The Sacrificial Lambs

December 9, 2011

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Editor’s note: Today’s story is a rerun. This story originally ran on May 21, 2010.

Father Joseph Dugan finally gave in to frustration and set the church’s financial statements off to the side. The once thriving parish was shrinking each year, as the young people went off to college and followed job opportunities out of state. For the last five years, donations had not kept pace with expenses. The parish was having to dip into savings. The account that was intended for capital improvements was quickly being drained.

Father Dugan had more pressing issues to tend to this evening. Agnes Sherrill was being buried in the morning. Agnes had been a parishioner for her entire life – ninety three years. Tonight’s wake had been very small affair. Agnes and her late husband had no children, and Agnes had simply outlived her relatives. There were a handful of friends, as well as people from the parish who turned out to show their appreciation for Agnes’ devotion to the church.

Dugan was always saddened by these types of funerals. It seemed that there had been an awful lot of them lately. Maybe the rotten winter weather was just putting the priest in a pessimistic mood. He shook off the feeling and set his mind to composing a fitting eulogy for such a fine human being.

The next day, as he walked back to the church after the funeral, Father Dugan cheered himself up by thinking of Agnes being with the Lord in heaven. This put him in a better mood, although he knew that Wednesday nights wouldn’t be the same without her boisterous shouts of “Bingo!”.

To Dugan’s great surprise, the mail held good news for the parish. It contained two checks from the estates of deceased parishioners. The money definitely came at an opportune time. The parish would be able to rebuild their capital improvement fund. Perhaps the ancient furnace could finally be replaced, allowing the temperature inside the church to rise back above sixty degrees.

As Dugan thought about the two women who had been so generous, he realized that they had also been honored with very small funerals. Like Agnes Sherrill, they had left behind no living relatives. Once again, Dugan had the distinct feeling that there had been a lot of these types of funerals lately. He decided to prove to himself that he was wrong. He grabbed his calendar and began to leaf through it.

Dugan soon realized that his gut feeling was correct. There had already been six such deaths this year in which the parishioner left behind no living relatives – and it was only March. Most of the previous years had only seen five or six such deaths. Dugan was puzzled. Why was there such a spike this year?

Dugan had no time to ponder such mysteries, and soon put it behind him and immersed himself in church business again.

Father was distributing communion during mass the next Sunday when he noticed that the deacon next to him push aside a couple of hosts, seemingly looking for a specific wafer among the identical hosts. When Dugan saw Deacon Taylor pick up a host whose color was a different shade than the others, the pieces all clicked. Dugan pretended to lose his balance and stumbled into the deacon. Deacon Taylor lost his balance, and dozens of hosts fell to the ground. Dugan handed a host to Mary Davis as Taylor picked up the hosts from the carpet.

After mass, Dugan noticed that the discolored host was no longer present. Dugan was certain that he had seen it, and had a good idea why Taylor had taken it.

Two hours later, Dugan was struggling with a difficult decision when the phone rang. It was a detective from the police department, informing him that Deacon Taylor had walked into the precinct and confessed to poisoning several members of the parish so that the church would inherit money from the estates.

Tale of the Wolf

August 5, 2011

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Editor’s note: this was the second Fiction Friday story I published (the baseball-themed Release Point being the first). A co-worker told me that this story gave him nightmares, which I took as a compliment.  Originally published on April 3, 2009, and pulled out of the vault today … Tale of the Wolf!

The wolf was at the top of the food chain. He had stalked his prey for three weeks. He knew her habits better than she knew them. He could have moved in for the kill sooner, but sometimes it was fun to watch.

At the precise time as she had in the past, she broke away from her flock and entered the lush green field of the killing ground. The wolf moved slowly from his lair and followed her into the death zone.

The wolf was wrong. He was not at the top of the food chain. As the wolf closed in on his prey, he was becoming the hunted. The lion surveyed the killing ground. As the wolf pursued his prey, the lion slowly moved into position to capture the wolf.

The girl always took the shortcut through the woods to get back to the dorms. Her friends told her that it was dangerous, especially at night. The girl was not afraid. She had been taking this shortcut for nearly three years, and she knew the woods better than anyone else.

The girl should have listened to her friends. On this particular night, she was not alone in the woods. As she broke into the small clearing in the middle of the woods, she sensed that she was not alone. The wolf pounced on her and forced her to the ground. The girl screamed, but the forest drowned out her screams.

The wolf’s excitement had been building toward this moment, and he was immediately ready. He forced himself upon her, enjoying immense pleasure at the same time that her screams embodied the incredible physical and emotional pain. He finished quickly, and the girl lay on the ground, unable to move. The wolf pulled out his knife. With one strong, swift motion, he plunged it into her torso, finding her heart immediately. As the girl’s life quickly ebbed away, the wolf felt immense power.

The lion watched the full encounter. He waited until he was certain that the wolf had experienced an ultimate high. Then the lion moved quickly into the clearing. The wolf sensed danger and turned, but it was too late. The lion forced his own knife deep into the chest of the wolf, and the wolf was dead before he realized the extent of the danger.

The lion dipped the tip of his finger into the wolf’s blood, and then mixed it with the girl’s blood. As he licked his finger, he could feel the life force of both of them entering his body.

In Defense of Art

June 20, 2011

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This Friday will mark the debut of a new column, as Princess Kate joins us with her monthly article about the world of art. To get us in the mood, I’m re-running a short story of mine that originally ran on June 18, 2010.

On this particular evening, Sylvester Barnes traded his palette and brushes for a different set of tools. He stopped for a moment to collect his breath, and then swung the maul with all the strength he could muster.  The door resisted the first blow, but when Sylvester’s second blow landed on target, the lock yielded and the door sprung inward.

When Barnes stepped into the gallery, he was tempted to use the maul to smash every single piece of so-called “art” that had found a home in this third-rate gallery.  He’d be ashamed to use any of the statues as door stops and most of the paintings were worse than the garbage kindergartners brought home after a day of finger painting.  Certainly, all of this deserved to be destroyed, but he could not lose focus from the true mission.

Barnes came upon a door marked “Staff Only” and once again presented the maul as his key.  This door, too, allowed him entrance, and he strode into the back room studio.

Upstairs, above the Cherry Tree Gallery, Kailey Bell awoke from her deep slumber.  She was fully awake when Sylvester battered down the second door.  Kailey grabbed the pistol from under her pillow, slipped on her pink bunny slippers and snuck down the stairs.

When she arrived at the foot of the stairs, she saw the intruder plunging a hunting knife into the heart of one of her favorite paintings – Farm Pond By Full Moon.  She gasped with pain, as if the dagger was plunging into her own heart.

The man heard her and wheeled around to face her.  She recognized the man as Sylvester Barnes – an impressionist painter with a massive ego and a miniscule amount of talent.

“It’s for the best,” he shouted.  “These paintings deserve to be put out of their misery.  Moonlit lakes?  A sun setting behind mountains?  A boat adrift in the ocean?  Where’s the substance to this?  Where the creativity?  Where’s the meaning?  I’ve had piles of vomit that were more important to the world than these paintings.

“Get out, Barnes.  If you’re not out the door in ten seconds, you’ll regret it.”

“Regret it?” laughed Barnes derisively.  “What are you going to do – make me hang one of your paintings on my wall?”

Kailey pulled the gun from behind her back and pointed it at Barnes.

“Get out, or I shoot.”

“Kailey, you don’t have the balls. Go ahead, shoot me.”  Barnes laughed again as he lunged at another painting and cut it to shreds with the knife.

Kailey pulled the trigger and was devastated to hear a click as the hammer fell on an empty chamber.

She pulled the trigger again and the click was deafening amid the silence..  Barnes brandished his knife and took a menacing step toward her.  “Stupid girl.  The gun’s not even load –“

His words were cut off in mid-sentence as the hammer hit home on a live chamber.  An instant later, the bullet exited the back of Sylvester Barnes’ head, depositing a chunk of his rather small brain on the back wall.

The Retirement Party

September 24, 2010

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It was the social event of the year in the industry.  After decades of excellence, John Smith was retiring to a well-deserved life of leisure in the Florida Keys.

The retirement party was by invitation only, and Smith’s contemporaries were honored to receive engraved invitations to the event.  John Smith was a very private person with very few close friends in the industry – but everyone knew his work and appreciated the man’s artistry and professionalism.

The black tie event was held at the elegant Harbison Hotel.  After a social hour of drinks by the bar, the crowd made their way to their tables for hors d’oeuvre.

Frank Little munched on something that was unidentifiable, but very tasty.  In between bites, he turned to his colleague, Mike Brown.

“I never though he’d hang it up, Mike.  Why do you think he’s leaving now, when he’s still performing at such an elite level?”

“Maybe he’s tired of dealing with all the paperwork,” replied Brown, not bothering to wait until his mouth was empty.  “The stress probably wasn’t good on his heart, either.  Maybe his bank account hit the magic number to allow him to retire and he decided to actually enjoy what’s left of his life.”

“You’re probably right,” responded Frank.  “We should all be so lucky.”

As the meal moved steadily from one course to the next toward the main dish, a band played music from the 80s and the guests were treated to a video show chronicling John Smith’s career.

As the waiters brought out the entrée – a choice of prime rib or lobster – many of the guests noted John Smith’s absence from the event.

“Imagine that,” remarked Bill Jones.  “Missing your own retirement party.”

“John’s always been a pretty private guy,” responded Jane Doe, “but this certainly takes the cake.  Who would miss the opportunity to be honored by your colleagues?”

“John Smith would, apparently,” replied Bill.

By eleven o’clock, the party began to wind down.  In spite of the conspicuous absence of the guest of honor, everyone seemed to have enjoyed themselves.  The food, drink, and entertainment were all of the finest caliber – exactly what would be expected from something honoring such a great man.

The next morning, Bill Jones began to complain of food poisoning and began to experience a considerable amount of nausea.  In the middle of the afternoon, he dropped dead in front of his toilet.

News of Bill’s demise never had a chance to reach the other party guests.  Soon they, too, were experiencing the symptoms.  Two days later, 80 percent of the party guests were in the city morgue.  It was being reported as one of the worst cases of food poisoning in history.

John Smith smiled from afar.  His “retirement” party had been the perfect way to lure the elite contract killers into one place and expose them to a deadly poison.    Last year had been a slow year for business, but he anticipated a sharp increase in his market share.

Master Of The Obvious: Phoning It In

September 12, 2010

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This story features the debut of Detective Erin Harker – the famed Master of the Obvious.  Erin will be a recurring character on Fiction Friday, using the obvious facts to solve crimes – in much the same way as the great Sherlock Holmes.  Without further ado, Master of the Obvious: Phoning It In.


Dwight was jerked back to reality by the shattered window. In a single moment, the relaxation from a month in Europe was completely reversed. He was stick to his stomach – his car had been violated by a vandal.

Dwight noticed that the car stereo had been yanked partially out before the thief had abandoned his efforts. He breathed a sign of relief – the thief had been interrupted in the middle of the crime. He’d just get the window repaired and all would be right with the world.

A minute later, Dwight realized that the thief hadn’t run off with his tail between his legs. The stereo had been abandoned in favor of a tastier prize – Dwight’s Droid was gone. It would have been useless in Europe, so he had left it behind. Now it was gone for good. Dwight could feel nausea setting in.

Dwight jogged back to the terminal and found a pay phone. He hoped that a quick call to his cell carrier would resolve the problem. Wiggity Wireless was happy to suspend service on the phone – but not willing to waive charges that the thief had rung up. It was his phone, and his responsibility.

Dwight’s bad day got worse when the customer service rep informed him that charges of $2315 had been incurred in the last month! Dwight angrily hung up, infuriated at the worthless phone company. Why couldn’t they have a safety net – notifying customers of extremely abnormal charges?

Dwight’s next call was to the Bayside Police Department. The case landed squarely on the desk of Detective Erin Harker. Harker assured him that the thief would be in cuffs within 24 hours.

“24 hours, boss? That’s a pretty aggressive timeline – even for you.”

Erin laughed at the comment. “Oh ye of little faith, Jacob. They don’t call me Master of the Obvious for nothing. Let’s starting combing through the phone calls made from the man’s phone.”

“Sure, but what’s the point?”

“To identify the thief, of course. The 900 numbers will be of limited value, but the others could prove quite valuable.” She perused the list for a moment. “Here we go – a couple of long calls on consecutive nights.”

“So we just call this person and ask them who they were talking to? Isn’t there a slight possibility that they might lie to protect their friend?”

“Oh, my young apprentice. Must I do everything for you?” Erin ran a reverse lookup on the phone number and grabbed her own phone to make a call.

“Shirley Dowd? This is Detective Erin Harker with the Bayside PD. We’re investigating an armed robbery two nights ago. We have a couple of witnesses who have placed you at the scene. Where were you around 8:30 PM on the night of the 17th?”

“You were talking with your boyfriend on the phone for about two hours that night? Can I get his name – we’ll need to verify your alibi with him.” Erin listened to the woman’s reply and scribbled information on the notepad in front of her.

“OK, Jacob. The perp has been identified as one Charles Wilson. Can you run by his apartment and bring him in for questioning?”

The Bomber Pilot

September 6, 2010

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On this Labor day, I thought I would take up Kosmo’s challenge to write short story. For your enjoyment, a story called “The Bomber Pilot”

Forty four hours since they had taken off and just one hour way from home. Captain Andrew Decker was proud to be the pilot of a B-2 Spirit Bomber. Major Walter Hampton was his commander sitting in the left seat for this leg of the mission. They had been the flight crew for take off, the bombing run and now for landing. Captain Zachary Wetherby and Lieutenant Catherine Miller were the second crew sleeping after their trans-pacific effort.

Andrew loved flying and loved being part of the strategic bomber command. All those hot shot fighter pilots might get the girls, but he was home four nights a week in the loving embrace of his wife Rosalyn (Rosie) and playing with his kids, Emily and Andy junior.

Forty five minutes out. “Call for clearance, then wake them up,” Major Hampton ordered. “Little Rock, Spirit of Ohio, forty five minutes out, requesting clearance,” Andy broadcast. “Ohio, ping IFF,” was the instant response. Andy activated the identification device. “Ohio, we confirm, clear runway four nine, you are next in line, no traffic.” “Roger runway four nine, g’day.” Andy switched to the intercom, “Wake up, we are home.” Andy didn’t hear the groans from the sleeping area as they sat up and fastened their harnesses. They still had to de-brief before finally getting home to sleep. Cathy was single and lived in the single officer’s dorm, Zach was on deployment, his family was in Dover, Delaware. Andy and Walter had taken the last leg to be awake when they got home.

Andy remembered a Navy story of a sailor coming home after a long deployment. His letter home was “you had better meet me at the dock with a mattress strapped to your back.” The response letter was “you had better be the first man off the boat.” After two day missions, Andy felt the same way.

They landed and got through de-brief. The mission had been perfect. The target was verified destroyed, there was no politically incorrect collateral damage, and for once, the French agreed with the target. Andy had called home as soon as they had landed, and again after de-brief, but there was no answer. Rosie must have been getting Emily from school. They could never plan his return since is take off and landing schedule were classified. Oh, well, he would just surprise her.

The drive across the base to married housing was quick. Kids were out playing, other air force jockeys doing their things. Rosie’s car was parked in front of the house, she must have just gotten home. Well if she listened to the messages, she knew he was back, no surprise. He parked the bright yellow Corvette next to the little blue Prius and hopped up the steps of the front porch.

The front door was slightly open. That was odd, he would have expected it if the kids were out front playing, but they were inside. He pushed it open and called out in a booming voice “DADDY’S HOME!” There was no response. He didn’t smell supper cooking, didn’t hear the kids. He walked through the house to the kitchen and looked into the back yard, not there either. Maybe they were next door with the Wilson’s. Rosie and Jackie were best friends and the kids were about the same ages. Andy decided to clean up a bit before heading over. He went to his bed room taking off his flight suit as he walked. At the door to the bed room he stopped.

Rosie and the kids were lying on his bed. They looked like they were sleeping, but Andy knew that they were not. The spread was soaked with blood. It took him a long time before he could move, then suddenly he rushed into the room and scooped his wife up in his arms. He held her lifeless body against him, her blood soaking his flight suit and shirt. He stood, holding her and crying. He didn’t notice as his body slowly sagged down and he set her back on the bed.

When his world came back into focus, he had to do something. He ran next door and started pounding, screaming for Jackie. Jackie’s smile flickered on when she saw him, then off when she saw the blood. “Andy what has happened?” “They are dead, they are all dead,” he stammered between sobs. Jackie backed up and grabbed the phone. She called the base police without taking her eyes off of Andy. As calmly as she could, she told the dispatcher the address and that she believed that three people had been killed.

Andy just stood there, shaking and sobbing. He had been out protecting his country and he had not been there to protect his family. His energy gave out and he collapsed on Jackie’s porch.

When he awoke, he was in a hospital bed, clean, and dressed in a hospital gown. There was an MP outside the open door and a Colonel sitting next to him. “Welcome back Captain.” “Yes, Sir, have you found out what happened to my family?” “We thought that you might be able to fill us in on that Captain.” “I walked in, saw them…” he sobbed, “I tried to pick up my wife … hold her…” Andy started to cry again. “Hm, Captain, please control yourself. We would like to know what happened during the hour between your debrief and you arrival at the Wilson front porch?” “What do you mean? It was only a couple of minutes.”

“Captain, we understand the stress that missions can cause, we are just trying to determine what happened.” “I told you, I walked in and found them,” there was some desperation in his voice as he realized that the Colonel was suggesting he had killed his own family. The Colonel leaned close, “Captain, there was no forced entry, the knife was cleaned and in the sink, and the time of death matches when you were there. What happened?”

Andy realized then that the killers had heard his message. They had killed his family as he pulled up. He had warned them so they could get out the back door. He was now the only suspect.


September 3, 2010

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Austin was as ready as he was going to be. He took a deep breath and popped open the door. He exited the lavatory of the airplane and stepped back into the cabin.

The plane had been aloft for ninety minutes. It was cruising effortlessly over flyover country. Half the passengers were trying to get some sleep. The other half were reading books, solving Soduku puzzles, and goofing around on laptops.

Austin walked back to his seat, grabbed the empty duffel bag from his seat, and walked purposefully toward the front of the plane. When he pulled aside the curtain that separated first class from the unwashed masses, people finally noticed.

“Hey, you can’t go up there,” protested a flight attendant as she walked swiftly toward him. The dozing passengers began to wake up.

Austin pulled the pistol from the duffel bag and leveled it at the flight attendant. She stopped in her tracks, and Austin could sense the heightened level of anxiety aboard the plane. Austin could see the puzzled look on her face – wondering how he managed to sneak a gun aboard the plane.

“Come up here,” Austin commanded her. When the woman hesitated for a moment, he nodded toward the gun to remind her of its presence. This reminder was effective, and she quickly joined him at the front of the plane.

“OK,” he shouted. “This is how things are going to work. Tiffany, here –“

“Tessa,” interrupted the flight attendant,

“Tessa,” he continued, glaring at the idiot, “is going to walk through the cabin with my bag. Each of you will simply drop your wallets and jewelry into the bag. When we’re done, I’m going to leave, and nobody gets hurt.”

“Bullshit,” yelled a burly man in the middle of the plane. “You’re not getting anything from me.”

Austin turned the pistol toward him. “I’ll get it from you, dead or alive. Your choice.”

The man’s companion spoke up. “I think he’s serious, Merrill.”

“Yes, Merrill. I’m serious. Dead serious.”

Merrill slunk back in his seat and Austin tossed the bag to Tessa.

“Go,” he growled. “Start at the front.”

Tessa began the process of collecting wallets and valuables from the passengers. Austin kept one eye on her while keeping the other eye on the rest of the plane – watchful for anyone else who wanted to be a hero.

“Hey, necklaces, too,” he said to a woman with a diamond broach around her neck. The woman clutched the broach and gave a wistful look before complying with his request.

When Tessa reached the back of the plane, Austin strode down the aisle and jerked the bag out of her hands. He took a quick glance into the bag and smiled appreciatively at the size of some of the diamond rings. This would be a very nice haul.

“OK,” he said, “the emergency door. Pop it open.”

“We can’t open it in flight,” protested Tessa.

“Yeah, you can,” he replied, pointing the gun at her. A few minutes later, the door was open and Austin prepared to jump.

“Geronimooooooooooo,” he yelled, beginning his freefall. Austin was on cloud nine – in a few short moments, he would be on the ground with his treasure.

A few seconds later, Austin realized that he had forgotten one small little thing. His parachute.


August 27, 2010

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Editor’s note: my friend Lazy Man’s ongoing battles with MonaVie distributors was the inspiration for this story.  However, the companies, products, and people in this story are all fictional.  Keep fighting the good fight, Lazy!

Marco Pariso took a gulp of juice and settled into his rather uncomfortable chair in front of his rather ugly desk. The chair, the desk, and even the juice were absurdly expensive – pretentious products marketed to those with more money than sense.

Marco was faced with a serious problem. After several years of strong revenue growth, his company was facing a sharp decline. In this economy, fewer people were wanting to shell out $18 for a bottle of juice – even juice as fruitfully delicious as Panacea.

Even Marco was not immune from the downturn. This week, he had been forced to downgrade hair stylists to a bum who charged only $200. As he ran his fingers through his hair, he could feel the cheapness of the cut – how his hair longed for Rafael’s artistry.

Marco had decided to forestall the declining sales by ramping up marketing efforts. Panacea had always been marketed as having “more vitamins than you can find in nature.” Now the juice was being promoted as fighting swine flu, cancer, polio, and even AIDS.

Marco knew better than to have the company make official claims regarding these alleged health benefits. He had engaged the top distributors and suggested they start spreading the word unofficially by sending the information down the pyramid. Before long, thousands of Panacea distributors were claiming that the product could cure nearly every disease known to man. Because Marco had been smart enough to avoid putting these claims in black and white, he was confident that he would be able to keep the FDA at bay.

Sales had picked up for a while. Then those nosy internet bloggers began to take aim at Panacea. They claimed that Marco’s company was spreading lies about the health benefits of the drink. Marco had initially ignored the bloggers – merely annoying little gnats. Before long, he realized that some of these clowns had thousands of people reading their tripe every day. People were actually taking them seriously. When Marco looked at the sales figures, he could see a small, by noticeable drop in sales.

Marco decided to pick on the top blogger, Caped Crusader, in hopes that once the Crusader had been squashed, the rest of the bloggers would fall like dominos. Marco had his people publish fake studies all over the internet and had dozens of Panaceas distributors go to Caped Crusaders site and quote these fictional studies as the basis for Panacea’s health claims.

Crusader was a bit more clever than he had expected. He posted details about the visitors in order to show that all of the negative comments were coming from just a handful of geographical locations. He then went even a step further, showing that the sites which presented the studies had all been created in the same week and were all registered to the same organization.

Marco had been foiled again. Marco did not enjoy being foiled, and he began to plan his next move. Caped Crusader must be stopped – but how? Physical violence was distasteful to Marco, and so he pondered the ways that he could tie up Caped Crusader in court. A libel suit, for sure – and perhaps copyright infringement. He laughed as he made a mental note for his legal team to send out a cease and desist letter in the morning. That would scare the little shit. Crusader was probably some wimpy teenager living in his mom’s basement.

Out of the corner of his eye, Marco noticed a light in the distance. Within a few minutes, the light got much brighter. He went to the window and peered out. What he saw shook Marco to his core. The villagers were marching upon his mansion. The torches shed enough light that he could make out the faces of some of his former customers – and he noticed that they were carrying pitchforks.


August 20, 2010

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After thirty years on the job, Ronald Jensen was stepping down as the head sommelier at Greenwich Gardens.  The Gardens, as the restaurant was widely known, was a favorite hot spot of the upper class.  A hamburger, if someone would even consider ordering something so common, would cost about as much as a working person’s weekly grocery bill.

For decades, Ronald had been serving wine to the elite snobs who frequented the place.  Most of the time, he ended up giving recommendations to the clueless nouveau riche.  Many of these clowns didn’t even know whether to order red or white wine with a meal.  Ronald was paid a livable wage for his work, and the tips allowed him to indulge a few of his hobbies and build a nest egg for retirement.

Ronald knew that he was luckier than some of the other employees at Greenwich Gardens.  While he was treated as a second class citizen by the wealthy patrons, most of the other staff was treated like dirt, as if they weren’t even human.  This had been the sad reality when the classes were forced together within the confines of the restaurant.  The working class served the rich, and the rich looked down their noses at the workers.

Ronald thought ahead, to his life after retirement.  He was moving away from the city, back near his old home town.  He had bought a modest cabin near the lake and would spend his golden years carving duck decoys and catching up on his reading.  He wouldn’t live an extravagant life, but he’d get by.

He heard laughter coming from a table near the back and glanced at the group.  They were kids in their 20s who had never worked a day in their life, and never would.  Trust fund kids with millions in the bank and nothing in their heads.  They spent their days dining on lobster and foie gras and enjoying the best wines in the world.  They had done nothing to earn their station in life.  There was truly no justice in this world.

Ronald smiled at that thought that justice would eventually be served.  Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.  Likewise, those who cruise through life eating, drinking, and being merry would also have these vices become their downfall.  The wine cellar at Greenwich Gardens had also been home to some of the most valuable and rare vintages of wine.  Indeed, a few dozen of the bottles currently in the cellar were very special indeed.

Ronald knew that it would be at least a year or so before the first of the special bottles was uncorked.  He wondered how many patrons would die before anyone thought to look at Greenwich Gardens as a source of the poison.  While the poison was quite lethal, it was also slow acting.  It could take a few days before the victims felt any symptoms.  With any luck, Ronald’s special vintage would continue to kill people quietly.  Just one victim every year or so, stretching out his silent legacy for decades.

The Long Con, conclusion

July 18, 2010

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The final part of the three part story.


Murray and Smythe spent the morning analyzing the financial records of Wallaby, as well as the records of the foreign suppliers Wallaby was interested in taking over. The offer Murray had on the table would give Smythe a sizable ownership interest in Wallaby. Based on the past performance of the company, it looked like a solid bargain.

During post-lunch cocktails, Murray made a final pitch.

“In most case, I would never dream of taking on an outside investor. Unfortunately, my silent partners and I are stretched thin at the moment, and the banks think my plan is a bit on the risky side, given the financial state of the suppliers.”

Leonard Smythe nodded, not totally disagreeing with the opinion of the banks.

“If we can get the infusion of cash to take control of these suppliers, we’re going to have a very strong year. Our revenue has been on a steep upward curve for the last few years. But if we’re forced to renege on the deals we’ve made with the computer manufacturers, we not only lose that revenue, but the trust of those companies.”

“I’ve heard good things about you, Mr, Smythe, so I wanted to give you a crack at this. I’m confident that you would be a fair partner and would not put your own interest in front of those of the company. Unfortunately, though, time is of the essence. I have a meeting with another venture capitalist on Monday, so I’m going to need an answer by tomorrow.”

Smythe gulped the rest of his scotch and sat silently for a moment. “Silas, my boy, I’m seriously considering investing in Wallaby. However, we’re talking about a serious amount of money. I’ll have to sleep on it and give you an answer in the morning.”

Smythe headed back to hotel in the early afternoon, saying that he needed to make some calls about some other deals he was working on. He arranged to meet Andrea in the hotel bar once again.

The next morning, Andrea told Silas she was very confident that Smythe was going to come through with the money.

“I think our Mr. Smythe is a bit smitten with me,” Andrea told Silas over breakfast in the morning. “He tried to convince me to run away with him for the weekend”

“Did you agree?”

“Actually, I did. I thought it would give you some time to shut down operations and leave town. By the time Smythe smells a rat, all traces of Wallaby Industries will be long gone.”

Silas Murray smiled. “By the time he realizes that he’s being conned by a beautiful woman, his money would be sitting safely in the Cayman Islands.”

As Andrea had predicted, Leonard Smythe had his checkbook out when he met with Silas. He quickly signed the contract and handed a check to Silas.

“A million now, and the rest in ten days, as we agreed.”

Silas smiled and took the check, amused at receiving an old school form of payment. “I look forward to having you as a partner, Mr. Smythe.”

“Please, now that we’re partners, call me Leonard,” replied Smythe. “Oh, and if it isn’t a terrible inconvenience, I’d like to borrow your VP of Sales for a few days.”

“You kids have a good time. I think the company can survive for one day without Ms. Noonan.”

An hour after Smythe left the office with Andrea, Silas was at the bank. He deposited the check and left instructions to wire the funds to his Cayman account after the deposit had been verified.

Silas spent the rest of the day removing any trace of their presence from the location they had used as the headquarters for Wallaby Industries, including wiping for fingerprints. They had had upfront cash for the rent to avoid a paper trail. Silas Murray jumped on a plane and headed back home.

When Silas didn’t hear from Andrea on Monday morning, he got a little worried. When the funds hadn’t been verified by Tuesday, he got more worried. On Wednesday, he received a letter in the mail from Leonard Smythe.

My name is not really Leonard Smythe, of course, just as yours is not Silas Murray. I simply assumed the identity of Smythe for a few days, in order to use his credibility to gain your trust.

You conned a friend of mine several years ago. I doubt you remember it – it was just one of many victims you have conned over the years.

I took it upon myself to get revenge for my friend. You thought you were conning me out of my money, but I was actually conning you out of your wife. I made my sales pitch to her the first night I was in town. She’s tired of life on the run, Silas. I can give her a comfortable life without the need to constantly look over her shoulder.

Making our escape over the weekend bought us some time. Andrea knew that you wouldn’t get truly worried until the check bounced. She’s an amazing woman, Silas. You don’t know what you’ve been missing all these years as you focused all of your energy on the almighty dollar.

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