhaps as no one else does: the lines deepening
in his chiseled face, the eyes continually worsening, the left fist clenching repeatedly, the only
sign of nervousness, yet seemingly out of control.

Beasler is irritated, “Do you think it’s that easy? Listen, even the easiest is hard. There
is always a moment when the entire body fights with everything it has to save itself. The burst of
energy and power is often underestimated.”

“Dad, you know I know that. I’ve done this a hundred times in my head. I’m prepared to
handle it.”

“Look, we’ve had this conversation too many times,” Beasler is calmer, picking on a
frayed piece of worn leather between his legs, “I don’t want you going that far.”

“Dad, I’m not going to make a life of it, just---

“You need to stay clean. We’ve got bigger plans for you, remember? “

“Of course.”

“Besides, scoring during this stop will be too obvious. Neighbors might notice the van,
tie it together. Are the plates fresh?”

“Of course. Switched ‘em while you were in the park. Dad, you’re getting up there. You
can’t keep doing this.”

“I don’t intend to. And you don’t need to start on me. You are brilliant with unlimited
potential. I want to get you through school, then I’ll retire.

“Dad, quit putting what you do on me.”

“If you want to help, get through school quickly, with good grades.”

“Dad, you’re a killer and a---”

Jeffery prays for a shift in the time continuum, wishing for a chance to retract his words.
He feels the air in the van chill.

“You will not disrespect me. Withdraw your words.” Beasler’s body stiffens, sitting him
upright, leaning him too close to Jeffery.

“Sorry, Dad. I’m sorry. I just want to---” Jeffery muddles through undefined thoughts,
“Why do I feel like this? Why does he scare me?” Jeffery pulls to the front of Connie’s home,
oblivious to the wheels scrapping against the high curb,

“I’m sorry, Dad. I will do whatever you say, I promise.”

“Yes, you will.” Beasler slumps back into seat. “Now, go.”

Jeffery exits the van. He stands outside the driver door just long enough to recapture his

Chapter Thirty-One

Connie is staring at her bedroom ceiling, fretting, “Oh God. So easy to wake up, so hard
to get up.” She runs her open palms up and down her face, momentarily relieving the stiffness.

Her first thoughts are filled with dread, “Last night. God. I’m too old for this. They
ain’t buying the “I’m twenty-six” line anymore. First night ever with no tip. It’s my hands,
dammit. The veins. Gotta get ‘em fixed. No. Stay focused. Get the money from those
assholes. That bastard.”

A long grey and white cat aggressively licks at her eyebrows.

“Prentice, stop it.” She reaches out, scratching the feline behind the ears. “Good
morning, angel. You hungry already?” Prentice awaits the ceremony that is expected to follow.

Connie throws the quilt off and stands, glancing in the dresser mirror at her undressed

“Saggy.” She straightens her shoulders and sucks in her tummy, “Better.”

She slips on a faux-silk robe, runs her hands up the back of her head, fluffs her too short
red hair and half-stumbles toward the kitchen. The doorbell rings. Prentice is not happy with the

“What the fu...” She sneaks up to the door, looks out the side pane and sees the bushy-
haired young man, spies the white Comcast van, and calls out, briskly, “What do you want?”

“Ma’am, I with Comcast. Got the new booster to install. Only take a few minutes.”

“I didn’t order anything.”

“No, ma’am, its complimentary. You’re internet speed will increase by over half. They
sent you a postcard.” Jeffery pauses for effect, “There’s no charge, ma’am”

Connie deems him harmless, disarms her security, unlatches double deadbolts, slips off
the chain, opens the door, squints to read his name tag and says, “Jack, I haven’t had my coffee
yet. Can you come back in an hour?” She tries to smile, but her lips inform her it’s too early to

“No ma’am. You’re my last stop. I’m headed to Glendale from here. You can call this
800 number to reschedule.” He offers her his card and starts to walk away.

“Wait. How long will this take?”

“Less than fifteen minutes, ma’am.” He stops in his tracks, looking over his shoulder but
still turned toward the street..

“Okay, come on in. The computer is in the kitchen. Just don’t speak to me. Nothing

“Thank you, ma’am.” Connie leads him in, points at the laptop sitting on the kitchen
counter and starts a pot of coffee, ignoring him altogether.

Jeffery sits at the counter, opens his toolbox and takes out a small plastic device with
cables protruding from each end. He disconnects the cable to her modem and inserts the device
in-line. Connie continues to ignore him as he speaks,

“Now, I just need to load some software and you’re all set.” He loads the software for the
device; a miniature digital camera and voice recorder. He then installs pirated copies of
SpectorPro and Eblaster onto her hard drive. The programs will monitor her every keystroke and
email reports to him via a public-access PC every fifteen minutes. He verifies the software is
invisible, no indication in her applications folder, no history of it’s installation. Perfect.

Connie’s fiddling with her TV remote as he thanks her upon leaving.

“I just need to adjust the outside cable entry point and we’re all set. You’ll see an
increase in speed starting this weekend.”

Her back is turned. She’s thoroughly engaged in her search for Fox and Friends. He has
three-feet of cable in his hand and hesitates, fantasizing, “I could do it right now. Dad’s wrong.”
He pictures his dad reaching out, thanking him. Then the fairy-tale image shifts to the reality of
how his father would really react. Jeffery immediately steps back, composes himself and lets go
of his foolish impulse.

“Thank you, ma’am. Have a great weekend.” The irony of the cliche doesn’t elude him.

He leaves as she double locks and chains the door. He walks toward the backyard,
casually sticking a magnetic GPS monitor under her right-front wheel well. He takes note of the
vacant yard, the quiet privacy.

Chapter Thirty-Two

A few minutes after five, Jeffery sits in his dad’s kitchen, banging away, taking notes on a
spiral pad. Water is being heated on the gas stove, preparing for the egg noodles to be added.
Doc Beasler wakens from his afternoon nap and asks his son from the doorway, “So, anything

“Tons, Dad, tons. Did you know she is named in a divorce by the wife of James
Broderick, one of the assistant DA’s? Little Miss Watson sent out a ‘brewing’ email to him this
afternoon. I did a reverse email search, tied it to the DA’s server. Got to be Broderick,”

“Yeah. The affair was in the papers. Nothing came out of it though, right?”

“Not that I can see. She’s still doing him though. Meeting him tonight at nine at the

Beasler sits on the vinyl-covered chrome chair across from his son, “Forget that. Too
risky. What else?”

“She went out about three today. Left through the garage, but her car is kept outside in
the drive. She went to Ralph’s, charged $72.00 including a couple of bottles of wine. She came
back about ten minutes ago and turned on CNN. Sounds like she’s just sitting around. She has a
Noon-er at her place tomorrow, but the john’s bringing his wife. Then an outcall at ten, just one
guy. Booked it on her cell phone. Sounds like he’s an out of towner. She asked him about the
weather in Denver and all.”

“I like that. Where is she meeting him?”

“At the Ritz in Marina Del Rey, thirty-five minutes away from her. She should be
leaving her house by 9:15.”

The next evening, Jeffery drives his dad in his forest green Peugeot directly to the vacant
house on Cam Codorniz, directly behind Connie’s. They actively listen to Connie walking,
shutting off the TV, running the water in the kitchen. It’s 9:05 PM. Jeffery hands his dad his
satchel. Doc takes it with his dark-brown gloved hand and confirms its contents: his Espada
knife, his Walther, and a Dustbuster, filled with the dust, dirt and hairs sucked from the restrooms
of the state prison and a neighboring bar in Lancaster earlier that day.

Dressed in a black runner’s outfit with plastic shoe covers, Doc leaves the car, takes his
position in Connie’s yard behind the corner of her house, and waits patiently.

At 9:15, Connie gives herself a final once over in the powder room and then checks her
bag: her wallet, avocado oil, two joints, a lighter, Trojans, and her Glock 27. She fills a red
plastic cup with Ferreri-Carano chardonnay, inhales a generous gulp and takes a deep breath,
“Prentice, hold down the fort. Mommy will be back in a little while, okay?”

She punches off and on the security system and exits via the garage door with her wine
and bag and quicksteps to her car. Beasler moves toward her from behind, knife in hand. In a
single motion he clasps his left hand brutally across her mouth. She tastes the leather. He firmly
slices through her vestibular fold, severing both vocal cords and her throat with such ease, he
wonders why anyone would ever buy an electric knife.

The first spurts of blood shoot out the sides of her neck across the drive at least four feet,
as expected. The second only two feet, then less than one. The blood flow transitions from
“fountain” to “seepage” rapidly as her heart stops. He lays her on the concrete. The hand-
crafted wound smiles up at Beasler. He waits a long twenty seconds. No change. He shudders
for a moment; something that overcomes him after every kill.

Satisfied she is dead, he takes the Dust Buster from his satchel. He stands over her body,
flips the switch from Intake to Outflow and starts blowing the accumulated dust, hair and DNA,
paying particular attention to spray her face and mouth. He stops when the hand vac is half
empty, kicks her over and empties the handy tool across her shoulders blade, nape and hair,

He glances around, satisfied nothing was seen or heard. As he treads his way back to his
car, Jeffery is sending her date an email canceling their plans, and promising to call him by noon

“Dad, everything okay?”

Doc gets in with disturbing nonchalance, ignoring his son’s question, “Go. I need a
shower.” Jeffery knows better than to inquire further.

“Jeffery, stop at the “In-N-Out”. I’m dying for a burger right now. And a large Dr.

Doc opens his i-phone and checks the S&P futures for tomorrow and says, “Looks like
it’s going to be a good day for the market.” Jeffery grins reluctantly, shakes his head and drives

Chapter Thirty-Three

Randy Denson is a smart-looking man who is smarter than he looks. Homicide Chief
John Steng tells of the time they were playing chess and Denson gets a call from some friend at
NASA with a question. There is a conflict between Hawking’s Quark theory and Jung's
Synchronicity Principle. Something like that.

It takes a few minutes for Denson to explain his solution to the caller’s dilemma. During
the conversation, Denson takes three more moves and leaves Steng checkmated. That is the last
time Steng plays him, or anyone.

Denson is head of LA County’s Scientific Investigation Division. He is not dissimilar in

appearance to the actors who simulate his life on TV. He’s about their same age and manner, but
more remote, if that’s possible.

He grew up in Atlanta, went to UCLA, completed medical school and stayed. His early
years with LA County were uneventful, until he meets Suzanne.

Now, he spends too many of his evenings sitting at home alone, dwelling on his life,
missing his soul-mate. He whispers to the fireplace, “I’m lost, Sue. Years out of medical
school, forty-five years old. We finally got everything we dreamed of together and you’re taken
from me. Without reason. For what purpose?”

He relives the first time they meet; a blind date set up by his apartment manager.

“Hi. I’m Randy, Randy Denson. Please tell me you are Suzanne.”

She replies with a warm smile, “If I’m not, I’ll fake it.”

Randy blushes, “Well, I must admit, this is the best start to a blind date I’ve experienced.
Ready to grab a bite?”

They never cease talking, careful not to dominate with their own points, their own tales.
Dinner is Italian. Two plates of spaghettini sit before them, hardly eaten.

Suzanne tells him about her banking career, her start, progress, and ambitions. She ends
her brief summary with a question to Randy, “So, I admit I’ve never dated a mortician before.
Sounds like a dead-end job.”

“Funny. Working as a medical examiner for LA County is not exactly like being a
mortician. Mortician’s put bodies together, I tend to take them apart.”

Suzanne reacts, “Wow, I’m glad I didn’t order the meat sauce.”

“Sorry, I just meant that---”

Suzanne interrupts him, “Hey, I’m kidding. I admire what you do. I just don’t
understand how you got into it in the first place.”

“To start with, I’ve always been fascinated with human body.”

Suzanne straightens her bra, “Well, I do my best, yet---”

“You’re so funny. I like that, very much. Not a lot of humor at the office, you know.”

“Hey, try banking. But really, how do separate the reality of living people from the
victims you examine?”

Randy explains, “I go out of my way to know as little of the person before I start.
Otherwise, it would risk objectivity, I might jump to conclusions, miss something important.”

“I can understand that.”

“What is most strange is when there is a murder involved and I face the killer, usually
months later, in court testimony. Watching and listening to someone still full of life, knowing
them only by the destruction they left behind.”

“That has to be hard. Isn’t there satisfaction though, in bringing the person to justice?”.

“Sure. But it’s a long road between making a determination, turning evidence over to
Homicide, sometimes never knowing the outcome. And Homicide is often frustrated; they fail,
or they find the culprit and he gets off, or they know the killer is just a puppet and they are
unable to get to the real source of evil behind the crime. That happens a lot, believe me.”

That night, on her porch, he is overcome and totally out of character, kisses her gently,
takes her left arm in a dance pose and begins to sway with her, back and forth, music not needed.
He places his crooked fingers under her chin and lifts her head, speaking softly,

“Sue, will you be my baby?”

“Yes, Randy. Yes, I’ll be your baby.”

They are married for fourteen years. They work hard, venting their work frustrations to
each other each night, always cooking and cleaning up as a team, laughing together, touched the
same way by the same movies and songs. Their biggest argument is over how to scramble eggs;
Suzanne insists on whipping the yolks before pouring them into the pan. Randy cracks them in
the pan, whipping them as they are cooking, resulting in more white. They joke about how a
jury would rule if they ever divorced.

The only time they are separated is after September 11th. Randy is sent to New York for
two months. He returns scarred, changed inside. Suzanne knows why.

“I wish I could have been with you, sharing this horrible experience, absorbing some of
the pain.”

“So many bodies, parts of bodies, scrapings of flesh, all belonging to others; wives,
husbands, sisters, fathers---””

“I can’t imagine. So sad. Such evil.”

Randy responds with a rare spark, “That’s right. There are men laughing about this,
relishing in the destruction, the deaths. I keep thinking about that. What can I do to fight this
kind of pure evil?”

“You can do anything you want, Randy. You can do everything.”

Chapter Thirty-Four

Denson returns to the recent past, that first night, only a year ago.

Suzanne is pointing her finger at her slightly raised chin, "It's small, but I've had it for
several weeks now. I call it my perpetual pimple. It won't go away. I'm sure it's nothing, but I
thought you should know."

"I noticed it. I'm with you. It's nothing. Go see McCleat. Have him do a biopsy, just to
be sure. Then have it burned off. The scar will be unnoticeable. Only you and I will know it’s
there. Finally, a flaw in my otherwise perfect wife."

"Oh, Randy, you are too much. I'm just glad your eyesight is fading as rapidly as I am
aging." She gives him a peck, followed by a warm, deep, wonderful kiss that lasts a lifetime.

The pimple proves to be cancerous. Denson tells McCleat to “overkill it”. The resulting
scar runs from her chin three inches up her jaw line. The swelling at the end of the scar grows
into a cyst; the cyst became a tumor almost before their eyes.

Suzanne pleads with him with helpless eyes, "I'm scared Randy. What's happening to

He endlessly offers hope. What else could he offer? All of his skill, his training, his
position, his love, her inherent strength is useless against the relentless attack on her loving face.
Its growth is noticeable, sometimes daily. By the end, she can hardly speak, eat, the swelling
overtaking the petite features of the woman he loves beyond all things.

He lies beside her, stroking her hair, massaging her temples with his powerful hands.
They are long pass facing the inevitability of her death. They have accepted it; Suzanne crying,
desperately scratching her nails up and down their bedroom wall, Randy hitting himself with his
fist, crying out to God, cursing and begging in a single breath. They are at peace now.

Randy whispers, “Wait for me. I’ll be along shortly. I won’t be able to live without

“Don’t think like that.” She closes her eyes, her speech slurs, but she is understandable
to the man who adores her, holds her soul in his hands, “I want you to do something for me,
something to make life better, longer for others”

“What do you mean, sweetie.” His focus bores deep into her, causing his eyes to water, a
single tear continuously trickling down his left cheek. She can’t speak. Frustrated, she grabs
paper and pencil and writes her plea.

“You have so much skill. Make the world better. Do that. Seek out the evil. The kind
you felt in New York. The same evil that is killing me. Senseless.”

She passes that night, Randy not fully comprehending the full meaning of her final words.
He still keeps the not in his end-table drawer.

He buries her and dies himself in so many ways. The wind blows cold as he stands there
watching the crane lower her casket into her grave. Her father, Jackson stands beside him,
intentionally blocking the harsh wind from striking Denson directly.

Jackson speaks as they walk toward the car, “She was so proud of you. She always
talked about how much you meant to her. You were her hero.”

He walks down to the river the night of the funeral. He just sits there for hours looking at
the flow, thinking, “I wish I were a drop of water, a raindrop or something, skydiving off a
cloud, the earth racing toward me, falling into the river and floating to the Pacific, settling on the
ocean floor.”

“How can something so evil happen to someone so good? “ He looks toward the sky,
“Why God? Why?”

His job is his sole salvation. He soaks himself into his work taking time each day to pour
over scientific procedures and learn skills acquired by other cities, other countries. He studies
historical forensic successes and failures, always trying to grow away from himself.

He tries to identify with the bodies he examines each day, but to him, they are carriers of
hard, cold evidence; carcasses, not former lives. The rational part of his brain recognizes this as
a shortcoming, something that sub-optimizes his results. Deep within he longs to remain
Suzanne’s hero, yet feels he is failing her. In his mind, he is just a highly skilled mechanic, but a
mechanic just the same.

Chapter Thirty-Five

Denson can’t understand why it takes seven squad cars to attend a murder scene. The
fourteen or so blue-shirts rarely learn anything but the obvious. Sometimes they make his job
harder. Why not one car, two officers, check it out, report it looks like a crime, and get out of the

"John," Denson says to Homicide’s Captain Steng as they are conducting a cursory
examination of the body and site, "I've never seen so much evidence: hair, dead skin, bug parts,

"That's not a good thing?"

"Funny, Steng. You know this one crosses over. The abundance is confusing."

Steng speaks with impersonal purpose, typical of him, "The neighbors say she operates a
housekeeping service. We found enough leather and bizarre toys in her bedroom to believe she
was probably hooking, at least part time. Her cell phone history is heavily inbound, so that fits.
And there’s a drawer full of cash: loose $100 bills.

Steng adds, “Oh, by the way, she's missing the little finger from her left hand. Taken off
surgically a while ago. Not part of the crime, but unusual."

"Yeah, I noticed that."

"Stacey," Denson's assistant is standing nearby eager to help, "get all this sent out to the
labs. Push this; it's going to be a tough one. Get me a prelim by 3:00 PM. Try to get the CODIS
results back by the end of the month."

Stacey Rollins is twenty-seven, a Bryn Mawr grad, three years at SID, including one year
working for Denson. She is 5'7" with a slight hourglass figure, tightly-cropped brown hair, a
thick lower lip and perfect cheekbones. She catches the eye of most men, except for Denson.
She refuses to believe Denson isn't interested in her; he’s just excessively focused on his work.
She is sensitive to his being a widower, but believes it’s been a respectful time period.

"Yes, sir. I'll get on it right away. Hey, I'm stopping at Ippolito’s for dinner tonight. Join
me if you’d like to talk about the case."

Denson doesn't seem to hear her. He walks down the driveway and stands just behind .
Five reporters aggressively project their instruments forward. He spots a KTTV camera.
Someone’s mike hits Denson on his cheek.

"Back off,” he barks, “Questions?"

One voice jumps out of the pack, “Where’s Smithfield? Why isn’t he talking to us?”

“Smithfield is stuck in traffic. He asked me to update you directly. My name is Dr.

Randy Denson. I’m with the Sheriff’s Office, SID.”

"Who's in charge of the investigation, doctor?"

"Captain John Steng, LAPD’s Homicide Division. This is serious.”

“Is that because of the victim’s ties to Broderick?” asks one of the veteran reporters from
the Times. Denson is not about to mention the call he received from Broderick’s office
requesting he personally look into the killing.

“No. It’s because a woman was killed brutally by someone in her own driveway. Our
first concern is the safety of the neighbors. And the entire community.”

“Does it look like a serial killing or a rape or a robbery or what?” asks a female reporter
holding an Olympus digital voice recorder. Denson doesn’t recognize her.

“Any of the above or none of the above. We don’t know. We’ve only been here an hour.
We’ll keep you informed of our progress as the facts unfold.”

There is a momentary pause, Denson prods them, “Speak up or I'm leaving."

The same reporter, her credentials obscured from his sight asks about DNA. Denson
responds, “You’re new at this, aren’t you?” He answers with the usual script, "It’s a mistake to
overstate the value of DNA. It's helpful, sometimes instrumental, but most often it just supports
good detective work."

"If you have DNA at the murder scene, doesn't that lead you to the criminal?"

Denson is noticeably irritated, "Are you serious?” She looks at him quizzically. “Okay,
that's a common misconception. Our files of DNA is limited. These DNA samples will be run
through CODIS, The Convicted Offender Index from all the states. CODIS uses two sources to
generate leads; profiles of individuals convicted of a felony, sex offense and other violent crimes,
and the Forensic Index which contains DNA profiles developed from crime scene evidence”.

He continues, “So, if any of the DNA gathered is that of a convicted criminal or has
shown up at another crime scene anywhere in the country, about six million in all, we'll have a
lead. If not, it won't come into play unless or until we develop a suspect on our own, through
more traditional police work."

"How long before we know, doctor?" the green reporter persists.

"It's a national system. We get in line with thousands of other requests. Serial killings
and child rape get to the head; a murder like this will get some priority. If it were anything less,
you could be talking six months or more."

Denson looks at his watch. The reporters are busy writing. When they look up, he is
headed back up the drive, ignoring their shouts.

Chapter Thirty-Six

Denson sits at his desk looking at his clock. It’s 2:57 PM, July 31. He is extreme about
precision. If he were about to die in a plane crash, he'd accept it as long as the flight was running
on time.

Stacey wets her lips before entering and hands him an unusually thick report at 3:03 PM.

"You're late. Have you got another job lined up?"

"Sorry, sir, I was trying to get this better organized."

Denson reads the report. It’s as he feared. He thumbs through fifteen pages of local
DNA records, mostly felons. Stacy comments, “We initially identified twenty-two individual
traces. These are the only ones matching our local data.”

"Have you pared this down? Taken out those in jail, in the hospital, out of the country?"

"We did, sir and eliminated several in the process."

"Still too many. What's going on? Somebody handing out free steak satays in downtown
Bombay wouldn't be in close contact with this many felons." He pitches the report across his
desk and it falls at her feet.

"Thank you.”

Denson continues, frustrated, "I know she was a call girl, but c'mon. She'd have to be
the busiest hooker in LA.”

"She was semi-retired, sir. I know it's a strange situation, sir, but the report is what the
report is."

"Brilliant. Revise the report and have it on my desk at 6:00 PM tonight."

"Revise it how, sir?"

"Take out the females. Connie Watson was a tall, strong woman in good shape. This was
a hit. They wouldn't have assigned this to a woman.”

“Take out the minorities. This neighborhood is lilly white. No minority could hang
around long enough to scout the place, then get in and out without being noticed."

"Also, sort out any evidence extracted below the bottom of the breasts. If any of the
physical evidence is from the murderer, it will be higher up."

Stacy looks at him with child-like admiration, "Anything else?"

"I want to see the evidence for myself. How is everything packaged? Who here handles
what and sends it where and when? I want to be kept in the loop. No screw ups. Capeesh?"

Denson announces to the entire lab as he walks through, "Nobody's going home tonight
until I have some answers!"

He experiences a rare moment; what to do next? He doesn't like the feeling.

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Steng is standing outside headquarters, his remaining strings of hair pulled straight back
over his glistening skull. He removes his thick brown plastic bifocals, seeking relief from
chronic eye strain. He is wearing a single white latex glove on his left hand, holding a cigarette,
rationalizing to himself, "I hate the smell of smoke on my fingers. Don't like the taste either."
He crushes the cigarette, rips the glove off and swigs from a travel-sized bottle of Vanilla
Listerine, spitting the residue into a flower pot as Denson approaches.

"Hey, John, how's it hanging?"

"Low. My wife won't do it anymore."

"Don't blame her. Why?”

"I took her for a ride on a blimp a couple of years ago, chartered it all to ourselves. It was
our anniversary. We did it up there. Said it was the best for her ever. Maybe it was the floating
feeling, I don't know."


"So, we haven't had sex since Goodyear went Chapter Eleven.”

"Too bad. How about Fuji?"

"They have a blimp?” Steng fakes surprise.

"Hey, don't bitch. At least you gotta wife."

“I’m sorry, man. It slipped my mind.”

Denson held up his hand, “Hey, I understand. So, what’s going on. Are you guys going
to be okay?”

“Not really. She’s moved out. It’s pretty well over.” Steng stares at the pavement as a
turned-over beetle desperately kicks its many legs.

Denson gazes across the hazy parking lot, opening his emotions in public: a rare moment,
"That’s tough. I’m sorry, man, I really am.”

The silence hangs beneath the afternoon smog.

Denson closes up as suddenly as he had opened, "So, want to know what we've got?
How many possibles?"


Denson rolls his eyes. "Would you believe twenty-two?" Denson seems embarrassed, "I
wish it were crap, but it's not. Her body was covered: eyelids, lips, torso, legs, front and back.”

Steng puts his latex glove back on and lights up, "How many matches?”

“Fifteen so far. Plus what comes in from CODIS.”

Steng nods, “I know you. You’ll trim it down.”

“Yeah, my people are working on it. I’ll get the revised list at six. My guess is about
eight local matches you can get started on. What’s your take on the Broderick angle?”

“I doubt it. Broderick’s ass was already nailed. What good would it do to kill her now?

“I agree.”

“There’s nothing she could have disclosed about them that wasn’t already rumored in the
press, or that he couldn’t deny. That was yesterday’s scandal.”

“Yeah, but the press was pretty heavy.”

Steng shrugs, “Slow news day. Hot chick. Upscale neighborhood. Whatever.”

“There’s something else going on here.”

“Yeah. This was a slick hit. Top choice pro. Did you hear about the spyware and
monitoring devices we found?”

“No, but I’m not surprised. It just confirms it was professional.” Denson hesitates before
speaking up on a persistent thought, “Ya know, if this is a pro, there’s someone behind him,
there’s something deeper going on.” Suzanne’s image flashes through him.

“I agree.”

“John, I want to accomplish something more, get at the root of one of them myself, ya
know, not just the hitter, but the source of evil behind it all. I want to dig deeper, work closer on
this one. Work closer with you. Who knows what we could do if we tackled one arm in arm.”

“You got the time? Really?”

“It’s time I take the time. The Commander doesn’t care. I’m on top of everything else
right now. I just sense there’s more here than meets the eye, a really bad guy somewhere pulling
the strings. It would be nice to take someone like that out. Permanently.”

“I’m with you. I’m game if you are. We can work closer. Just don’t touch me.” He

“Well, I could use a some more street perspective and you could use a little intelligence.”

“I agree. I know the street,” Steng retorts, “and you certainly have a ‘little intelligence’.”

Denson looks at his watch, “I've got a haircut appointment at five. I need to leave. What
else ya got?"

"It's only four. Where's your barber?"

"Wilshire and Oxford."

"That's less than two miles from here."

"I know, but I can't be late. She'll start on someone else, make me wait. That would piss
me off.”

Steng shakes his head, looking down, using his lit butt to light up another. He closes his
sore eyes for brief moment. When he looks up, Denson is walking away. Steng shrugs, already
questioning Denson’s out of character change in attitude.

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Denson returns from his haircut at 5:45 PM. Stacy is waiting there, anxious for him to ask,
"Okay, what do we have now?"

"Excluding women, we cut it down to ten, sir." She hands him the revised list.
"Good.  Still too many, but---" He turns from her and walks out the office toward the
front lobby.
Denson finds Steng outside and shows him the list.

"Here they are. Ten names. All possibles. By the way, Broderick shows up.”

“Doesn’t matter. I’ve already checked him out. He was in Sacramento with the
Governor’s people, left LA the morning of. Most have banged her the night before.”

Steng is reviewing the names and stats.

Denson adds, “Also, I called in a couple of favors. We'll get the CODIS report by
Steng looks up, "That’s cool. We can start these interviews now.  Anything else?"
"Sorry, but I'm plumb out of ideas. You need to bring the next hand to the poker table."
Steng scratches his forehead with the middle finger of his right hand; the finger is facing
Denson straight on. Denson misses it.

Steng shakes his head slightly, “I thought you wanted to work close on this one. What

Denson pauses, looks Steng in the eyes and says, “You’re right. Old habits die hard. I
meant what I said. Forgive my rudeness. Let’s nail the hitter and then go for the puppet master.”
Denson extends his hand.

Steng takes it and places his left hand on top of the joined grip, “Ya know, you got to me
when we talked. You’re right. I think we share the same empty spot in our lives. We are here
together for a reason, a reason larger than the lives or deaths that brought us here.” His gaze into
Denson’s eyes is unwavering, sincere and powerful.

Denson responds in similar tone and purpose, “Done, my friend. Done.”

Four days later, Steng gives Denson and Stacy an update,

“Here are the matches with your local DNA pool who don't have alibis. Any one of them
could have killed Watson.”
Steng passes out a summary, "Three: a hit and run, an Academy drop-out and---are you
ready—a murder suspect."
"Which one's the murd---I see, Jack Scully; five years ago. I don't need the details right
now. Can you give me the Cliff Notes version."
Steng responds, “Stacy, you did most of the research. Go ahead.”

Stacy takes control, "He does construction work, in Glendale, mainly. He still lives there,
works there and in Burbank and---"
"I asked for you the short version."  Denson stirs impatiently.
Steng recognizes Denson’s body language and jumps in, "Five years ago, Scully went on
a camping trip in Arrowhead." 
"What happened?”
Stacey jumps back in, "There were four of them. One was Jack’s brother, Jason.  On the
third morning, they wake up.  The brother is missing. They figure he got up during the night to
go to the bathroom, lost his bearings and is roaming around somewhere. They scour the area for
a couple of hours and find nothing."

"The brother was the victim?”

“No,” Stacey continues, “The three of them call for help. The next two days there are
choppers everywhere. They find Jason, his body in a ravine. His throat is cut, nearly

A bell in Denson's pocket rings. "Excuse me, it's 12:30. I've got to take my pills." He
looks at Stacy and Steng, sees their frustration, “Seriously, it’s important.”

Denson is gone, the bathroom door closing behind him.

Steng tries to be patient as he tells Stacy, "If I knew he was going to take a break, I could
have gone out for a smoke.”

Denson sits back down, “I’m sorry. Okay. His throat was slit. Anything about the
weapon; a match?"

Steng responds, "Possibly, We're working on that.”

Stacy continues, "The police never solve the crime, but they had a lead. Jason had a
girlfriend, an "image consultant" working for a company, Hampton Enterprises. It is later
learned she moonlighted as a hooker. Her name was Suzie. Suzie Reynolds."

"Wow! You nailed it. Connie was a hooker too! What are the odds?" Denson and Steng
exchange grins as Stacy goes on.

"Give me a little credit.” Stacy is understandably defensive, “There's more. Jason and
Suzie got into an argument a couple of weeks earlier.”

Steng is half-reading Stacy’s report as he adds the next point, “They are in his kitchen. It
is midnight. Jason is scrambling some eggs and frying some bacon. The argument gets heated.
Suzie throws a plate at him. It breaks and slices his face from his ear to his chin. Jason loses it;
throws the bacon pan at her, an iron skillet, I believe. The pan misses, the bacon misses, but the
bacon grease hits the bulls eye. Scars the entire left side of her face, essentially beyond repair."

"I'm sorry, but I still don't see the connection."

Steng understands Denson’s question, "It's just a theory. Connie and Suzie were call
girls in the city, part time or full time, but hookers just the same. They may have worked for the
same guy, ring, whatever. Suzie gets forced out of the business because of what Jason did. It

pisses their boss or pimp off and he or they retaliate against him. What if Connie did something
to piss them off, too? I have no idea. What if she did? They get the same guy to slice her
throat. That's the connection."

Denson is skeptical, "That's slim, thin, and floating in the air. I don’t see the connection
other than they were both call girls.”

"Well there is another connection, thanks to Stacy’s tenacious research. Suzie Reynolds
was admitted to the hospital the night of the burning. The admittance report shows she was
missing a finger, her left pinkie."

Denson is suddenly alert, "Wow. That’s significant. The connection between these
women is solid, that’s for sure. Great job Stacy.” For the first time, Stacy feels he is really
looking at her, “Can we talk with this Suzie gal?”

“No. She disappeared shortly after being released. There’s no trace.”

Denson turns to Steng, “So, you’re concentrating on Scully?”

“Of course, but we haven’t even questioned him yet.”

“When you do, do it at his place, where he lives.” Denson is studying the DNA
comparison conducted by his lab, frowning, “Something seems odd. His DNA match to the
crime scene appears to be corrupted. See if you can get a fresh sample. I know it can’t be used
in court, but we can use it to confirm our thoughts. Is that okay with you, John?”

Steng is surprised. He knows Denson’s suggestion is way off procedure. He answers,

“For Stacy’s sake, I must inform you such an act is illegal and will not be done, under any
circumstances.” Stacy nods as Steng and Denson lock eyes long enough to understand each

As Steng leaves, Stacy hangs by the door, trying to think of a way to stay with Denson,
even if for only a minute longer. She turns, saying, "Perhaps a drink after---?" Denson has
already gone out the other door. Stacy is befuddled, “Maybe it’s his hearing.”

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Steng meets with Denson in private the next day. Denson conducts polymerase chain
reaction tests from the fingernail clipping Steng’s detective was able to secure. It is a long three-
minutes before Denson looks up, “It’s a match, but something with the sample off Watson’s
body must have gotten corrupted. Shit.”

“Do you mean the DNA from Watson’s body---”

Denson finishes Steng’s statement, “Can’t be used in court. That doesn’t mean he’s not a

“Well, there is bigger problem. Scully has an alibi. It’s weak, but it is another bump. We
are working on it, but----”

Denson shakes his head, “Hey, that’s okay. Let’s put more focus on the other two.”

Steng does follow-up phone interviews with both of the suspects before speaking with
Denson and Stacy.

Denson comments, "So it could be either or neither. Watchya think?"

"Valemont, the Academy drop-out could’ve physically done it, had the training, needs the
money. No alibi, but no connection either. Says he doesn’t know Connie. Neighbors say he and
is wife are “an inspiration to lover’s everywhere.” My sense is he’s not our guy.”

“The hit and run, Doctor Beasler is highly unlikely. Old, retired doctor. Doesn’t fit
anyone’s profile of a “hit man”. We’ll have to wait on CODIS.”

Randy is tenacious, asking, “Tell me about Beasler?

Steng scans his file again, "He is a bit odd, his life is unusual.  He was a successful
ophthalmologist in BH with very wealthy clients willing to wait months for an appointment just
to see him. He just up and quit a few years ago. Sold the business. Said he never wanted to be
an eye doctor, that he was forced through school by his dad. He amassed enough money over ten
years from his practice. He says he decided to pursue his ‘childhood dream’ to be a magician.
That’s what he’s doing now. Has a twenty year old son and a sick wife. Hardly making a living.
Weird, ya think?"

Stacey is resting her chin on her right palm, gazing at Denson, trying to connect the
freckles on his forehead, unlocking the mystery to his heart. The word "magician" wakens her.

"Wait! Magician? I have something on that. Give me a minute." She scrambles through
her personal stack of folders.

Denson and Steng ignore her. They continue their meeting. Stacy bursts back into the

"Here it is! Beasler; yes, he was a doctor, an eye doctor. He went to medical school, but
in the summers, he worked as a magician."

Denson got it before Steng, "John, are you sure Beasler said 'pursue’ my childhood
dream’? Why didn't he say 'resume'? Choice of words matter."

“He clearly said ‘pursue’,“ Steng assures Denson.

"Stacey, Beasler works as a magician now, right? Who gets him his gigs, who pays

"He's on his own, sir. Works corporate events, grand openings. Looks like he set up an
LLC, pays himself a salary."

"Common to do that now, but rare in '75, for a kid. Did someone else pay him then?"

"I've got that--here it is. Oh my, Hampton, Hampton Enterprises, the same---."

Denson and Steng lock in.

"John, can I go with you to talk with Hampton."

“Of course.”

It’s after 6:00 PM. They walk into Bill Brinkley’s office, Steng in front, Denson behind.

"Nice of you see us without notice, Mr. Brinkley."

Brinkley is picking through a box of Whitman chocolates, "Law enforcement is tough,
important. Solving a crime can mean saving a future victim. Hey, I could be that victim. What's
up? How can I help you gentlemen?"

Steng starts, "There is a former employee of your—"

"Excuse me. To clarify without confusing, we don't have employees, per se; we have
independent sub-contractors. We pay them fees and commissions, not salaries. It's a technical
difference, but I don't want you misled.

"This person, per se," Steng says with a pinch of mockery, "may be connected to
someone who was murdered recently. We are trying to learn as much about him as possible."

"Somebody murdered? Who was murdered?”

Steng answers, "Her name was Connie Watson. Do you know her?"

Brinkley is momentarily silent. No sense in pushing his luck. He responds, “No, but I’ve
got 8,000 subcontractors. Let me take a look. I’m no whiz at computers, but this is simple, even
for a guy like me.”

“Nope. No Connie Watson. Nothing in the record. Maybe you’re thinking Hamilton,
you know, the blender people. Lots of people get us confused.“ Steng and Denson both sense a
bit of sarcasm.

Denson edges into the conversation, "There is this other woman who was an image
consultant for you. Her boyfriend was killed several years ago and---"

"Excuse me, let me understand; you're talking to me because a woman, not working for
me, in fact never worked for me, was murdered and, years ago the boyfriend of another woman,
who may or may not have worked for me was killed. Have I got that right?"

"There's also the man---"

Steng interrupts Denson and speaks to Brink, "You're right, sir. We got off track. We're
wasting your time. Our apologies."

"It's all right. Stick around. I've got linguini coming within minutes, enough for ten.
Join me?"

"Thank you, Mr. Brinkley, but we have to run, to make up the time wasted. Our fault

They were on the elevator. Denson asks, "Why didn't you let me bring up Beasler? That
would have tied it together."

"This guy's too smooth, too in control. All we'd have done is tip our hand, putting
Beasler on alert if we are right. We’ve found our link. Brinkley gave the orders, no doubt.
Right now, let's focus on Beasler. Let's try to get a search warrant; Beasler's house, car, look for
the murder weapon. I think the judge will give us a shot."

Chapter Forty

Doc Beasler is sitting with Jeffery on his front steps, taking in the scent of cactus flowers
blooming in their yard. They relax for ninety-minutes, waiting for the Keystone Cops to finish
puking their belongings all over his house. Beasler’s wife is in the hospital for more tests.

Steng walks up the walkway, looking for his lead in the search; Officer Larry Prince, a
deceptively young-looking junior detective.

"Sorry for the mess, Mr. Beasler," Steng says insincerely. No response. Steng kicks
Beasler in the thigh as he steps over him, "Sorry, again." Jeffery jumps up, ready to defend his
aging father.

“Calm down, young man. We will be out of your way in a few minutes.”

Jeffery unclenches his fists and stares at Steng defiantly, “Just leave us alone. We haven’t
done anything.”

Prince and two others have torn the house apart, stuff everywhere. For all the debris,
Steng can't tell if Beasler has hardwoods or carpet.

Steng states the obvious, "Judging by this mess, I assume you didn't find the weapon."

"Nothing, sir. This guy doesn't even eat meat. Doesn't own a steak knife, much less a---”

"Okay, let's wrap it." Something catches Steng's eye as he walks across the room.

"Lar, what's that. That thing, that plastic thing in the corner?"

"I don't know, boss, it's certainly not a knife."

Steng picks it up. It has a chord, a battery case, a logo; Dust Buster. It hits him. It hits
Prince a short moment later.

"Holy shit," Prince spews, "if anything in this thing matches the murder scene—"

Steng puts it down, "Forget it. We blew it. Can't use it. Can't come back for a warrant to
search for a vac. Judge won't grant it."

‘You said you wanted to find a knife. You found a vacuum instead. Now you want a
warrant to find a vacuum?’ The judge slams his gavel on Steng's forehead.

An hour later, Steng sits in Denson’s office, "Too bad. But good." Denson heaves a sigh.

"Good how?"

"We don't have any evidence, true, but now we know for certain who the killer is. That
will work out for us eventually. Have you put a tail on him?"

"Yes, started this afternoon, 24/7."

Stacey adjusts her bra before bursting into Denson's office, breathing heavy, unable to
control her panting. Maybe Denson will notice.

"I think I might have found something new on the Watson case."

Denson smiles at her, sincerely this time, "Calm down. What'd ya find?"

"I Googled everything we had, trying to better connect Beasler, Reynolds, Watson,
Hampton, Brinkley. Nothing.”

“Then I did a search on ‘Red Head’ and ‘Blonde’. I cross pollinated all the responses into
a single matrix. Look what popped out."

Denson reads the local newspaper story Stacy found regarding the death of a rich guy
named William Steward, thirteen years ago. The point of the story is that everyone wrote off
William’s death as a heart attack. The story’s reporter claims he himself was on the course that
day. He saw Steward and his buddies with a couple of ladies just before Stewards death. A
‘blonde’ and a ‘red head’. The reporter wrote he was frustrated that the police refused to look
into it and refused to follow-up.

Denson adds, “Everyone else blew him off too. No one picked up his story.”

“So you think the blonde was Reynolds and the redhead was Watson, is that it?"

"It's possible. It's a lead, isn't it?"

Steng isn't all that excited, yet says, "At the very least, we should talk to the Steward
family, see what they know."

Steng assigns the matter to Prince. Prince knocks on the door of the Steward mansion.
He sits in the parlor for twenty minutes before Rosa arrives,

“Have you learned something about my son. Have you found his body?”

“No, ma’am. This is about an entirely different matter.”

Rosa looks down at her hands, commanding them to cease wringing. She resents this

“You’re a detective?” Rosa doesn’t chuckle, she laughs aloud, belittling Prince for his
youthful looks, “I’m sorry. I thought you were here selling Boy Scout cookies.” Rosa tries to
control her mockery.

"We're looking for someone, a woman."

"Well, I'm a woman, Mr. Prince. Do I fill your little mission?” She shifts her attitude as
she sits down, “Cut through it, my little friend. What's this all about?"

"Your husband, William, died of a heart attack, while golfing thirteen years ago."

"Yeah, I heard about it from the staff."

"Please, Ms. Steward, this is a serious matter. All the police and medical reports state
that he was with two friends when it happened. Do you know who the friends were?" Rosa nods
and gives him Sid and Steve's names.

"There is one loose end we're trying to close." Prince tells Rosa about the reporter and
his story.

"Oh my God! Are you suggesting my husband might have been cavorting with other
women? Those two-hundred tabloid pieces, those photos of every slut in LA sitting on his lap
night after night, were true? I'm mortified."

"Mrs. Steward, please. I have only one question. Did you know either of the women the
reporter refers to?"

"Do I know about a couple of women the police at the time wrote off, who probably
didn't even exist? No, Mr. Prince, my crystal ball was in the shop at the time."

Prince is offended by her attitude, “Look, I am sorry to bother you with this, but---”

“Bother me? Bother me? I lost my son a couple of months ago. That’s what bothers me.
I don’t care about my dead husband. Just leave. Leave me alone.”

Rosa escorts him to the door. He turns and asks, with no sensitivity, "We think we might
know their names. The blonde was named Suzie Reynolds."

"Never heard of her."

"The redhead, Connie Watson?"

Rosa hesitates for a single blink.

"Her neither. Go on. Come back and visit after you lose your virginity."

Prince stops and walks away, soaked by her rampart cynicism. As he gets into his car, he
reaches for his cellphone.

Chapter Forty-one

Denson and Steng call a meeting on the Watson case. The conference table is stacked
with files, reports. A grey tub containing Connie's personal belongings sits to the side.

Denson starts, "It looks like we've hit a wall. Anybody got any ideas not covered with

Stacy goes through a list of everything everybody already knew. Denson doesn't even try
to pretend he is listening. He starts picking through the stuff in the grey tub; lipstick, keys, a
wallet, make-up, tampons, a coffee cup with red lips kissed upon the edges.

Denson tries his best to listen as Stacy is wrapping up. He goes through Connie's wallet,
picked through a dozen times since the murder: credit cards, an AAA card, license, $67 in cash,
some coins, a library card.

A whore that reads!

Denson interrupts Stacy, "This card, it's old, says it was issued in '99. The address, it's
not the Primario address. It's 224 N. Roxbury, Beverly Hills."

Steng perks up. He looks at Prince as he stretches his right arm across the table, takes
hold of the card and says, "That's the Steward address. The mansion. Watson lived there?”

Stacy adds, "It’s not in her records, but apparently she did, at least in 1999."

Steng gestures to Prince, "Let's go, Lar."

Twenty minutes later, Steng and Prince arrive. They sit in Rosa’s parlor. Rosa slept until
3:00 PM that day, awakened only an hour ago.

Steng starts, "Ms. Steward, you told my assistant that you never heard the name Connie
Watson. We have indications that she lived here at one time."

Rosa's face is calm, but her brain is soaring through outer space, racing to catch hold of
Haley's Comet.

"Well, that's true. I knew her as a hired hand, for a while."

"So you lied?"

"Not really. I mean yes. I've been ridding myself of her contagion for so many years,
denying her came naturally."

Pretty good, Rosa!

"Give us the real story. Tell us everything you know about her."

"Can we keep what I tell you confidential? I wouldn't want it in the papers, getting out."

"I'll consider it. I promise you if you're not frank with us, you'll be up on obstruction of
justice charges. How does that sound?"

Rosa is still half out. She starts to ramble, “Watson worked here for a while as head
mistress. Did an okay job. I had a son, Jonathan, a fine young man, helped me run the company.
Now, he’s gone. He’s gone.” She starts to sob, then cry. Suddenly, she stands and rushes into
the foyer bath, closing the door, wailing in pain, tears pouring out of her eyes, her nose running
streaming Steng and Prince wait patiently. She returns after ten minutes, somewhat composed.

Rosa apologizes and continues, "Anyway, when Jonathan was younger, very naive,
before he went off out of state to college, the bitch took him to dinner. Got him plastered. Tried
to molest him. She was a pedophile. Jonathan was only eighteen." She starts to sob again.

Prince jumps in, "Technically, if he was eighteen, it was not child----"

"Larry,” Steng turns back to Rosa, “Please continue, Ms. Steward."

"Regardless, she sullied him, dirtied him. It would have been embarrassing to the family,
maybe even the company had the filth got around. Liberal ideas may abound all over the
country, but to the old farts that live around here, this incident would have provided enough
fodder to fill a dozen silos."

"I was upset; not enough to slice her throat years later, if that's where you're headed----"

"You're not a suspect, Ms. Steward. Other than keeping a lid on what had happened,
what happened between you and Ms. Watson?"

Rosa ponders to herself for a nanosecond, "I didn't do anything except tell Brink. I can't
tell them that." She responds to Steng, "I fired her, of course. Got her slime off my property.
Haven't seen or heard from her since."

"Anything else?"


"That's enough for now. Someone, one of my detectives may come by to talk to you a
little. Good afternoon." They leave. Another dead end.

Chapter Forty-two

"Take Rosa out."

"But Avery, she's harmless. I've got her completely under control. I've got her hooked.
And I'm doing her. What more can you ask? “

“I didn’t ask you to do her, or anything. You advised me taking Connie out would shut
this thing for good. You were wrong. Do you understand me?”

Beads of sweat, held in escrow in Brinkley's forehead for a dozen years are suddenly
released, free to roam down an enormous plain.

"Of course I do. Understanding you is my job, my life."

"Well put." The phone dies.

If Sergeant Chance Burke could choose between staking out and pulling out his own
teeth, he’d be gumming three meals a day.

Burke’s a good looking, well-built black man proud of his record with the force. He likes
action and quickly moved from desk assignments to the street. Sometimes. however, like doing
stakeouts, the street can bore you to death. Tonight is one of those sometimes.

Burke looks at his watch; nine o'clock on a Thursday evening. He talks to himself during
stake outs because it keeps him awake, “Nothing. I need to talk with Steng tomorrow, convince
him this watch is a waste. It’s been three nights of Beasler and his kid just sitting in the house,
no lights, except the glow of his ancient TV.”

“He ain’t gonna listen to me. Hell, he don’t listen to himself. I’d like to see his ass out
here all night. Wouldn’t take it. Candy ass old fart.”

Chance watches Beasler's Peugeot back down the drive.

“Holy shit.”

Burke waits patiently, perhaps foolishly long as the car drives past him.

Burke rationalizes, “Stakeout 101, don’t get ID'd.” He pulls forward, keeping a safe

He calls in, “I’m on him. He’s headed for the South I-5 entrance.” Pause. “Yeah, drove
right past me. Can’t miss a guy that mole.”

Beasler’s car suddenly U-turns and soars past Burke again. For a moment, he is certain
he lost him. He pounds his fist on the steering wheel, “The guy is a fucking magician! No.
Wait. There he is." Burke turns and goes after him, seeing him turn left a block up ahead. He’s
only two car lengths behind Beasler at a stop light when two blondes in a Mercedes 500SL
convertible pull beside the Peugeot. The passenger gal starts is shouting out to Beasler. He
shouts something back and she starts laughing, her hand reaching out in a high-five.

Burke cries out, “What the---? That makes no sense. That broad wouldn’t be coming on
like that to ol’ man Beasler.” It hits him, “Fuck, it’s his kid.” Burke throws his car into reverse
and rushes back toward Beasler’s house.

Burke calls in, “He must have marked his forehead. He had on a hat and glasses. It
never occurred to---” Pause. Burke pulls the phone away from his ear as Steng is yelling at him.

“Hold on boss. I think I see him, the white van. He’s a couple of blocks ahead. I’m on

Beasler pulls into the Convention Center valet. Burke stays on the street, waits to drop
his car off a full three minutes. Burke registers for the only event; some charity thing. He touts
out the $100 entry fee and waits several more minutes for a detailed receipt.

There are two to three hundred people inside the main hall, all babbling, all drinking, all
experts on whatever they are rambling on about. Burke takes someone’s white wine off a vacant
table and wanders, trying not to look like he is looking. No sign of Beasler. He does, however,
spot someone he recognizes from the pictures in the file. He pulls out his cell.

"Boss, I'm at the Convention Center. I've lost Beasler, but—I know, sir, I am a fuck off.
You're right. But sir, call it a coincidence, but that woman involved, the old broad, Rosa. She's
here.” Pause. “Yes, sir. I’s sure. Yes, I will. I know. I'm sorry, sir, I just----"

The cell goes silent.

Burke continues to walk around, keeping an eye on Rosa at all times, as directed. Trays
of salmon, rolled around cheese, little wieners wrapped in cookie dough, overcooked stuffed
mushrooms and the like are pushed at him every minute or so.

Burke sees someone that surprises him again, but for a different reason. He thinks to
himself, "I've been many places, seen a lot of ugly people, but I've never seen a woman as ugly
as that one. How in Hell she get born? If either of her parents were this ugly, no one would have
made it with them."

He strolls closer, still watching Rosa but wanting to more accurately describe this beast to
his buddies tomorrow. It starts to come together slowly in his head, "Ya know, if Beasler
covered his mole and---”

"Holy crap, it's him. She’s---I mean, he's Beasler." Burke starts to visibly shake as he
steps closer. As he approaches, Beasler in drag starts walking away toward the restrooms.

Beasler steps inside the one with calligraphic ‘W’ on the door.

Burke enters the adjacent Men's Room. It’s small; a urinal and two stalls. He steps out to
the edge of the foyer and watches and observes; that is his job, after all. Soon the comings and
goings of various women confirm two things to Burke; the Woman's Room has three stalls, and
Beasler must be sitting in one of them.

Burke finally sips from the stranger’s wine glass, thinking, "He's sitting, waiting, and
ready to strike when Ms. Steward shows up. Burke reminds himself, “Be patient, back up will
be here any minute.”

He grabs his cell to report in as he spots Rosa Steward approaching the Ladies Room.
She paws through her purse as she leans the door open. Burke doesn't know what to do: warn
her, follow her, wait and listen for choking sounds? He slams shut his cell and mutters, “No
time. He could be killing her, right now.” He screams silently to himself, “Do something you
ignorant ass!"

He leaps, throwing his 250 lbs. against the door. It didn't occur to him it wouldn't be
latched. He flies in and across the small tiled room hitting the mirror above the sink at a G-force
of twelve, glass scattering. He struggles to his feet, dizzy from the collision, and looks around,
hoping the shattered glass hadn't hurt anyone.

Rosa is screaming from inside the stall. It’s not really a scream, more like a squeak, or a
series of squeaks. She is grasping on the stall opening, struggling to pull herself out with Beasler
pulling her back.

Burke understands her muted sounds; who can scream with fishing wire around their

“Holy Christ!”

Burke starts his dive again as Beasler throws Rosa at him, stopping him as he and Rosa
smash together. Beasler tries to run out of the room. A long shard of mirror catches him in the
right calf as he is dashing out. He stumbles to his knees, then rolls onto his back within the
restroom doorway.

Rosa gets to him first, grinding her high heel into his stomach, moving lower with each
stab. Beasler is looking at Burke, pleading with his eyes for help. A crowd is forming. Eileen is
trying to break through, "Where's my little girl! Rosa!”

It takes Eileen only seconds to assess what is happening. She paws her way through the
couples standing in her way, looks down at Beasler, and shoves her left heel right into Beasler's
crotch, "You won't be screwing with her anymore, you cock-biting transvestite!"

Burke is trying to stave off the crowd and pull Rosa and Eileen off Beasler at the same
time. Eileen stands over Beasler, grinding, "What the fuck are you doin' in the Ladies Room?
Your dick too small to use the urinal?" She steps back, kicking Beasler in the face; two other
women start to rush in to join her. Beasler is panicking, and bleeding.

Burke realizes he has lost control. He shoots his gun into the ceiling. Everything stops.
Everything. The place is totally silent. Burke’s pistol is still pointed in the air as he looks down
at Beasler and smiles,

“How's that for magic, mother fucker!"

Chapter Forty-three

Steng lights one up using the burning end of the one he just finished and speaks to

"Well, the hit on Rosa certainly ties her and Watson. Anyway, we got Beasler. Assault
and battery is certain. Attempted murder more likely. The case against him for the murder of
Connie Watson is coming together."

Randy is curious, asking, “I’m surprised he was selected for a hit on Rosa, given it was
obvious he was a suspect.”

“I’m not. He was a good choice. First, he had a vested interest. Rosa was a threat to
him. Also, he knew he was being watched. Usually, that’s an advantage. We just got lucky this

Randy understands, "I see. Well, are we ready to go the next step. Beasler was the hitter.
We want the coach."

"Yes, but assuming it’s Brinkley, how are we going to get him? Beasler knows he would
be shoving an ice pick in his own brain if he squealed. He knows that better than—"

"We tail him."

"Tail who? Brinkley? That's a waste. He lives a clean life, never dirties his hands.
Spends the day rescuing kittens and----"

"Normally I'd agree with you. Right now, things are different; for Brinkley, I mean."

Steng listens. Denson is rarely far off course.

"Brinkley ordered the hit on Rosa, no doubt. He didn't want to. His boss made him do

"Brinkley's got a boss?" Steng wishes he could hold up a sign reading “sarcasm.”

"Brinkley was told to take out Rosa. Like I said, he didn't want to. If he did, he'd have
taken her out sooner, right before or after Connie. He obviously didn’t think it necessary, that he
could somehow control her. He was overruled. His boss may be more concerned than Brink.”

"Like how?"

"I don’t know, John. All I know is Brink obviously thought it necessary to eliminate
Watson. It didn’t work. If it would have, Beasler wouldn't have been sent after Rosa.”

"Well, if Brinkley or his boss still needs to wipe out Rosa, Brinkley’s not gonna do it
himself." Steng scrawls for the butt he tossed away a few minutes ago.

"Wrong, camel breath. Taking orders to do what you don't want to do is a nightmare for a
guy like Brinkley, a street fighter, always in control, do you agree? However, blowing the
orders, screwing it up is worse, much worse. He needs to redeem himself. Brinkley's not going
to trust anyone else on this again.”

“Then we should stake out Rosa."

"Well, you can, if you want, but, four acres, 50,000 square feet, seventeen doors? Good
luck getting the County to lend you the manpower. I’d rather tail Brinkley, that's my

“That’s crazy”

“Yeah, I know. That’s why we should do it.”

Burke is on Brinkley that night. He feels lucky. It will be entertaining to say the least.
He’s not disappointed. Brinkley never stops drinking and partying at the St. Regis, moving from
bar to bar.

"Look at that bastard. He's got three of the hottest women I've ever seen in my life,"
Burke watches Brinkley and company leave to Cabana's, a nearby night club. A luscious

brunette is rubbing Brink’s crotch as the limo pulls up. He starts to give instructions to the
driver, but the blonde locks his lips with a deafening slurp.

Is that drool?

Burke tails them back to the St. Regis up to the 74th floor. He keeps discreetly behind.
He listens at the door of the room, just to reassure himself,

“There are only two rooms on the penthouse level, only one with howling inside, room

Burke stands behind the fire wall door twenty feet down the hall for four hours, confident
he can see anyone come or go. Carts of food are delivered three times, one every sixty minutes
or so. No one enters or exits the room. The carts are simply left outside the room. Minutes
later, Brinkley or one of the girls open the door and pull the cart in. He watches them do this
three times. There is no doubt Brinkley is in the room all night.

At 4:00 am the four ‘occupants’ emerge. Brinkley looks like the start of the day. The
girls look worn, tired, out of warranty, stumbling down the hall. Brink escorts them to the
elevator, then returns to his room. Burke is relieved by Prince at 6:00 am. The rest of the day

Chapter Forty-four

Stacey sits at the bar at Looney's in Santa Monica, "I'll have a Chablis, please."

The bartender says, "We have a Pinot, if that's all right."

"Fine. Pinot Chablis, my favorite."

"Stacey? That you?" It is Denson sitting down next to her, "I've never seen you here
before. First time?”

"No, but it's been a while," she fibs.

"Hell, I'm here every night, my second home. Can't sleep after work unless I cleanse my
brain. Love this place. Except Monday's; they're dead. Some Monday's there's no one here but
me. Boring."

"Yeah, but quiet, right?" Stacy tries her ‘available but not easy’ blink. Denson doesn’t

"Right. Ya know, I've had a bit to drink, so forgive me if this comes out wrong, but I like
you, always have. Never time during the day to chat about anything but corpses, bullet holes,
stab wounds."

Stacy hides her shock well, "That's because we're dedicated, perhaps obsessed with our

"Well put. Well put. That table over there in the corner, that's my table. Always on hold
for me. I wouldn’t mind sitting there with you sometime. I know I'm older than you, but what's
the limit on age between friends, huh?”

Stacy looks around for a hidden camera or the crew from the show, Punk’d, "Thank you,
sir, that sounds so---sincere?"

"I am sincere. Listen, if you're ever free, especially on Monday night, bored, drop by.
We'll chew on some appetizers; maybe share a bottle of wine. Vent."

"Sounds good, maybe, someday, if I'm free and it's Monday and----"

Shut yourself up! Stick a straw in your nose if necessary.

"What ya doing next Monday?"

"I'm on vacation. Going to Alca---alcohol, going to be drinking a lot of alcohol. On

vacation, ya know, like I said."

"Well, hell," He calls out, "Jerry, ya got any alcohol here? Kidding, Jer. Put her on my
tab.” He turns back to Stacy and speaks to her in an entirely different tone, “If you’re in the area
next Monday, stop by. I’ll be here at 8:07 PM.” He is intentionally mocking his own fetish for

Stacey searches for a way to continue the conversation, "So, I'm curious. Tell me about
Steng. He seems 'soft' at times. How'd he make Chief of Homicide?"

"Well, that's a long and complicated story. Let me give you a snippet on Steng,
something that will give you a better idea of what kind of man he is."

“That’d be great.”

“His first street case made the national press. There was this serial killer in ninety-two.
Seven connected victims. Maybe you read about it. Killed ‘em with various tools: screwdrivers,
pliers, crosscut saws. We called him the Hardware Killer, or Mr. Guts. The killings always
included wrapping the intestines around the throat of the victim."


“We’re pretty sure we tagged him after a few months of tedious work. Pinned it down to
one strong perp.”

“Steng gets the daytime tail. Follows him for days; the guy does nothing but drive. Fast.
All day up and down highways, side streets, back roads, widened horse trails, kicking up dirt and

“One afternoon, the guy makes a sudden sharp right in front of this blue building on the
corner of some country road, in Orange County, no less. Steng follows and when he turns, he

almost smacks into The Hardware Killer's rear end. The blue unmarked building is an old gas
station. Sunoco, I think.”

“So, the perp's there, all 6’5” of him, stepping out his car to fill his tank. Steng is stopped
at the pump behind him. He tries to relax, getting out casually to fill his own tank. He looks
over and the Toolkit Killer is turning his way, pointed pliers dangling from his belt, looking


“Steng is concerned he's been busted when the perp pulls the dagger-like weapon, the
pliers, out of his belt. He’s holding a small sledgehammer in his right hand, and starts walking
his way.”

“Steng's gun is out of reach. It’s on his passenger seat, just in case---just in case he needs
it. He feels stupid that he left it there, because he can’t get to it in time. Physically, he’s no
match for this guy, hand to hand.”

“Anyway, the monster says to Steng, ‘You been smacking my ass and leaving marks on
my cheeks. What's your game, scab?’ Denson is momentarily embarrassed by the crackle he
inserted into his voice, “I mean, something like that. It’s a nasty threat, let me just say that.”

“I’m sure.”

“Steng says,” ‘I’m minding my own, sir. You might do the same.’ Steng is trying to
seem indifferent, hoping to blow him off.”

“The perp points his weapon/tool at Steng, ‘Fuckin' third time I’ve seen you since lunch.
You need to go back to dodge-em cars 101. I'm going to turn you into a ‘Brave-heart pie.’ The
killer then lunges at Steng.”

“Steng jumps to the side to avoid the pointed pliers puncturing his right pupil. He
manages to knock the sledge hammer out of the perp’s right hand as he stumbles. Steng is
struggling to stay on his feet, the gas hose still in his hand. He’s leaning, half sitting against his
car. He takes his butane lighter out of his pocket. Steng smokes, by the way.”


“Yeah. Anyway, Mr. Hammerhead is coming back at him, apparently ready to clip some
of Steng's personal power lines.”

“Steng is telling himself, ‘I only have one shot at this.’ He aims the lighter at the gas

“He flicks the lighter, creating a rather pathetic flame, hardly strong enough to resist the
wind flowing against it. Steng touches the fire to the gas hose as he squeezes the handle.
Nothing. No gas, no flame as Steng is expects, or hopes for at least.’’

“The futility of Steng's attempt convinces Screwy-driver this is going to be an easy kill.”

“Hardware boy is mocking him, saying, ‘The hose won't pour out gas unless the nozzle’s
locked into the hole. You may be an asshole, but you know nothing about gas-holes.’ This cold
blooded killer is making jokes. Weird, no?”

“At that point, Steng is looking at the handle and blusters out something like, ‘What the
f....?’ Pardon the language.”

Stacy is left hanging, “No problem. Go on. What on earth happens?”

“Well, the killer reportedly starts laughing, something like, ‘Ha Ha Hoo Ha’. He says,
‘Funniest thing ever. Hey, you deserve to die easy. I owe ya. I'll kill ya before I remove your
pancreas, just to spare you the puncturing feeling; trust me, nobody likes that part.’”

“The madman steps closer, Steng is still leaning against his car with nothing left but luck
between him and an ugly death. He is desperate. He tosses the gas hose up with his left hand, a
half foot or so in the air, and catches it firmly on the way down, by the metal nozzle.”

“Steng says, half-bluffing, ‘You're right. You need to press this little release lever.’ He
wiggles his little pinkie to show him it works. Steng drops his lighter while trying to use his
right hand to squeeze the hose handle. But Steng is as surprised as anyone as gas shoots out. So
he starts spraying the perp with enough gas to cause him to stumble backward.”

“For a moment, it looks like the tool guy is going to let it go, get in his car and split.
Instead he suddenly lunges toward Steng, swinging his fists and trying to pull the hose from his

“Steng hangs on with both hands while the man pummels him, Steng’s left hand is
jamming the cut off valve, his right hand is still squeezing the handle. Gas continues pouring
out, this time all over both of them.”

“Wasn’t there anyone else around?” Stacy interjects.

“Yeah. Sure. Five or six people gather, keeping clear of the gas but cheering them on
nonetheless, with no idea what is going on.”

“So, they continue to struggle for the hose; swiping, snatching, soaking and slopping each
other, stopping only when they are so drenched, they both let loose in order to try wiping the
gasoline out of their eyes, nose and throats.”

“Mr. Wacko breaks away and grabs this small Hispanic kid who is standing alone
watching from the side. The kid’s maybe seven. He holds the boy by the neck and pulls him
into the front seat of his car, using him as shield.”

“He shouts out the passenger window in Steng's direction, ‘We'll finish this someday
soon.’ He drives a hundred feet forward, stops and pushes the boy out the window, then speeds
down the asphalt driveway.”

“A Mexican man, about fifty, we later learned he was the boy's grandfather, is standing
near the exit to the street. According to Steng, the old guy casually lights one of those old metal
Zippo lighters, the kind that stink of lighter fluid but never fail to light, just as the perp drives by
with his window still opened. With a perfect side pitch, the old man tosses the blazing lighter
into the car window and onto the gas-sopped driver's lap. The flames are instant, ablaze in all of
their red, blue, yellow and orange splendor. It was something else, I guess.”

Stacey jumps in, "Did it kill him?"

"Kill him? He was a screaming-alive 'Friday the 13th' victim for the first five-ten
seconds, 'till the gas tank went off. Ka-boom! Hard to believe a single gas tank can cause such a

“Steng claims the crowd sounded the international firework chant, ‘Oooooooh!' followed
by the obligatory 'Aaaaaaahhh!’.”

“The explosion blows him into so many directions, we were never able to reconstruct the
body. I was working in the morgue at the time. If I didn’t tell you it was a person, you never
would have guessed."

"Anyway, that's just one of the Steng stories. You can describe him a number of ways,
but ‘soft’ ain't one of them."

As suddenly as the conversation started, it ends. Denson downs his drink, "I gotta run,
early for a change. Have to wrap my sister's air ducts, her bills are going through the roof. See

Stacey gathers herself as he briskly walks out. She is pleased she finally connected with
him. She looks in the mirror behind the bar.

It's the lighter eyeliner. I knew it!

Chapter Forty-five

Steng walks into Denson's office at noon, a cigarette butt stuffed into his white, short
sleeved shirt pocket, "She dead. Just got the call. In her private bedroom at her house. Heroin

"I knew it. I knew it! “ Denson clasps his hands while shaking his head, “What about

“Solid alibi. Prince was on him all night. Brink raised quite a ruckus at the St. Regis and
some neighboring clubs. He was the center of attention, probably intentionally. He took three
broads to his room from about eleven to at least six in the morning. The Coroner says Rosa
expired sometime between 1:00 am and 4:00 am.”

"You heading over there?"

"Yeah. Ride with me?”

They walk into Rosa's private bedroom. Burke and Bill Stevens, one of Denson’s top
analysts are inching their way around the crime scene. Steng starts to speak, but is interrupted,
"One minute, boss," Burke is at the corner of the bedstead, "Billie's found something."

Bill is stooped over scooping up and bagging what he discovers.

"It looks like the tip, the end of a French fry. Possibly bitten off, dropped and stepped on
once or twice."

Denson is alert. This could be significant.

"If this can be tied to Brinkley, we've got something on him, solid. Puts him at the crime
scene, in a private bedroom requiring codes and keys to enter."

Steng is skeptical, "Yeah, if it's recent. How do you know it's not two, three days old?"

"We'll have to age test it, but come on, look around this place; you couldn't find a day-old
aphid turd in here if your life depended on it. Probably scrubbed down daily.”

"How long to tie the fry to Brinkley, last night?” Steng asks.

"We don’t have Brinkley’s DNA. We’ll need a sample. For that, we’ll need a court

“You won’t get one. His alibi is too tight to even qualify as a suspect,” Steng shrugs,
"and without a DNA match, we have nothing."

"I don't want to pull back. Too many bodies popping up. We gotta take this guy off the
streets now, even for a couple of months, get his DNA and then bank on the lab tying him to

"What are we going to arrest him for, screwing three women at once? I don't know if I
can get a warrant, but I might get the judge to issue a blue ribbon or a trophy."

Burke intercedes, “Oh, there’s one other thing; Rosa was a user, probably a junk. This
wasn’t her first space walk.”

“She shoot herself?”

“Not this time. Considering the angle, someone administered it for her.”

Denson summons Steng into the hall, “Brinkley did it.”

“Couldn’t have.”

“Must have. Who else saw him last night?"

"Here's a list of those we talked to; the bellman, two bartenders, seven-eight guests in the
lobby this morning.”

“Every one remembers him, of course. Most of them talked to him at some point. Here's
the statements from the girls he was with most of the night."

Denson reads and looks up, "Interesting. Let me read you this: ‘Can you testify, under
oath, with no reasonable doubt, that you were with William Brinkley between the hours of 8:00
PM and 4:00 am?’”

Denson continues, "OK, now pay attention; the first girl answers 'Absolutely'. The
second girl says 'Without doubt'. The third girl says 'Yeah’.”

Steng looks at Denson, trying to comprehend his point, "So? They all confirm what
everyone knew, Brinkley was busy last night. No question about that."

"I don't agree. The third girl, this one, Missy Starshine is not as adamant as the other
two. Words matter. We need to talk to her. Her place is on the way back."

They rap on her apartment door. Denson is not surprised that the door is a bright red; just
a hunch.

"Whatta ya want? You woke me up, you fucking queers. Get outta here." Starshine is
apparently not a ‘daytime’ person.

Denson downplays the ‘cop’ angle, "I’m with the scientific division, ma’am. The County.
You can help me a lot by answering one simple question. Only take a minute."

She opens the door, disheveled enough to convince Denson she is essentially honest, at
least in her greeting; only an awakened sleeper can look like this.

Missy looks at Steng with a scowl. Steng was a ‘badge’. Denson can see she doesn't like
him, purely out of instinct. She softens though as she looks closer at Denson.

"Oh, excuse me, I thought it was those blue shirts, always hassling me.” She fluffs her
hair and shows her wine-stained teeth. “What can I do to help you solve your little crime?"

She tries to suppress a morning burp, releasing her silk robe just enough to be interesting.

Denson takes her through her statement, explaining what is bothering him about her

"It’s nothing. Look, I'm the only one of the three of us that had been with Brink before.
I've dated him a few times over the past couple of years. I'd bet a million dollars it was Brink;
same smell even, same taste, everything."

Denson pours on the charm, "But there was something, isn't there? Something only
someone as acute as you would observe. Am I correct?"

“Oh, do you think I’m cute?”

Steng starts coughing, thinking, "The flem is getting thick in here.”

She opens up, "Well, nothing that can't be explained. A little unusual, I think, for a man
Brink's age; it's usually done when you're young, a baby boy."

"Are you talking about circumcision?"

"Yes, not that I mind either way. It's just that Brink wasn’t circumcised before. He
probably just developed an infection or something. It happens. I was just surprised, that’s all.”

Steng is driving back to headquarters, doing all of the talking, "Probably did have it done
recently. So what? I’m sure he can produce medical records, even a doctor's testimony, real or
not. Not all doctors are honest, ya know."

"Cute. Brink might have a bigger problem. What if he’s not circumcised?”

“She just told you—”

Denson stops him, “Right, but what if he’s not, as of now? Think about it. You can't get
re-circumcised. I bet when you look at his dick, he'll have a foreskin. I'll be out of town that
day, by the way.”

"I can't wait to find out. How and when do we use it, even if it is the case?"

"I realize his dick's not conclusive on its own. Brinkley can always say Starshine simply
got it wrong. Too many dicks and only so much brain capacity. What's important is we now
know the alibi is fake. Somehow. We need to keep focused on him. Brinkley did the hit. The
French fry may prove it. In the meantime, we need to consider all possibilities."
The Case of the Penis Fry Trap?
Steng starts in, "Well, I can explain to the judge there may be physical evidence of a
nature, ah, consistent with his eating habits, a possible relationship with Rosa, etc.  But to state
there's a hole in his alibi?  He's gonna want to know more. What hole? Too many eye witnesses,
we are the only doubters. We'd need to explain how he could have---"

"He used a double. That wasn't Brink at the St. Regis bedroom last night."
"Ah, excuse me, doc.  You’ve seen this guy. Nobody on the planet looks even remotely
like him, much less passable as his double."
"I'm not talking about anybody, I'm talking about his brother," 
"A brother? Have you been nipping on something this morning? He has no brother,
nothing, not even a cousin. We've checked.  Read the file."
"I have. Look, you want a theory of how it was done? Try this.”
Denson continues, "I had Stacey do some extra research Brink’s background. She must
have spent hundreds of hours, given the limited records and the comprehensiveness of the

“Brink’s parents immigrated here in the '60's.  The record shows them as Joseph Antonio
and Mishea Siran, he from Italy, she from Iran. Days after arrival, their baby is born. They don’t
record it. They name the boy William and take on a made-up American sounding last name;
"Mishea was pregnant before leaving the Middle East, probably out of wedlock. That's a
capital offense over there, still is in some sects. All three of them could have been slaughtered at
any time, even after arriving here.”  
Denson adds, "They didn't come to America by steerage to migrate; they were escaping
threats of deadly retribution.” 

Steng decides to pull over and listen more carefully. Ironically, he pulls into an Einstein
Bagel parking lot.
"As if that’s not hard enough, the kid is born with a genetic malady, a huge skull,
randomly passed on, usually on the mother's side. They struggle to try to get lost somewhere in
this new, strange country, a challenge made more difficult with an obviously deformed child.

“So far, this means little if anything.”

“Let me finish. To complicate their lives further, Mishea gets pregnant again, almost

Denson tries to place himself into the time and situation facing Joseph and Mishea,
something that doesn’t come easily for him.

“They make a tough decision, supposedly for the sake of little William. They determine
they are inadequate to handle a second child and sufficiently care for their ‘handicapped’ son.
After weeks of agony, they decide to give their first born up, hoping to restart their family
unblemished by the sins and misdemeanors of their past, with a new baby more adaptable to the
American standard of perfection."
Steng continues his skepticism, "This is fascinating. Was this movie ever in 3-D?"

Denson persists, “Bear with me. I agree the documentation on the adoption is absent.
That’s understandable though, given the circumstances. It’s possible they simply left him at a
doorstep or something. In any event, they are confident the second child will not be subject to
attack since he is a child provably conceived after marriage in the USA. The parents name him
William as well, to replace the son they let go. Imagine their despair when the new William, the
one we know as Brink, has the same skull malady."

“I’m following you. It’s interesting, except they are not twins.”

“No, but the shape of the skull and the spacing of the eye sockets are major determinants
of physical appearance. Other things, like eye and hair color, lip thickness, etc. can be easily
modified. Given the unusual size and shape of the skull and their closeness of age, it would be
easy to make them look alike; more than some twins.”

“All right, you have me past impossible. Tell me more.”

"This time, with the newly born William, the parents don't have the life threatening
rationale to dispose of him like they did their first. So, they raise him, not very well, I must add
based on the results."

“Sometime along the way, perhaps at one of his parents' death beds, Brink learns of his
long lost big brother. He searches for him and finds him. They get along; William One has
chosen to go fat for the same reasons as his little brother. They meet and hug, there are tears of

joy, whatever, but they never get close. Perhaps because the two of them together look like a
runaway carnival act."
"Got it!" Steng begins to buy in, "Brink stays in touch with his brother, albeit loosely.
His brother has his own life, his own name, he could be living anywhere doing anything. He is a
part of Brink’s past, his origin, but he’s not part of his life. William One is just ‘out there’.”
Denson interjects, “Until Brink needs an alibi and thinks of the pulchritude of his brother
with a comeliness and manner unlike anyone in the world. Anyone, of course, except himself."
Steng lights up and takes back over, "Right. So Brink flies William in, saying he wants to
do something for him, for old times’ sake. Promises him the night of his life. Calls it a gift.
Puts him up at the St. Regis, dresses him in custom suits, gives him a wad of cash (‘don’t sign
anything, Bro.’).  He has three movie star babes ready to screw him to the bedpost. William One
can't believe it; he's having the feast of his life, memories of a night to take to his grave.”
Steng has a fresh thought, “There’s a problem. Why did the parents circumcise their first
son and not their second?” Steng still holds doubts regarding the entire premise.

“I don’t know. Perhaps they didn’t like the results of the first one. Or they chose to
migrate to California right after Brink’s birth and never get around to it. I just don’t know. But it
happens frequently in families where one son is and one is not circumcised.

Steng exhales, "Look John, we understand the system. We need a reason to arrest Brink,
ASAP. Our objective is to get his DNA and put him behind bars on charges long enough for the
lab to nail him, get his DNA and tie him to the fry. Your theory alone will not convince a judge,
but combined with motive and the other connections between Brink, Watson and Rosa, we may
have enough to arrest him.

“Let’s get it going, John. Capeesh?"


Four hours later, Steng trots into Denson's office, just back from Judge Jenson’s chamber.
"Got it. Suspicion of manslaughter. Good enough for ninety-six hours, but I know he’ll double
it if we’re making progress.”

“Well, that will have to do.”

“Want to share the catch?"

"Wouldn't miss it." Denson straps on his holster, struggling with the belt, "Whoa, I’ve
gained a few. I just wore this thing, what, a year ago?"

They confirm Brinkley is in his office. It is 7:00 PM by the time they arrive. Brink is
watching a movie on his laptop when they walk in.

“Well, well,” Brink looks up from his desk, “Wasn’t expecting the dynamic duo to show
up tonight.”

“Excuse our lack of manners, Mr. Brinkley.”

"Hey, sit down, the movies almost over. ‘Alive’. Great flick. True story about these
plane crash survivors, starving, they start eating each other." He takes a bite of raw sushi from a
tray on his lap, "I looked for this DVD for months. Finally found it. Everyone had it misfiled
under Drama. I was looking under Horror, where movies about starvation should be filed."

"Mr. Brinkley, we're not here to watch flicks, eat or even talk. We're here to arrest you.
We have a warrant,"

"I'm here to eat Sushi; eel, shrimp," Brinkley looks up, smiles, and resumes watching and
chewing. "Hey, lighten up. Don't I get a last request? A chance to finish my meal, my rental?
Want some? It's fresh."

Brinkley stabs his chop stix into an oversized bowl of wasabi, the hottest possible, and
drops it into a cup of soy, mixing the sauces into one, the result the color of sewage.

"I've always wondered; are you watering down the wasabi with the soy? Or are you
spicing up the soy with the wasabi? Whatta you guys think? The chicken or the egg? Doesn’t
matter. I just love talking about food."

"Come, sir. It's time to go. We're taking you to the station," Denson enjoys acting like a
cop now and then.

"Fine. Everybody in the flick not eaten just got saved anyway. It's over. Now, what's
this about again?"

"Here, read the warrant. You have the right----"

Brinkley stands, grinning as his head shakes, "Stuff it. You clue my lawyer in yet?"

Steng responds, "We have, under promise he wouldn’t contact you in advance. He's on
his way to the station right now."
Brink has the bowl of sauce in his hand. He plucks another shrimp from the plate on his
desk, “One more bite."  He chews it slowly, with the look of satisfaction usually reserved for
wine tasters, “Magnificent,” he declares, “Ya can't beat eating God's creatures.  That's why he put
them here, you know. For our pleasure."
Steng reaches across the desk, "Hand me those sticks, sir, then I'm afraid we're going to
have to handcuff you."
"Sure." He smiles broadly as he offers Steng the chop sticks with his left hand.  His right
hand pitches the bowl of wasabi/soy, underhanded no less, directly into Steng's face. 
Steng flies back, clutching his eyes, howling in pain. Denson is startled, off guard for a
momentous second. He pulls his gun out, ready to shoot as Brinkley casually grabs the lip of his
desk with his left hand and flips it forward, causing it to tip over; 200 lbs. of Honduras
Mahogany crack seven bones in each of Denson's feet. Denson falls, shooting a bullet into
Brinkley easily takes the gun as Denson writhes in pain. He steps over a rocking and
rolling Steng and takes his gun and phone from him as effortlessly. He picks up his plate and
stix, places them in a brown carryout bag and takes the bag with him.
Brink mocks, "I'll go ahead.  You guys catch up.  I may stop for some jelly donuts along
the way. We'll probably all get to the station about the same time. See ya then."
Brinkley enters the elevator and pushes ‘L’, "Fuckin' pussies. They send two fuckin'
pussies for me. It's embarrassing. Fuckin' embarrassing." 

Chapter Forty-six
Tim Anthony, Hampton USA COO is on the phone with Avery Perelle. 
"OK, it's yours for now. Keep things smooth. Don't try to impress me with your bright
ideas, at least not for a year. Don't change a thing, unless you talk to me first. Give all this shit
time to blow over. Don't hurt anybody. No violence---including that finger thing." 

Avery then adds, "Also, let me know when Beasler walks."

Brink clinks his Cosmos to Avery's glass of Scotch and water, "Like I was saying, Rosa
was never a threat. I had her under control, but, you know best."  He reaches for a slider, heaped
with mustard and onions. 
"Fine, Brink," Avery nods his ancient head, "Doesn't matter. Everything is fine, just fine."
They are sitting on the rear patio of one of Perelle's homes, amid the cliffs of Santorini,
Greece. The view of the ocean is like a fantasy; the sun is bright, but setting slowly sending a
cool breeze across the fifty-feet of slated porch.

There is a too long pause between them, “Av, this is only the second time I've seen you
even though I've known you for years. You're a great man, the best, if I can say so."

"Hey, you're a good man too. You fucked up. But still, you may be sitting in this seat
one of these days. If you are, look out.  I'll be dead, but I'll shoot your ass with a lightning bolt if
you screw up." Perelle laughs.  Brinkley tries his best to keep up with Perelle’s energy.  
Brink dares say, "Well, it's getting dark, sir. I need to get going, if that's okay.  All they
have are those donkeys to take you down to shore, to my boat. Last time I sat on a donkey, I
crushed it. Donkey meat is stringy, ya know. Anyway, we still golfing tomorrow?" 

Avery glances at his ‘butler’. Rasoone stands near the doorway and nods. Avery tells
Brinkley, "Yeah, early, Be on time. Be here by 6:00 am, we can catch the morning winds." 
They shake hands, hug. Perelle pats Brinkley on the back, as far around his back as he
can reach. Brinkley grabs the last four sliders from the tray and sees himself out.

"Anything else, sir?" Rasoone’s asks Perelle in his best Sean Connery voice.  
"Yeah, Ras."  Avery is slow to respond, "Take him out.  Within twenty-four hours." 

"Any style, sir?"

"Yeah, any style. Then book a flight to the US; LAX. I’ve got a couple of jobs over there
for you. Try to make the first one look accidental to prevent the second target from being alerted.
The second should be taken out shockingly, to send a message, ya know.”

“I love a challenge, sir.” His kind eyes transform into a demon-like glow as he steps

Avery sighs, “I’m ready for my massage now.”

Chapter Forty-seven
Steng is sitting in Denson’s office and comments, "Well, as with most cases, you start
with loose strings, loop 'em together and eventually get a circle, closed."

Denson adjusts himself in his wheelchair, lifting his bandaged feet and responds, "That's
right. This went beyond most. Brinkley got nailed. I just got a more detailed report. As you
know, they found chunks of him in Venice, in three separate canals. From the discharge, looks
like his arms were dismembered before his heart stopped.”


“They have a fingerprint match from his passport. We've forwarded our DNA sample just
to be sure. Where’s his brother?”

“Verified back at his job in Seattle. He’s a programmer. Hard to fake that. No, there’s
little doubt Brink is dead.”

“We don’t fully understand the connection between Rosa and Brinkley. But it really
doesn’t matter at this point, does it?
The question hangs from the ceiling. There is a more important issue.

Steng puts it on the table, “We’re not satisfied, are we?”

Brink responds, “We should be. We said all along we wanted Brink. We got him,
indirectly, but we got him.”

“Yeah, but as you pointed out, Brink has a boss. Given Brink’s gruesome death, there’s
no doubt a “boss” was involved, deeply involved.”

Denson doesn’t hesitate, “Of course. What’s surprising is the boss man wasn’t satisfied.
After all, Brink got away clean. We never would have found him. Why the kill?”

“The boss lost faith in him. Or maybe he just wanted to close off all possibilities, wipe
out any connection to him. Or both.”

Steng continues, “Brinkley didn’t work for anyone at Hampton we can identify.
Hampton US is a sub of Hampton International, but there’s no individual we can identify,
nobody giving him direction on this or anything else for that matter. “ Steng pulls a cigarette,
suggesting he is ready to leave.

Steng continues, “Everything is done by large committees made up of Directors from all
over the world. Even Brink’s replacement can’t tell us who appointed him, who he
communicates with on a regular basis. It’s all very vague. It will take the Feds to crack it and
that could take months, years, more likely never.”

Denson comments on the obvious, “This smells a lot like the mob. It’s frustrating.
There is a real person, a link between Brink and the mob. Someone we can target, if we really
meant what we committed to, we would keep up the chase.” He thinks of Suzanne.

“Randy, I understand. But this is so far out of our reach, our capabilities, I wouldn’t even
know where to start.”

Denson rolls his chair closer to his phone, “I’ve got a thought. I’m going to buzz
Stacy is there within seconds out of breathe, panting before Denson's throne on wheels.
"I just wanted you to come in, no need to run."  
"Sorry, sir."
"Find out the container number of the next shipment out of Steward Pharmaceuticals,
Pakistan headed to New York.  Talk to no one except Captain McCarthy at NYPD. Tell him I’m
calling in a favor; he’ll get a kick out of that.”

“Anyway, have him get a subpoena. Tell him I want to personally open the container
after it clears customs, but before it leaves the area. Tighten the lid; this has to be a complete
surprise.  Plug into Captain McCarthy only. Tell him I’ll call him at home over the weekend.”  

Denson starts to wheel out toward the men’s room.


Stacy calls to him, "Yes, sir.  I’ll get on it right away.” She can’t help but add, “By the
way, just to remind you, it's ah, Monday, sir."  Stacy feels certain he's forgotten about meeting up
with her.

Denson pauses, "Thanks.  That makes tomorrow Tuesday, does it?"  

She senses by Steng's expression he thinks she is acting strange.  
"Well, sir, I just meant that, if I get the subpoena tonight, I mean a copy of it, a fax, would
you like me to bring it to you, er drop it off, ah..."
"Yeah, of course. I'll be at Looney's from 8:07 pm."  Denson is almost through the door
when he angles the chair and turns back toward Stacey and adds,  
"I thought you knew that."  He winks at her before he speeds away.

Chapter Forty-Eight

Ras steps off the plane, clears Customs at LA International and meets his limo driver who
takes him to The Four Seasons Hotel. He stops in the Concierge Lounge on his way to his room.

“Thank you. I’m just going to grab some juice, maybe some fruit.” Ras says to the
Lounge steward.

He quickly reaches behind the refrigerator and pulls away a baggie with three keys
tapped to the back, numbered to distinguish between them. One is a car key with a sticker
identifying its location. The others are house keys.

Once in his suite, he opens his razor-thin Macbook Air, brings up his files and reviews
them one more time. He opens a weeks worth of surveillance reports on each of his targets, as
well as a schematic of their houses (inside and out), reports on TV and light changes (on and off),
phone records and recordings, forensic analysis of their home computers, etc. He mumbles,
“Thank you, LAPD.”

He drives his planted car to the first victim’s home, arriving in the dark, parking a
reasonable distance up the street. It is 7:30 PM. He knows the sole resident, a very disciplined
and organized man never arrives home before 8:30 PM. Based on the records of his habits, when
the target does arrive, he will prepare something to eat, check his computer, watch TV until 11:00
PM and retire, scanning a novel while smoking two cigarettes in bed before turning off the light.

Ras is fully prepared.

Dressed in black with black latex gloves, he uses one of the two keys to enter the house.
He begins quickly verifying every table, drawer and cabinet in every room.

This is almost too easy.

As reported, cigarette packs are stored in a single place in the upstairs bedroom dresser
drawer. One pack with three missing cigarettes is siting on the night stand, next to a dirty
ashtray. He replaces it with a duplicate pack, opened and missing the same number. He verifies
the smoke detectors are disconnected and leaves the home as silently as he entered it.

Ras waits patiently in the tool shed behind Steng’s home.

Steng arrives home at 9:44 PM. Observing the lamp patterns; foyer, kitchen, den, etc., it
is clear to Ras that this will be a routine night. Sure enough, a minute after 11:00 PM, the den
light goes off and the bedroom light goes on. Steng will soon be inhaling a cigarette laced with
gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB).

At 11:30 PM, Ras is reasoning, “Good, the light is still on. Steng would have turned it
off by now. He must be passed out.” Ras reenters the home and sneaks directly toward the
bedroom, Beretta in hand. As he enters, he anticipates to himself, “Steng should be lying,
passed out on the bed.”

He is.

The butt of the laced cigarette is still in his left hand, his cell phone in his right, his police
pistol a few inches away.

Ras moves toward the bed. Steng’s heavy breathing is consistent with the effects of
GHB. GHB is essentially a “date rape” drug. Ras feels Steng’s pulse and is satisfied.

He’ll be out for hours.

Ras amuses himself, “I couldn’t awaken Steng right now if I wanted to, even if I were to
light him on fire.”

Ras knows a house fire will make the detection of the GHB in Steng’s body very difficult.
“If they are able to spot it, it will take days.”

Ras’s method of arson is as old as the book; a book of matches, that is. Place a lit
cigarette behind the matches and angle it to assure it continues to burn. Within a few minutes,
the cigarette will ignite the matches resulting in a burst of flame almost certain to start the
mattress on fire. Without smoke detectors, the house will be significantly aflame before a
neighbor finally calls 911. By the time anyone arrives, the house will be burning brightly. With
the best of luck and skill, the firefighters may be able to save the house, but at the very least, the
bedroom and its inhabitant will be roasted to a crisp.

Ras lays the lit cigarette and matchbook on the bed, just beneath the edge of the pillow
and quietly heads downstairs to the outside door. He plans to wait in the car to assure the fire

ignites and expands. He will be safely out of the area long before the firefighters and police

Ras steps outside and is immediately stunned by the glare of a floodlight blasting him in
the face,

“Do not move! Do not move!” emanates from a speaker beneath the light. Ras knows
what he is facing, he just doesn’t understand how it is possible. He instantly assesses the
situation: one light bar means one squad car, two cops. More will arrive any moment.

The Baretta is obvious in his waistband. The speakers blast, “Use your left hand, take the
gun butt by one finger and thumb only and slowly drop it. Then hit the pavement, face down,
hands behind your head. Now!”

Officers Maven and Dunham are spaced eight-feet apart, a standard precaution, enough to
make it difficult for an aggressor to shoot both of them before one of them can make the drop.

A less experienced, less daring perpetrator might try to fake the cops; begin to reach for
the gun and then suddenly run into the dark side yard before they can react. Ras knows such a
fake only increases his chances of getting hit. The cops will be even more ready to shoot at that
moment. It is better to move now, while the cops are waiting to see if he is going to obey or not.
Moving right now will cause a single second of surprise, enough to make a difference between
success and failure. Ras leaps like Superman and flies into the darkness, skillfully tumbling in
acrobatic rolls onto the backyard lawn.

Maven, standing behind the driver’s side door, shoots into the darkness. Dunham, a lean,
black athlete, gun and flashlight in his hands, hesitates a moment, then crouches low and runs
into the yard, diving and tumbling in a style very much like his prey.

Maven aims the vehicle spotlight into the darkness to light Dunham’s way and blind the
escapee. For a second, Maven thinks he senses movement to his left. Perhaps not.

The instant Ras hits the pavement he does not do what is natural: run toward the back of
the yard or dart to the right outer wall of the property. Instead he runs forward, to the left of
police car just as the spotlight is moving rightward into the yard.

The slice is so quick and clean, Maven thinks he is stung by an insect. He reaches up to
touch his suddenly throbbing neck, warm blood spurting in time with his dying pulse.

“Arrggg!” His attempts to stop the flow are ineffective as he hits the ground.

“Maven! Heads up! He’s not here!” Dunham shouts from the yard as he dashes toward
the squad car, blinded by their own spotlight.

“Christ! No!” Dunham pleads as he drops to his knees beside his dying partner. He
looks around, starting to panic, panning his pistol right and left and right. He grabs his phone.

“Officer down! I repeat, Officer down!” Dunham’s eyes dart around, his body turning
back and forth. It is so quiet, Dunham can hear Maven’s blood squirting out, hitting the
pavement inches away. He hears the blare of an approaching siren.

Dunham assesses the long wound. He grabs a glove from his belt with his left hand and
presses it firmly against Maven’s carotid artery. Maven is losing consciousness, indicating he
has lost two pints of blood so far.

Ras was precise in his slice. If he cut too deep, the second cop may have seen it as
hopeless and continue to pursue him. By limiting the severity, the victim would be conscious for
a minute and could survive if the bleeding is immediately contained. Ras is confident the second
cop will be immobilized helping his partner.

His biggest risk is being spotted by back-up forces, copters and the like within the first
five minutes. He darts into a yard two houses down and quickly slides under a car parked at the
top of the driveway. The car is scarcely viewable from the street.

He commands himself, “Time to stay perfectly still. Unless I hear dogs.”

“Over here!” Dunham bellows. One of the officers from the first backup car rushes to
him in a squatted run, gun drawn. The second officer, Da'wan Brown, also low and armed,
moves toward the house. His peripheral vision catches the brief flash coming from an upstairs
room. He opens the door and enters cautiously, gun gripped in both hands, checking right and
left each few steps, now certain there is a fire upstairs.

Training procedures call for him to proceed slowly, ten feet at a time until someone can
back him up. Brown knows he is in Steng’s house and that Steng may be in mortal danger. He
throws the procedure book out the window and runs directly up the stairs, rushing into the
burning bedroom.

He almost panics as he sees Steng’s body amid the flames speeding across the mattress.
Brown grabs him by the left foot and yanks him to the lower end of the bed. He holsters his
weapon and uses his thick, muscular arms to lift Steng’s charred body with ease, placing him
gently over his shoulder to carry him out of the house as the fire spreads behind them with
alarming speed.

Ras waits for the inevitable flashlight to shine into his yard of choice. As expected, it is
cursory. Search teams are often dismissive of the houses closest to the crime.

Ras muses, “No one would dare hide without distancing himself first.”

He lays there unmoving until sunrise, sleeping in short naps through the surrounding
ruckus of sirens, fire trucks, concerned neighbors, and the rest.

At the crack of dawn, it is alarmingly quiet. Ras hears the door of the house open. A
man walks toward the car he lays under, enters it and starts down the slanted driveway. Ras
doesn’t move as his body is exposed to the warm California sun. The driver is looking out his
side mirror, unlikely to spot Ras laying still on his driveway.

In a single motion, Ras stands up and steps cautiously to the back of the house.
Examining a couple of windows convinces him the house is not wired. He jimmies the back
door and quietly enters. He scours the ground floor to ascertain it is unoccupied; his is fully
prepared if it is. He casually opens the refrigerator and stuffs two bottles of water in his pockets.
He selects three slices of lunchmeat and one of the seven oranges. He grabs a banana off the
counter and slips up the stairs. The master bedroom door is ajar and the woman on the bed is
sound asleep, laying on her back, breasts exposed, mouth agape, snoring. Inside a second
bedroom closet is the covered opening to the attic. With the strength of a trapeze catcher, he
pulls himself up into the attic, re-closes the opening, finds a comfortable corner, and settles in.

Ras texts his LAPD contact:

Date/time clear
Confirm success

Within minutes, he receives a response:

Tuesday, 12 noon
No. Critical, recov good

Ras is stunned. He ponders, “Steng should have been dead before he could be reached.
Some fuckin’ hero must have moved in too fast, carelessly. Shit!”

Ras texts back:

Best opp

His contact responds:

LA General, ICU.
Tuesday, 2nd shift, 12-9

The woman of the house leaves at 11:00 am each day. Tuesday comes and it is no
exception. At half past noon, Ras leaves the attic with his residue, including the water bottles,
drank and refilled with his urine. He strolls out of the subdivision as casually as a neighbor. No
one notices.

Chapter Forty-nine

“Ironically it is Steng who set up the emergency system in the first place,” Denson
explains to Stacy, “511 signals ‘Imminent danger, full response’. 512 signals ‘Imminent danger,
silent response’.”

“Inhaling the GHB provided him seven to nine seconds of dizziness before passing out.
Only Steng would recognize so quickly he was being drugged. He must have instinctively
concluded he was in danger and his only chance was to use the code. Any second thought would
have resulted in his death.”

“Wow!” Stacy is impressed.

“Steng is in tough shape, but he’s alive and the prognosis is favorable thanks to Brown.”

Denson props up on one elbow, kisses Stacy gently, briefly stroking her hair with his left
hand, “I’ll miss you until Friday. You can text my cell if you need anything.”

“Anything? You’re going to be deluged, stud muffin,“ Stacy pauses and frowns,
“Seriously, ya think this is necessary, given your condition and all?”

“I’ll be all right. I can even walk, if I have to. Watch this.” Denson gets out of the bed,
stands, and takes a couple of shaky steps.

“It looks hard. Is it painful?”

“It is, but I can handle it.”

“I wasn’t talking about your walk. C’mon back here, let “me” handle it.”

“Funny.” Denson sits on the edge of the bed and takes Stacy by the hand.

“Look, it’s no big deal what I’m doing. About Steng, that is,” He grins, something he is
doing much more lately. “I’ll be in the room next to him. There’s an officer outside his door.
I’m just there as an added precaution. I know it’s personal, but....”

Denson understood the Steng hit is professional. Whoever the pro is knows by now
Steng is alive and will likely be determined, if not required, to finish the job. Denson hopes he
tries and it leads to the ‘man on the top of the heap’.

He makes arrangements directly with the Chief of Operations at LA General. Only the
head ICU nurse will be aware of his real purpose. She will inform the other nurses that they
found traces of white arsenic in Denson’s system and he needs to be in ICU for administration of
Dimercaprol, an unusual, sometimes toxic antidote. Bags of harmless saline will be re-marked
as Dimercaprol for IV feed into Denson’s hand.

Denson’s bed position in his room will allow him to view the guard in the hall at all
times. He is confident. Only Stacy knows what he is doing.

Chapter Fifty

Sergeant Larry Prince is a ‘good guy’. He dreamed of being with LAPD since he was a
child. He loved cop shows. As early as seven, he would stop and salute when a police car would
drive by. He continually pictured himself being the best cop in LA, envisioning a ceremony of
fellow officers in his future, honoring him for his bravery and accomplishments.

Once on the force, he gets lucky early when Steng meets him and takes him under his
wing, deciding to mentor him through his early career.

Steng says, “I like the way you handle people. You like people, don’t you?”

Prince tries to be restrained, “Yes, sir. Yes, I do. People are so unique, each carrying a
history of experience, their lives unfolding before our very eyes.”

Steng appreciates his enthusiasm, thinking, “I can help him get a head start. He can help
me, keep me from getting stodgy.”

Prince believes being the best means thinking and experiencing outside the box. That's
what leads him to try heroin.

Prince persuades himself, “Get into the head of the addict, understand his feelings, get a
sense of his needs.” He starts to insert the needle into his left forearm. “Am I just trying to
justify this. This is going too far. Stop it.” He hesitates, “Maybe this is an excuse, relenting to
a deep instinct, a suppressed desire to go to the dark side.”

“Don’t do it.” he cries to himself.

The needle penetrates his skin, his index finger resisting his will, depressing the syringe.
He loses control of his life at that very moment.

He quickly learns is he is one of those rare individuals susceptible to immediate

addiction. Heroin will occasionally cause instant addiction in the brain. One time and you are
hooked, for life. Assuming you live long enough to experience withdrawal, withdrawal is often
described as the single worst experience a human being can go through. The cravings alone are
enough to cause numerous users to attempt or commit suicide. They reach the point where death
is a gift.

An addict will do anything, including selling out his family and career for a reliable
source. Prince has the most reliable source in the country; Bill Brinkley. As a result, Prince is at
Brink’s disposal. It is Prince who alerts Brinkley to Denson’s plan to tail him, resulting in
Brink’s recruitment of his brother. It is Prince who alerts Brinkley of his pending arrest; the
wasabi sauce was no happenstance, it was heavily spiked for a reason. It is Prince who feeds the
detailed information on Steng to Rasoone.

He knows helping Ras will pay off with a steady supply, allowing him to escape and
enjoy his life, at least for a while. Heroin addicts don’t think much beyond ‘a while’.

Text to Ras:
Denson in next room, added security.

Ras texts instructions back.

Ras calls Perelle, his call scrambled through a Department of Defense communication
system. A technician at the DOD is also a user and low-level distributor for Hampton.

Avery answers, “Well, well. I can’t see your face right now, but I suggest you wipe your
mouth and chin. Eating crow tends to make one drool.” He chooses to use sarcasm to make his
point to Rasoone, “What the Hell happened?”

“It’s a long story, better saved. I have not failed. Just hit a snag.”

For the first time in years, Avery is disappointed with Rasoone’s response. He would
have felt better if Ras had admitted he screwed up.

“Avoiding “snags” is what you are supposed to do. Amateurs hit snags, pros jump over
them.” Perelle’s words burn into Ras, “Anyway, what’s the plan?”

“Prince will be the guard after 12 noon today. Denson is in the next room, providing a
double check. He’s still in a wheelchair and can hardly walk. Hardly a factor.”

“I’ll create a diversion, occupying the attention of the nurses. Prince will enter Denson’s
room to inform him what’s going on. I’ll slip into Steng’s room dressed as an intern and take
him out quickly and quietly, and leave before anyone can respond.”


“Excuse me, sir?”

“I don’t repeat myself. I like the setup, but you’re hitting it wrong.”

Avery continues, “Have Prince enter Steng’s room at the point of disruption. Denson
won’t like that. He’ll roll himself out of his room to reach Prince to find out what’s going on.
You’ll be standing to the side of his doorway. Hit him with a hyperemic and wheel him back in.
Break his neck. Then take out Steng.”

“I thought of that. But that leaves Prince exposed. Why wouldn’t he stop me from
hitting Steng. Prince will be left out to dry.”

“That’s right. Unless he’s dead.”

Ras pauses, reflects and continues, “I see---I didn’t think Prince was expendable.”

“Everyone is expendable, you ass.”

“Sir, please don’t talk to me like that, I---”

“Ras,” Avery hesitates for effect, “Shut up.”

Avery hangs up. He knows abruptly ending their call will motivate Rasoone more than
any words he might have added. Rasoone will do everything exactly as instructed.

There are ten private rooms between Denson/Steng and the ICU nurses station. The
station is armed with three of the best nurses in the hospital. ICU is a very serious place to work.
Admittance to ICU is normally limited to those who have secured a medical consensus that their
life can be saved, but with odds less than fifty percent, even with round-the-clock monitoring and
top notch response.

Prince places a tiny transmitter on the back of the monitoring equipment in the room of a
patient six doors down the hall from Steng. The elderly occupant is beyond passed out. The
nurses miss Prince’s brief stop as he passes on his way to relieve the earlier shift guard.

“Hey, Doc!” Prince is standing in the doorway of Denson’s room, “How’s it going so

“Uneventful. Boring. Noisy. A hospital is no place to get any rest. You taking this

“Yeah. Burson has a family emergency. I stepped up to the plate. Worth the double shift
just to be around you and John. How’s he doing?”

“Heavily sedated. Starting skin grafts tomorrow. They think he’s nearly out of danger;
too ornery to die.”

“Thank God,” Prince said quietly, “Well, I’ll be right here if you need me.”

“That’s not Steng in there. It’s Murphy. I’m just here to convince the hitter it’s Steng.”

Prince can’t believe this is happening. He admonishes himself, “I thought I had my hand
on the pulse. How could I not know this? This makes me look like shit.”

Prince sits down in the hall, sweating, punching a text message to Ras.

It’s too late. Rasoone pushes the remote to the transmitter just before turning the corner
into the hallway leading to the Denson/Steng rooms. The alarm sounds. Prince watches the
reaction of the nurse’s station. Ras is already coming toward him, the hypo out as he takes his
position outside Denson’s room. Prince is at whit’s end. He’s not supposed to look at Ras;
Denson would notice and be on guard. But if he doesn’t alert Ras about Murphy---

Prince stands, steps into Steng’s room and begins speaking to Murphy about the alarm.

“What the fuck.” Denson yells out to Prince, “What’s going on?”

Denson grabs his pistol and holds it in front of him as he controls the wheelchair toward
the door. He is halfway through the doorway when he feels the sudden chop across his wrist.
His gun drops.

He is startled by the gloved hand smothering his face as a sharp pain punctures his neck.
Denson is not a street guy. He doesn’t think instinctively. He wastes a critical second forming in

his mind the chemical interactions he understands are going on in his body. By the time he shifts
to survival mode, he blacks out.

Rasoone likes perfection. Denson is flaccid. He can hear Prince still engaged in
conversation. All that is left is to wheel Denson into his room, break his neck, and then get Steng
and Prince. He grasps the handlebars and---.

“Freeze!” A soft, yet intense female voice chirps instructions directly to his right.

Stacy has never been so scared, thinking, “I’ve been trained for this. Why didn’t I pay
more attention? Because this was never supposed to happen. That’s why I opted for SID. SID
doesn’t face killers.” She can only recall one lesson from her months of instruction,

Look him in the eyes.

She does.

Rasoone sees the gun. The audacity of confronting him combined with the word ‘freeze’
tells him she is a cop, dressed as a nurse. He doesn’t have time to think about how this
happened. He quickly observes all that is about him. He hears Prince still talking. He assesses
the ‘nurse’ aiming a Walther P-22 at the center of his chest. He reads her eyes. She’s for real.

Ras reviews his options for escape. He takes no time in choosing. He grips the handles
of the wheelchair and yanks the vehicle sharply downward, toppling it over on its back. Denson
predictably rolls off his seat performing an unconscious backward half-somersault onto the hall

It is enough to distract Stacy. Ras charges at her like a rushing guard, bowling her over
as her races down the hall.

The first shot misses him, as he knew it would. It is intentionally misaimed by Prince
whose stance is blocking Murphy from joining the gunfire. That gives Ras time to reach the end
of the hall and do his best Captain America dive to the left, out of sight.

Stacy is on her knees, yelling for a nurse while checking if Denson is alive. He is, though
entirely unconscious as Stacy pleads with him to wake up.

Prince and Murphy slide the last five feet to the end of the hall, guns aimed in the
direction of their pursuit. The hallway to the left is empty. They search every cranny. Rasoone
has completely disappeared after dropping three floors down a laundry chute.

Chapter Fifty-one

It is hours later. Denson is fully recovered. The area is locked down. He looks forward
to leaving this house of boredom.

Stacy explains, “I thought you needed a little diversion. I planned to just step in and give
you a quick peck while Prince was on duty. I found out everyone knows about us anyway. I
rented the nurse uniform. By the way, what do you think?” Stacy stands and turns a tiny-
stepped circle.

“I like it,” Denson sighs, “Will they let you convert the rental into a purchase? I want to
see it hanging in a closet. Our closet. Ready for you to put on whenever I take ill. I get the
sniffles a lot.”

Stacy is confused, thinking, “Our closet?”

His face hardens. He looks at Stacy, but seems to be talking to himself, “I never thought
I would be a victim. I have been surrounded by victims throughout my career, always after death
occurs. This experience has convince me, even more. I have to get to the person behind this.”

Denson adds, “God is sending me a message. Suzanne is sending me a message. The

devil is at work here, doling out murder as if it were a gift. The people I love are on his list.”

“Love? You love, er, me?"

“Yes, of course.”

“Listen Stace. Suzanne understands. Her soul is with me forever. Nothing will change
that. But my heart is now with you. Love has no limits. I can love you without sacrificing my
love for Suzanne.”

“I understand. I really do.”

“And understand, I want to finish this case, make one final effort to get this devil.”

Stacy nods, yet concerned, “I want to help you. Tell me how?”

Denson hasn’t thought about his future in detail, only as a quest. He looks at Stacy and
feels the emptiness within him fill with warmth and love, “Be there for me, with me. Be my
friend, my confidant, my partner, my lover,”

He pauses, wanting to be certain of his next words before speaking them aloud,

“My wife.”

“You want us to be married?"

“Yes, Stacy, I do.”

“It’s so sudden, so fast. I never expected—I mean, do you love me?”

“I thought I covered that.”

“Randy, stop it. Seriously, what about Suzanne?”

Stacy doesn’t hesitate expressing the feelings she has held for him for so many months,

“And I love you, my darling.” She bends over him, kissing him softly.

“So, ya wanna get married?” Denson grins, their faces only an inch apart.

“Of course, silly boy. I thought you already knew that.” Stacy kisses him again.

Chapter Fifty-two

Rasoone enters the hotel lobby, takes an apple from the bowl on the reception desk, bites
into it and goes quietly to the elevator. He is exhausted. He traveled by foot, a few thousand feet
at a time from the hospital, taking over five hours to reach the Four Seasons. He enters his room
and is startled by the voice coming from the far corner of his suite:

“Don’t move. That’s powdered TATP you see at your feet. The floor is wired, this is the
detonator.” The man slightly waves the transmitter in his hand. His massive body engulfs the
love seat against the back window overlooking the heart of LA.

Rasoone understands instantly. He is trapped where he stands. Triacetone triperoxide

peroxyacetone was the primary explosive used in the 2005 London bombings. The powder runs
halfway across the floor; it’s outer edge too far for Rasoone to leap to safely, yet far enough from
the fat headed man to not harm himself.

“I don’t get it. I killed you in Venice.”

“No, you killed my brother.”

Rasoone is not buying it, “Bullshit. We tracked you from Stewards every step to
Santorini to Venice. I killed that guy. You must be Brink’s brother. Listen to me. You’re over
your head.”

“You and your genius boss made a mistake. You assumed I killed Rosa and my brother
played the shill at the St. Regis. You were wrong. You underestimate me. My brother shot up
Rosa with the laced juice. He’s the one you traced---and killed.”

It takes a moment for Ras to absorb what Brink is telling him. He’s impressed, “I’ll be

“It wasn’t that hard to convince my brother he could be me. Knock off an old broad then
fly to Venice, first class, charter a boat, meet with top honchos. Be set for life. It was an offer he
couldn’t refuse.”

Ras calms himself and says, “Well then, go ahead. Kill me. What are you waiting for?”
Ras starts to place his hands in his pockets.

“I will if you don’t keep your hands at your side. I think I told you not to move. Don’t
even flex another muscle.”

“I need you,” Brink continues, “I want Perelle. I can’t get to him. You can. With my
help, I can assure you riches beyond your dreams.”

“I’m already rich. Why would I help you?”

“You failed twice; Steng and now, Denson. When Perelle finds out about me, that will be
strike three. You know Perelle. You’re toast.”

“That may be, but killing Perelle would be suicide just the same. I’ll be enemy number
one with the mob. There will be trained killers all over the world after me.”

“Not if you get killed too.” The fat-man smiles.

Ras is curious. He thinks about his pending future with Perelle. He knows his role in
communicating with the Afghan’s has been appropriately delegated. Perelle is tired of him as a
lover. He is aware he is little more than a hit man and body guard; easily replaceable for the first
time in his life.

Rasoone sees the vengeance in the fat-man’s eyes. He hesitates one more moment, then

“Let’s talk.”

“First, do not move except as I tell you. Drop the apple and slowly, ever so slowly lift the
strap without touching the pouch around your waist and toss it to your left, out of your reach.”

Ras obeys.

“Now, strip down to your underwear.” Ras complies.

“Slowly sit, injun-style on the floor where you stand. Again, slowly. You know what I

Ras sits there, in black jockeys, legs crossed, hands clasped together.

“Now, I have a three-part test for you. First, where is Perelle right now? Be specific.”

“He’s in Mumbai, The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. Registered as Ganeshwaran.”

“What is his sister’s name and where does she live?”

“Cantalisa. She lives somewhere near the coast in the Apulia region of Italy. Even I do
not know any more specifically.”

Brink tosses an object toward him, landing at his feet. It’s a small pair of garden shears.

“Take off a finger. Your choice. It’s a small price to pay for your life.”

Ras looks at the fat-man. This is typical of him. His signature. Ras picks up the tool.
He opens it and presses the parted blades around the little finger of his left hand. He starts to
perspire, uncharacteristically hesitant. He squeezes enough for the blades to slice into the flesh.
The pain is not important, the bleeding is meaningless. Losing the finger is regrettable, but he
has faced far greater losses in his dangerous life. Yet he stops, overwhelmed by the idea of self-
destruction. He remembers his father’s final words:

Your body is your shell casing. It is all you will need.

He tosses the shears to the floor. Blood is dripping down his hand onto forearm. He
recrosses his legs and says, “I won’t do it.”

“Good. You passed my test. I know you very well. If you were determined to kill me,
you’d have made the sacrifice regardless of what it took.” He stands up, pulls the plug
connecting the wire mesh netting spread across the floor, picks up Ras’s pouch and says, “Get
dressed. Let’s go downstairs and talk. I’m starving.”

Brink continues, “I’ll call housekeeping and have them vacuum up. If the room is still
here when we come back up, we’ll have a nightcap.” He grins, this time without the evilness in
his eyes.

In a quiet corner table in the lounge, Ras interjects, “Let’s get to the point. You have a
plan of some sort. Let’s hear it.”

“Hold on a minute.” He sends a brief text message, slices into a cheese ball, puts two-
thirds of it on his plate and passes the remainder to Ras. Ras grips his cheese knife firmly as a
young man approaches their table.

“Have a seat. You two know each other, but I don’t think you’ve ever met. I must admit,
this young man is a ‘prince’ of a fellow.”

Ras squirms. He says to Prince, “I appreciate your assistance. Who the hell was the
broad with the gun?”

“She works for Denson in CSI. I guess they’ve got a thing going. Her showing up was
completely unexpected. Just one of those things.”

“I don’t believe in ‘one of those things’. We should have known about her.”

“That’s not reasonable. She was there on her own. I doubt anyone knew. Get over it!”

The fat man interrupts, “We can decide who has the bigger dick later. Let’s get serious.
We have a rare opportunity here. I want revenge for my brother’s death.” He speaks to Ras,
“You want to avoid execution.”

“And you,” he is addressing Prince, “want an endless supply of quality product.”

“Perelle is coming to LA next week to meet with the President of Pakistan, Pervez

“Yes, I know about that. I am meeting Perelle at LAX. He may bring another bodyguard
with him, Al Mandino, a very capable pro. That’s a problem.”

“You don’t know where the meeting is, right?”

“He never discloses that until the last minute. Sadari is traveling incognito, probably
with three to four bodyguards. He’s meeting with the Deputy Secretary of State, John Steinberg
intentionally outside the eyes of the Washington press corps. Perelle is meeting Sadari to reach
an understanding just before Sadari faces off with Steinberg.

“Of course. Steinberg must inform LAPD beforehand. Prince will be with Sadari from
the time he arrives LAX.” He turns to Prince, “You’re confident you can get assigned to the

“Not a problem. I provide the key guy in Dispatch with coke. I’ll get the assignment.
Probably not alone though.”

“That’s all right. Here’s the plan. Ras, you will either be asked to accompany Perelle or
not. Either way doesn’t really matter. It’s Prince who will lead you to him, regardless.”

Brink continues, “Prince will wear a GPS monitor on his body. Even if you lose touch
with Prince, you’ll know where Perelle is meeting Sadari. Immediately following the meeting,
Ras, you will take Perelle out.”

“What about Mandino?”

“If he’s there, Prince and his partner will detain him for possession of drugs before the

“So I take down Perelle, then what?”

“You’ll run, in the sight of Sadari and his people. Prince will spot you, order you to stop
and overreact, shooting you three times, Hollywood style, of course. Prince will order his
partner to stick with Sadari. By the time EMS and back-up arrives, you will have escaped.”

“Escaped? I thought I was dead? That was our deal upstairs.”

Prince jumps in, “It’s all administrative. A simple switch in the files at headquarters will
report confirmation of the deceased body. Same with the EMS report. I can set up a record in
the morgue system as well. It’s all on computer now, no paperwork involved.”

The fat-man takes over, “It won’t be perfect, but it’ll be enough to fool the mob. It will
be old news to them in a matter of days. Their focus will be on the power struggle to name a
replacement for Perelle.”

Ras sits silently for a long moment and says, “There are several risks. Someone from the
State Department could join Prince in the pursuit, a crowd could form too quickly, the bullet
charges on my body or the switch could fail.”

“The State guys will care less about an LAPD shooting. They will focus on protecting
Sadari and Steinberg. Gunfire will chase everyone else back, for a few minutes at least. That’s
all it will take. The risks are not serious. Seriously.”

Ras stares at Brinkley, then turns his head and takes a head to toe assessment of him. He
finally nods, “Let’s do it.”

Chapter Fifty-three

Denson is stirring in bed. Spending each day in a wheel chair is taking its toll. By the
time night arrives, he’s tired of being stationary, staring at the same walls twenty-four hours a
day. He gets up and starts pacing, waking Stacy in the night.

“What’s wrong, hon?”

“I can’t sleep. My body is full of adrenalin and my mind is racing in the Indy 500.”

“You’re walking pretty good. Is it still painful?”

“Yeah, but I don’t care. I’m going in in the morning. I’m gonna stop and see Steng on
the way. He’s in a regular room now, doing well. I need to dump on him, get his perspective.”

“Just be care, my soon to be. Now, get in here and let me put you out.”

Denson reaches Steng’s room in the morning. He looks at Steng, half asleep laying in his
bed. Denson opens the blinds. The California sun enters the room in slices, waking up Steng in
an instant.

“You look good. Keep the bandages though, maybe that will help you attract more

“Kiss my ass.”

“Fine, I like fried food.” Denson and Steng clasp hands. Steng can’t believe it when
Denson bends down and hugs him.

“What’s come over you? You’re acting like you have feelings.”

“I’m in love. With Stacy. I feel like a teenager again.”

“Close. She’s what, twenty-seven?”

“Love is ageless. She’s special. She’s gorgeous, dedicated, caring. And she listens to me
when I talk.”

“Deaf, dumb and blind. Perfect for you.”

They chat for a bit and Steng asks, “What happened. I heard about the attempt on you.
I’m glad you’re okay. Give it to me first hand.”

Denson takes him through it. Steng starts shaking his bandaged head saying, “No, it
doesn’t fit.”

“What do you mean? The guy came back for you. He saw I was there and wanted to
take me out first. It makes sense.”

“Listen to yourself. You must be in love. You’re not thinking straight. Way too many
assumptions. First, how did he know you were there?”

“That wouldn’t be too hard. He could have scouted the area, recognized me. He set the
false alarm knowing I’d come out. He was waiting. If not for Stac...”

“Stop looking at what happened and think about what could have happened, should have
happened. Fine, he knew you were there. Fine, he knew you’d come barreling out like Ironside.
But how, in the first place, did he know Prince would go into Murphy’s room, leaving you

Denson pauses, embarrassed for the first time in Steng’s memory, “You’re right. Prince
knew it wasn’t you. I told him. When the alarm went off, he could’ve stayed put or stepped into
my room first. Going into Murphy’s room was way too convenient to the hitter.”

“Exactly. Prince is involved, up to his knees. Hard to believe. I’m disappointed. I was
mentoring the boy. Tell the Chief. He’ll know what to do.”

Denson drives to headquarters deep in thought, “This is a sign. An opportunity.” He

turns off the radio in order to concentrate.

“If I tell the Chief, Prince will be locked down in a minute. Prince is more than a sellout,
a shank; he’s the way to the source, the puppeteer.”

He remembers his promise, “No matter what it takes.”

He spends the entire day pouring over Prince’s file; his reviews, his assignments, his
accomplishments. The young detective is clean, showing promise and stability.

Then he finds it.

Stacy sits at dinner with her mouth agape, her roast going cold on her plate, uneaten,
“My God. He’s like a brother to me. I’ve spent days with him.”

“I agree his behavior at the hospital was odd, but not conclusive. But traces of didehydro
and diol diacetate in his blood? Why wasn’t this flagged by the lab? He’s clearly a user.”

”They’re like us, swamped. There was no reason to look. Prince was so squeaky clean,
the fair-haired boy. Good family, pristine school record. Charity work. Physicals are more
useful in confirming the causes of symptoms. This report was buried in a sea of data, probably
scanned but not read.” Denson fills Stacy’s glass with Liberty School cabernet and then tops off
his own glass with the rest of the bottle.

Stacy moves on, “Going after you and Steng make it clear the hitter is tied to Hampton,
Brinkley, Brinkley’s boss. This means Prince can lead…”

“Exactly. He can lead us to the hitter and possibly to the “man’ himself. I’ve got to
follow through and...”

Stacy stops him, “What do you mean ‘I’? You’ve got to go to the Chief with this”

“I know. I will. Just not yet. Look, Prince is assigned to the visit from Sadari, the
Pakistan guy meeting with Steinberg this week. If I tell the Chief, he will pull Prince and begin
an internal investigation. That will signal the bad guys. In the meantime, he’ll alert the State
Department and smother the meeting with security.

“I don’t believe in coincidences. Pakistan, Steward Pharm, Hampton, reported

smuggling, probably heroin. Our target will likely show up at some point. I want to be there,
spot the bad guys, then tell the Chief. “

“This is a unique opportunity. I don’t have to do anything but be there and observe from
a safe distance; ID the hitter, possibly the boss. I promise I’ll turn over whatever I learn to the
Chief immediately after.”

Stacy looks at him with deep love and confidence, “All right. But take me with you.”

“I can’t do that.”

“Why not? If it’s safe? I don’t have to stand at your side. I’ll observe as well, from a
different spot, a different perspective.”

“I don’t need a bodyguard.”

“It’s not about that. I’ll be your second set of eyes and ears, that’s all. I’ll go crazy
anyway, knowing you’re there alone. The worse that can happen is a waste of a day. Let me be
there with you, darling.”

“OK, but stay back, no matter what happens.” They discuss the details of their plan;
where they will split up, what to look for, how to behave, taking pictures if possible, etc.

Chapter Fifty-four

An obscure Escapade but spotless, pulls up to the airport curb. Ras steps out and grabs
his boss’s bag and stows it in the backseat. An aged, humped forward man enters the vehicle.
Avery’s hands shake throughout the day now, yet his eyes retain their fearless, youthful gaze.

“Good to see you, sir.”

“It’s not so good to see you.” Avery pulls out Ricardo. “The only reason I’m trusting
you today is it will not be possible for you to screw up again. Besides, Mondari is in China,
otherwise I would have him handle this. Doesn’t matter. Anyone, even you, can handle this
without fucking up.”

“I appreciate your confidence, sir.”

“Don’t get smart with me. Fail again and it will be time for you to retire. You’re too old

Ras is pained by the irony of a seventy-year old man telling him he is too old. Only
Perelle can talk to him with such rudeness. He doesn’t believe he will get ‘another chance’
regardless of what he does.

“So, how was your trip, sir?”

“A pain. I gave them the wrong passport in Zurich. It was a bit uncomfortable for a
moment or two. Fortunately, security consisted of a near teenage girl and a half-asleep old shit,
nodding off as they put me through one of those x-ray contraptions.”

“The girl thought I had a weapon in my pocket and was either embarrassed or impressed,
I’m not certain which, when she learned by a frisk it was not a weapon, per se.”

“If I would have been there, they could have called me over to verify it was, in fact a
weapon. I would have taken pleasure in identifying it, knowing it as well as I do.”

“None of that. We have work to do. I don’t want any trouble. The meeting with Sadari
will not extend beyond fifteen minutes. If it does, be ready, because something else may be
going on.”

They pull up to side of the hotel: Shutters on the Beach on Pico in Santa Monica, just
south of the Pier. Perelle is dressed in a dark Hawaiian shirt, crème pants and sandals. Ras fits
into the Southern California look as subtlety. No valet, no special treatment. They enter
adjoining rooms on the third floor, facing the beach.

Ras was at the hotel earlier, checking in for both of them under assumed names and
inspecting Avery’s room, not just for security; the toilet, the faucets, the TV, the AC, etc. Lord
help him if there is anything wrong with Perelle’s room.

At 1:00 PM, they exit together to meet with the Pakistani leader in one of the small
ballrooms. Standing outside the larger ballroom entrance further down the hall is LAPD. Ras is
reassured when he sees Prince and a single partner, Sgt. Murphy.

Ras has the three miniature explosives taped to his back, the remote in his pocket, his
Baretta ready.

Perelle sits down at the table in the conference room. They are alone. Sadari and two of
his personal guards enter through a door connected to a larger ballroom.

Perelle is a charmer. He speaks fluently in the provincial language of Panjabi. Sadari is

impressed as Perelle speaks,

“I ask nothing of you but your word that our situation in your country will not change, no
matter what the US promises or threatens.”

“I want the same. I will need to make a strong impression I am trying to end your
processing operation. You must assure me you and your people will not over react. You have six
weeks to relocate before my forces will strike. When we do, both of us will sacrifice a few lives
in battle, perhaps, but it will be for appearances only. You can restart in another area, with my
approval, of course.

“I understand. The new location will be outside the Balochistan area, of no interest to the
Chief Minister or his US watchdogs”

“Your payments must be redirected as well, to Yemen. I will inform you of your contact
there shortly.”

Minutes earlier, Denson is sitting in the lobby, just off the ballroom area, reading the
Journal. He’s in shorts and a white T. His dark shades and ball cap obscure his looks. Stacy is
sitting in her parked car in the first row of the front lot. At one point, Prince walks by Denson
and looks directly at him with no recognition.

Denson almost misses the two men entering the smaller ballroom down the hall. “He
thinks to himself, “Who are those guys? An old wop and a too hard-bodied companion. They
could be the ones.” He etches their faces into the hard drive whirling in his head.

He watches Sadari and his people enter the side entrance of the larger ballroom. He is
anxious, wondering, “The meeting with Steinberg is not for another thirty minutes.”

I’ve got to get over there.

Denson stands and walks casually toward the small ballroom entrance, reading the paper
as he strolls Through the far door, three guards precede Sadari as he walks out, heading to his
collection of rooms. Denson watches Prince direct Murphy to follow behind. Prince takes a
stand against the far wall. The small conference door is not fully shut, Denson can peer through
the slice of the opening. He squints, tries to focus better. He is shocked to see Ras pulling a gun
out and aiming it at the old man.

Denson rushes into the room, instinctively pulling out his pistol and aiming it at Rasoone,

“Stop. I’ll shoot.”

Ras’s mind spins, “What the hell are you doing here?”

Perelle interjects calmly, “Ah, I’ve got a few questions, Ras; Like who is this guy, why
did you pull a gun on me? Questions of that nature.”

Ras is as cool as they come, “It’s Denson. I don’t know how or why he’s here.

Perelle sneers, “And the gun?”

“Oh, I’m going to kill you.”

Before Perelle can respond, Denson grabs his other trembling hand and points his gun
more accurately at Rasoone. He tries to sound confident, “No you’re not. If you shoot him, I’ll

have to shoot you. I’m not good enough at this to try to maim you; I’ll have to go for your upper

“You’re going to take me down? Are you crazy? This is Avery Perelle. Shoot me and
arrest him, and your family, your friends will all die. This is fuckin’ Avery Perelle!”

Denson never heard the name Perelle before, but he gets the implication. This was the
“man” he swore he would stop. The hit man is right. He can arrest Perelle, but on what charges?
Denson knows it will be pointless. The man will walk and all Denson will have, at best, is a
dead or wounded assassin.

Denson speaks to Perelle, “So, you’re the one. I know it in my soul.” He points his gun
away from Ras and directly at Perelle.

Perelle finally speaks, “Go ahead, shoot me. I’m 70 years old. I really don’t care

Perelle means it. Yet, he doesn’t.

Denson stops shaking; he takes control, saying inside, “Is this what it all comes down to?
Killing an old man?”

Ras’s gun remains steadily aimed at Perelle. He is frustrated,

“What is this?”

The momentary pause is sufficient. Prince had seen Denson enter the room. He thinks
through the implications, how to recover from this unforeseen interference, “I have to act. If
Denson is here, he knows about me. There’s no other way. I have to act. Now.”

He impulsively storms through the ballroom door and shoots at Denson. Denson is hit in
his left thigh and drops. Ras turns his Baretta toward Prince and places a bullet directly into his
left eye. Nothing personal. The fat-man told him in private Prince was too big a risk. There is
an alternate plan for Ras to escape mob retribution.

Perelle is the instinctive survivor he has been all of his life. The Prince distraction is
enough for Perelle to grasps and fires a 399 ft. per second bullet from the two-inch long
SwissMiniGun held in his right palm.

He shoots Ras through the mouth. Ras stumbles in disbelief, tries to utter a sound,
bloody drool and tooth chips dribbling onto the floor and drops, hard.

Denson rolls under a table and prays. Perelle shoots at him twice, the second bullet
hitting Denson in the same thigh.

The septuagenarian hops over Ras’s body as Sgt. Murphy slams through the main door.
Two bodies on the ground distract Murphy long enough for Perelle to get to the rear door.

Denson has one chance. He is no crack shot. Still lying on the floor under a table, with
two bullets in his leg, he aims for Perelle’s buttocks as Perelle rushes out the door. He is certain
he will miss. He is not even close. His bullet blows apart the back of Perelle’s head like a

“What the hell happened” Murphy is still on an adrenaline high. He quickly discounts
Ras, ignores Prince’s corpse, and drops to Denson’s side, “You’ve been hit.”

“No shit. Check on Prince. Don’t trust him. He’s dangerous.”


Murphy moves toward Prince. He reaches for his radio as people start to cautiously enter
the room through the main door; the hotel manager, a Muslim guard, a couple of tourists.

Denson rolls his body toward the door, squirming in pain. He pulls himself a few more
inches and grabs Perelle’s body. He wants to see the face of Satan. He manages to turn Perelle
over. The face is gone, blown away by Denson’s misdirected shot.

“Oh my God. Randy. Baby!” Stacy rushes in and grabs two large table napkins. She
falls to her knees and begins pressing the cloth against Denson’s leg wounds.

Chapter Fifty-five

At a distant hotel in Newport Beach, William Brinkley sits on his balcony facing the
sand, chatting on his phone. The man sitting with him is sipping on a glass of orange juice,
ignoring the paper umbrella stuck inside.

“Got it. See you then.” Brinkley shuts off his cell and turns to Jason Patera, Perelle’s
second bodyguard, “Everyone is happy. The boys have put me in charge as promised. You
work for me now. We’ve got a lot to do.” He reaches for his glass of Scotch.

“What about the LAPD guys? Is there still a standing order to take them out?”

“No. Drop it. Not important. Never was. You’ll never get a crap assignment like that as
long as I’m around.”

Jason clinks the glass in his left hand with Brink’s. He nods and smiles as he indiscreetly
draws out his Stiletto with his right hand and says,

“Congratulations. Too bad your tenure will be so short.”

Jason moves so quickly, the knife pierces Brink in the right chest before he realizes what
is happening.

Brink’s eyes bulge as he drops his glass and grabs his chest, both hands grasping to stop
the spewing blood.

Jason grabs one of Brink’s hand and hacks off a finger.

“I thought that would be appropriate, all things considered.” He stabs Brink again, lower,
in the stomach, intentionally adding to the pain.

“I’m not Jason. Allow me to introduce myself. I don’t believe we’ve ever met.” He
stabs Brink again, this time in the crotch, paralyzing him from the waist down.

“My name is Jonathon. Jonathon Steward.”

He grins, softly humming Police’s “Every Breathe You Take.”