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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Check out Chapter One of "Scammer"

 Hi everyone! I will be posting some of my book "Scammer" on my blog. If you have any feedback positive or negative...please let me know. Some of the formatting is a little off kilter which I am corrected via Word. I will be posting additional chapters through the week. Thank you.


Chapter One
  My day normally began with a cup of coffee and the morning paper; yet today started out with me and my family being held at gunpoint by five masked men. I ran a Ponzi scheme; similar to the one ran by my predecessor, who is presently serving life in prison. My plan worked well for many years. I eluded investigations by the SEC and other governing bodies with ease. However, I made the mistake of taking money from a right-wing militia leader from the Midwest named Peter Bennett, who invested about ten million dollars with my company, JSM Finance. Yesterday he called, telling me he wanted his money; immediately. I told him it would take a few days. He hung up the phone and is now here, holding us hostage.
            These men had entered my upscale, west side apartment this morning while we ate breakfast. My wife Alexia, thirteen-year-old daughter Andrea and my eighteen-year-old son Brian were lined up, backs to the mirrored wall in the dining room. I was forced to sit in one of my piano-black dining room chairs, while one of the masked men who introduced himself as Peter, sat in the chair in across from me. I figured this was Peter Bennett behind the mask, which only revealed his eyes and mouth, but I had never met him so I couldn’t be absolutely positive.
“I asked you for my money and you stalled. You took it fast enough from me, yet you failed to return it when I asked for it. Obviously, something has happened to it. I do not intend on letting you rip us off.” He paused, took a deep breath and adjusted himself on the chair before asking me, “Are you going to answer my questions and cooperate?”
I tried to answer as my body inadvertently shook from fear. I nodded in agreement.
The well-built man dressed in a flannel jacket, blue jeans and a wool-mask continued.
“So, I see all this stuff on the news about you swindlers and I start to think. Maybe this man who has my money, who also lives in New York, is doing the same thing? Therefore, I begin to dig. And I dig and dig. Then, I happen to find a man named Scott Irving. You know him right?”
       I could feel rabid thoughts streaming through my mind as he told me this. Irving worked for me years ago, branched off on his own, started his own Ponzi in Frisco and subsequently fell off the face of the planet. He must’ve spilled the beans to Peter.
“May I speak,” I asked focusing my attention to my family who appeared dumbfounded.
They thought all along I was an investment banker and my work was legit.  
“Go ahead, talk,” Peter said as I tried placing his accent as western or southern. He was from Tennessee I believed, but I couldn’t decipher the accent.
“Whatever he told you is a lie. He stole from me and I let him off with a warning. I heard he started some investment firm in San Francisco,” I said knowing that he probably knew more about Scott than I did by now. I’d lost track of him, only picking up bits and pieces about him from colleagues in the industry who did business with him before his disappearance. There were rumors floating around that he turned over evidence and was in witness protection. There were other rumors that he stole from the wrong person and is now dead.
“What’s going on Jeff?” Alexia chimed in, as she had been surprisingly quiet up to that point.
I shook my head side to side, telling her, “Not now honey.”
She remained silent, yet had that look on her face that I usually got when I embarrassed her in front of her friends or family.
            Peter inched his chair closer, dragging it across my newly stained wood floor. Looking down, I could see it left a nice scratch, which I shouldn’t be worried about, but I was. The floor was made of mahogany and was recently stained and sealed.
“Your friend told us all about your operation from top to bottom. It’s quite funny,” he added as I turned my head away, his breath was horrible; a mix of tuna and onion I believed. “People like you, take money from people like us and mix it all together. You pay people with other people’s money while you don’t actually invest it. That’s how your scam works correct?”
My family looked at me as though I was a mass murderer. I wasn’t, just a thief in a suit.
He continued, “Scott told us that you were about to run off with our money and that I should get here as soon as possible. I didn’t fully believe him, you’re all thieves. He won’t be ripping anyone off anymore. He tried the same scam you seem to be running.” He paused, glancing over at his men before bringing his attention back to me. “Now, why would you take my money? Do you know what I am? Do you know what I do? Do you actually think you could hide and I wouldn’t find you?”
I swallowed whatever moisture was left in my mouth as my neck felt swollen. I needed to be smart. If I answered wrong, we were finished. If I answered right, we were probably done as well. It was a cluster-fuck. Like a room with no doors, there was no way out.
“No, you would find me. I’m sorry if I misled you.” I said feeling utterly helpless.
            Peter leaned back, looked over towards his men as one of them surprised me by placing a revolver into my hand. I didn’t know what kind it was; I wanted to ask but this wasn’t the time. Why had they given it to me? I couldn’t answer my own query as the gravity of this dilemma had reached new and unexpected heights.
“In your hands is your future. Simple, eloquent, destructive. I know maybe you’re thinking, why would they possibly put a loaded, .38 caliber Smith and Wesson revolver into my hands? The answer is simple, yet I will give you many choices.” He rose from the chair and walked over to the head of the table as I had my answer to what kind of gun it was.
“You have options my friend. First you can try to kill us all. I advise against that. There is only one bullet in the gun and you Wall Street types are not very adept at killing people. If you try, we’ll kill all of you. Second. You can use the gun on yourself. Your family will watch as you blow your brains out all over your expensive granite table. They will have that memory of your horrific death etched in their minds forever. If you do this, I will let them live,” I thought about interjecting to tell him with me gone, there was no way he would get his money but he was smart and may have it already. He continued as I stared down at the gun and thought how this was the most intelligent, hillbilly I’d ever met.
“Third option. You can shoot one of your family members. I don’t know which way would be better. Have them turn around and you shoot them, execution style from behind or have them look at you while you do it. Not only will they see the look in your eyes but also you will see the fear in theirs,” he finished as his goons seemed to like the third, chuckling and moving about in unison.
            What was I to do? If I shot myself, how would I know they wouldn’t have killed them anyway? I would be dead, so I wouldn’t. If I tried to fight back, there was only one bullet and the only gun I had ever fired was plastic and used water for ammunition. Option three. How could I? My dear wife, who I met in twenty years ago at college, married, had a family with, and adored more than anyone else. I couldn’t kill her. My daughter, who was just thirteen, beautiful, rebellious, smart and witty. She had so much to live for. Then there was my son. I loved him so much, but there was one thing. Alexia and I had a one-night fling with a couple while we vacationed in Vegas around the same time she became pregnant with Brian. There was always the chance that he wasn’t mine. I had questioned, but never could bring myself to have a paternity test performed to see if my suspicions were true. We all had blue eyes, his were brown. We all had brown hair, his was blonde. Most people would say how much he looked like me, but I never fully believed them. I wanted to believe, I really did, but I never could. As he looked up at me with those unfamiliar, brown eyes, my choice was clear.
            “Peter, I have an answer for you. But first, let me ask you this. How do you intend on getting your money if I’m dead?” I said believing I could reason with this man. He seemed intelligent, patient and collected. Hopefully he didn’t have the money already.
“Are you trying to bargain with me?” he said. He seemed annoyed, yet intrigued by my query.
“No. However, if it’s the money you want. How are you going to get it if I’m dead?”
He let out a sigh, shaking his head as he walked over to my children, patting each of them on the head, and rubbed his hand under my wife’s chin as she scornfully turned her head away from him.
“We stopped in Lincoln on the way to see you. A retirement home? Not a bad idea but easily accessible.”
This was bad. Not only had they gotten their money, but a good-sized chuck of the money in the pool as well. My earlier suspicions were true. Good thing I kept some hidden in Florida or I was really fucked. Bad news though, is that Peter has his ten million plus another two-hundred and fifty. They must’ve had a big truck as I had to smuggle it in bit by bit while I visited my sickly aunt at the nursing home. I had made friends with the owner; Gerald Steel, fattening his wallet in exchange for access to the downstairs rooms of the facility. The rooms were abandoned years ago when the home built their new wing above ground. People had been complaining about the elderly being forced to live underground like moles. Between the humidity and perspiration, their smell was worse than what they normally smelled like. Once moved above ground, the windows brought in fresh air to wash away the stench of the inhabitants. Meanwhile, I had access to the entire area. The only drawback was the smell, which even permeated through the bags I kept the money in.
            “So, now what are you going to do?” he asked, his patience appearing to grow thin by the strain in his voice. He checked his Bulova watch, so I knew they didn’t wish to stay any longer than they possible needed. “I already have my money and made quite a profit from what we took. Mr. Steel was most cooperative in telling us its location when presented with your current situation.”
Steel! That fat bastard. I knew eventually he would fold. I’d been planning to move the money later this year but hadn’t figured out where. I wondered if they killed him or paid him off. Either way, I could use the Florida stash to bargain with, which was much larger than the stash in Lincoln. I decided to wait before revealing it even existed.
“So what did Steel choose?” I asked out of curiosity.
Peter laughed. “He won’t be getting any Christmas presents from his wife this year.” he said drawing another round of laughs from his men who seemed to be his audience. They seemed amused by the slightest joke, although not funny. I felt sorry for Steel, even though he sold me out and was probably dead.
            “Enough stalling Jeff. I have my money and I have your money. I have other people’s money which you’re going to have to explain where it went if you get out of this alive. By the way, I failed to mention option four.”
I didn’t want to know what option four was but I had to know so I asked.
“We kill all of you since you didn’t choose one, two or three. Consider it none of the above. Now you have thirty seconds to decide or door number four opens.”
            Peter checked his watch again, which made me wonder why a man from the sticks would be wearing such a classy watch. I could feel a nudge in my back from the man behind me as they appeared ready to carry out option four. What was I to do? I had been going over the options since they were presented, with no answer in sight. There was no right answer. I could’ve taken the easy way out and shot myself. No, I couldn’t do that. Same with Alexia and Andrea. Brian was shit out of luck. But what if he really was my son? How could I live with myself knowing that I murdered him? What would my wife, daughter and everyone else think knowing I did that? I knew she didn’t have the same skepticism about him since she gave birth to him. I didn’t care at the moment, as long as I would still be alive.
“Ten seconds,” Peter said as the men rustled around, readying there weapons.
“Ok…I’ve made a decision.”
“Good,” Peter responded. “And with five seconds to spare. I was hoping you would have taken it down to the wire like they do in the movies. You know 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.”
I smiled as I told him, “I wish this was a movie and I could turn it off.”
            We had a real dilemma at that moment. This was the end all, be all. I almost wished that we would all die so I wouldn’t have to suffer the indignity of what was about to happen. I had an unpleasant feeling come over me knowing I was about to kill Brian, but saving Alexia and Andrea, as well as myself was the tradeoff.  Even if he was my son, one death to save three lives was acceptable; this was about sacrifice. Brian was sacrificing himself, by my actions, to save his mother, father and sister. A voice inside my head kept saying, “Keep telling yourself that!” The voice then called me an asshole. With all I had done, I had an express lane to hell waiting for me when I died, so why not speed up my trip.
“What it gonna be?” asked Peter, who was losing patience with me, cocking the hammer back on his gun.
“I’ll take the third option.”
       He eyes presented a bewildered look as the other men shared the same glances with each other. I could bet they were thinking how someone could be so cold, to kill one of his own. The cries of protest emanating from my wife and daughter drowned out any thoughts I had at that moment. The men had pointed the barrels of their guns at them, settling them back against the wall. How nasty I thought it would've been, to see the blood of one of my loved ones splattered upon it. What was more astonishing was that Brian didn’t utter a word of protest; almost like he knew what choice I would make.                                                                            “Who’s it gonna be?” Peter asked amidst the commotion that had just transpired.
I hesitated, thought about being the tough guy and taking one for the team. However, that wasn’t my style; I was selfish. I would sell my soul and everyone else I knew if it meant my survival. Women and children first was a fairy tale to me.
“Brian.”
“You can’t…Jeff….he’s our son,” Alexia cried out in protest as she had to be restrained.
“Dad, please,” plead Andrea as she huddled up against her brother for what was possibly the last time.
Brian was silent which made me proud. Surely he couldn’t be mine. The courage he displayed was a trait I didn’t have, thus confirming my beliefs.
“Ok Jeff. Put the gun to his head and kill your only son,” commanded Peter.
            I thought about killing myself again, but the same response from my brain told me no. The women were shouting, while Brian looked me square in the face, almost daring me to kill him. I shuddered, as the gun shook in my hands from nervousness. I nearly dropped it to the floor but was able to maintain control. I could feel my heart racing as I wished I would just have a heart attack, die and they would make that be option five.
“Can he turn around and face the wall?” I asked.
“No, besides there’s a mirror so it makes no sense.”
‘Please. I’m doing what you want; it’s the least you could give me.”
“Give you,” he shouted getting right in my face. “Give you. Let me tell you something. You’re lucky we didn’t come here. Beat you; rape your wife, your daughter and hell while we’re at it, you and your son. We are hillbillies after all. I gave you a choice. You had your chance. You could’ve decided to return my money when asked but no… you stalled. Therefore, we went ahead, took our money, robbed you and now you have to face the music.”                                                                                                                                        Who was feeding him all of my information? Scott Irving could’ve given him a little, but not that much. Peter must’ve got to someone in my office. But nobody knew about my plan to leave except for Stacey; my mistress. She must have talked. There was Sal as well.
Alexia looked up at me. “Is that true?” she asked.                                   
“Most of it,” I answered, turning my head as I couldn’t look at her out of pure shame.
“My god. Take that gun and kill yourself. Your dead to us.” she cried out as she looked at Brian and hugged him along with Andrea. “Don’t kill our son so you can live.” She had been putting up with my crap for years. The lies, the unfaithfulness, everything. She deserved better than what she got with me; they all did.
“Your husband was going to run off with all the money he’d been stealing from people and make a new life for himself elsewhere. I can’t believe he didn’t tell you. Why didn’t you tell her?” he said mocking me along the way. He knew about Stacey; he had to.
I was speechless.
“We’re waiting Jeff. Now.”
            I slowly aimed the gun at Brian as my wife and daughter closed their eyes.
“Jeff, do it now or we kill you all,” ordered Peter as he and his men pointed their weapons at us.
I looked into my son’s eyes and told him, “I’m sorry.”
His mouth remained shut. He looked up at me as though he understood what was going on in mind.
I closed my eyes, and squeezed the trigger.
My life had ended. All was silent.
I heard no bang, just the hammer clicking and the cylinder turning.
I opened my eyes. Brian was still there. Andrea and Alexia were still crying yet looked relieved as well as confused.
“Now the real punishment begins. The rest of your life will be filled with guilt. Your wife and children, especially your son will realize what kind of man you are. The fact that you would’ve killed your own son. All you care about is yourself. You don’t care about these people. Every time they see you, they will see a coward and most of all; they will never forget what happened here today. That you wouldn’t sacrifice your own life for one of theirs. I got my money and more and you’ll have plenty of people coming to get theirs soon enough,” he said finishing with a nod.
            Peter walked over to me, relieving me of the weapon. He opened it, revealing that it was empty. If I had only checked, but then again, I knew nothing about guns. He smiled as he and his boys left the apartment. I figured he would’ve told us not to call the police but he probably knew I wouldn’t. I went over to my family, attempting to console them. Alexia slapped me across the face and pushed me away. Andrea shook her head at me in disgust and Brian showed no emotion which was more confusing than anything else. Andrea held them both. “Stay away. Just leave!” she yelled waving me off.
I tried to get a word in but to no avail. I fucked up; fucked up big time. I went into the bedroom, packed a bag, and walked back through the dining room, pleading my case to stay with the same negative response. I texted my friend Mark who I was supposed to meet over twenty minutes ago at the coffee shop across the street. He was patient and was probably still waiting for me. I exited the apartment, praying that I wouldn’t run into Peter and his friends on the way out. I could still see my family grieving as I took one last look at them, closed the door and entered the elevator. The whole ride down, I was thinking about getting to Tampa and the rest of the money. I should’ve been thinking about Alexia and the kids but if I didn’t get to that money, Peters group was going to seem like a barbershop quartet compared to some of the other characters I’ve stolen, I mean invested money for. At least Brian was alive. For the first time, I believed he was my son and I hoped that after this was over, I could be his father.

2 comments:

  1. Wow Anthony what an opening chapter! Talk about opening with action and conflict.
    I think I would have preferred a lot of the opening paragraph to have been handled by dialogue or be fed in throughout the rest of the chapter.
    By the time I'd finished reading really I disliked Jeff (which I hope is what you intended). This might give you a problem later unless Jeff can show some redeeming features.
    I think you're holding onto something about Brian - I hope he figures in the rest of the story. The same with Alexia - she has the potential to be a really strong character.
    All in all a great opening - keep it up.

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  2. @ Chris Mawbey---thank you very much for the kind words Chris. Jeff is a real scumbag-pardon my french! This is more of a bad guy story as opposed to the traditional good-guy bad guy story. As i post more chapters, it will develop into what i think will explain everything. I had worked the opening pargraph literally twenty times and came up with this. Just waiting for cover art to be done and off to the formatting and uploading.
    Thanks for reading and commenting. If you read my last post and want me to interview you, let me know---

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