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DEATH PLEDGEA Novel
By Bill Walker
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Bill Walker
All right reserved.
Chapter One"This little bullet is called a Stinger, but I promise you won't feel a thing," said Murphy.
"Please stop," Collins cried. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I've told you everything."
"I know you have. I believe you. That's why I'm not going to hurt you anymore. In fact, I am going to ease your pain." Murphy feared that releasing the life force from this overweight, whimpering lawyer would not produce the adrenaline rush that Murphy so coveted-a feeling that was becoming ever more elusive. Only a defiant target with a will to live provided the adrenaline, power, and dominance that tasted so sweet and made Murphy so drunk with excitement. With each new victim, the feeling was becoming less and less intense. Like sex, there was nothing like the first time. No, there was nothing like the first time, but then that first time had been special. Down deep, Murphy knew that it could never be duplicated.
This killing wasn't much of a challenge. Collins had been easy to catch; had not put up anything that remotely resembled a fight; and, once in hand, had whimpered, cried, and begged for his life. Even though he was about six foot three, and-before this interrogation had begun-had weighed about 230, he had much too easily succumbed to the pain. Why were the big ones such pussies? What did they have to lose? If they would only fight back, struggle for a while, Murphy would enjoy it so much more. It was funny that those who loudly claimed to be so bad were often the biggest cowards.
"You're fortunate," Murphy said. "I'm going to show you mercy that I was denied."
Murphy walked over to the broken window and looked outside. Located more than three hundred yards off the rarely traveled gravel road, the abandoned house had provided the privacy necessary for this extended interrogation session. Even though there wasn't a cloud in the sky, the majestic Live Oak trees dripping with Spanish moss held the small house in shadow. The wind blew moderately and the limbs and moss gently swayed in the breeze. The weeds surrounding the house and the vines hanging from the trees and growing up the walls embraced the decrepit house, conveying a sense of peace and serenity. Like the brand name of the bullet, the irony of the torture occurring inside this peaceful looking structure was not lost on Murphy.
Inside, the room reeked of excrement, urine, and vomit. Because the house was abandoned, there was no electricity and thus no illumination beside the fading light leaking through the windows and the cracks in the walls. This day, just like the life of Jared Collins, was quickly coming to an end.
Murphy, after inflicting torture for nine hours, was satisfied that the target had not told anyone else of his unfortunate discoveries. "Why are lawyers like you so nosy? Why didn't you just go to work at nine, leave at five, and mind your own business like normal people?"
"I'm sorry," Collins managed to say between sobs. "I've told you a hundred times how sorry I am. If you let me go, I swear I won't tell anyone about you or about any of it. I'll stop practicing law. I'll leave the country. I'll do anything. Please just stop." As he spoke, blood and spit flew from the lawyer's mouth where his front teeth used to be.
"I know they teach classes on how to be an asshole in law school-do they also teach classes on how to whine?"
Jared Collins sobbed.
"And are all of you just naturally nosey, or do they teach classes in nosy too? Maybe you just fancy yourselves as modern-day saviors of the world."
Jared Collins was naked and bleeding from every orifice, tied at the ankles and the wrists, his hands, what was left of them, bound behind him. Murphy no longer thought of him as human. Instead, she saw him as merely an object of pleasure-a pleasure she had learned the hard way, when she had finally been able to do to her foster parents what they had done to her when she was too young to fight back.
Now her victim was no longer good for even that. Murphy set a thick telephone book on the floor in front of Collins and then placed a towel on top of the phone book. As she slowly walked around behind him, she put the .22-caliber bullet in the magazine, slid the magazine into the handle of the gun, pulled the slide back and released it. In the quiet of the rundown house, the sound of the small pistol slide cycling the solitary bullet from the magazine into the chamber of the weapon sounded as loud as the slide on a pump shotgun.
"Lean forward and rest your forehead on the towel," Murphy commanded.
As Collins complied, Murphy could see that he was so physically, emotionally, and spiritually defeated that even though he knew what was about to happen, he didn't care. In fact, Murphy knew that at this moment he yearned for the release that death could bring. She had seen the surrender in his eyes and heard it in his voice. She knew that Collins believed that death would provide the antidote for the pain, the struggle, and, most importantly, the horror that he was being forced to endure.
As was her custom, Murphy asked her last question, "Do you have any final words?"
"Please, I have a wife and two little girls." The plea was weak, half-hearted, and given with the obvious knowledge that it was useless.
The comment caused Murphy to hesitate for a second. "I'm sure they'll miss you."
Murphy placed the muzzle of the Walther P22 pistol in the small indentation at the base of Collins' skull. She positioned the muzzle just above his hairline, and angled the barrel so the bullet would travel from the base of the skull toward the top of the forehead through the medulla oblongata, commonly known as the brain stem. She knew that this, the most primitive part of the human brain, controlled the involuntary routine functions of the major organs, including the heart and lungs.
With one hand on Collin's back to make sure that his forehead remained in contact with the towel, Murphy slowly squeezed the trigger.
As the .22-caliber hollow-point Stinger entered the back of Jared's skull, it followed its path through the brain stem, continued through the bottom of the temporal lobe, then through the frontal lobe, exiting the skull at Jared's forehead. It then passed through the towel and entered the phone book.
The bullet only made it as far as the Ds.
Chapter TwoShe hadn't even begun and already sweat was beginning to run down her face and body. Thirty-seven years old, married, and the mother of two, Samantha could easily pass for twenty-six. At five foot seven, weighing 124 pounds, she was gorgeous. Like the ever-young Farah Fawcett, Samantha, with her high cheekbones, sandy blond hair, and deep blue eyes could have easily graced the pages of any fashion magazine. However, she didn't have the anemic body proportions of a modern-day fashion model. Samantha had the beautifully sculptured thighs and calves of a sprinter and the well-toned arms and shoulders of someone who regularly worked out with weights. As for her chest, that was a story in itself. Most men couldn't help themselves. Try as they might, they couldn't keep their eyes up.
Samantha Owens, or Sam, as she was known to her friends, had never desired to take advantage of her beauty. However, during her years as an attorney she had discovered early that any advantage, even an unfair advantage, was fair. While she didn't intentionally dress to accentuate her striking dimensions, she couldn't help it. Clothes just fit. High heels automatically enhanced the curves of her perfect calves and rounded hips. A blouse, whether tight or loose, showcased the contrast between her ample bust and small waist.
Opposing lawyers often granted her extensions on deadlines and other professional courtesies that her less attractive partners, both male and female, could never have negotiated. More than one judge had ruled in her favor on a close question in hope that the ruling would make him her favorite judge. Several of the clients that she had attracted to the firm came, at least initially, with the unrealistic hope of getting her in the sack. Sam was also smart enough to never let that happen. Even though she had been married for several years, she was still deeply in love with her husband, and she hoped she always would be.
She continued to stretch as she prepared for her run. Recently it had gotten harder and harder to keep her body in top-notch shape. Even though she was blessed with superior genes, she still had to run daily and work out at the gym every other day. She didn't mind the late afternoon runs; in fact she loved them. It was her way of releasing the stress that had built up during the day.
The workouts were a different matter altogether. No matter how hard she worked out, it seemed like her body was not responding as it should. Muscle tone became harder and harder to maintain. This had two effects-it pissed her off and drove her to work out more.
Her physical beauty also served another very important role. It helped to mask her intellectual prowess and her work ethic. Everyone who met her suspected that she had achieved her position in life, a successful partner in a small but very lucrative law firm, by virtue of her looks and not her ability. That was fine with her. Her opponents, the judges, and indeed almost everyone else underestimated the very real threat she posed as an attorney.
As she stretched, she thought back on the occurrences of the past week. Apparently she had been grossly underestimated yet again. She could not believe her good fortune. Either the lawyers who had given her the documents didn't realize the importance of what they contained, or they didn't think she would.
In either case, the documents had confirmed her suspicions and had provided her with the proof she had needed to go to the state banking commission. Her meeting with that agency three days ago had gone well, and they had assured her that they were going to take quick and decisive action.
Samantha had only recently been hired for the predatory lending case. Her client, Verlena Baker, was black, poor, and uneducated. Everyone called her Lena. Lena, a widowed sixty-three-year-old grandmother with custody of two grandsons, had come to Samantha with complaints of being misled into purchasing a house that was not worth anywhere near as much as she had paid.
Lena had been defrauded into spending fifty-two thousand for a house worth only twelve thousand. She had been charged 15.75 percent interest-9 1/2 percent over LIBOR, the London inter-bank offered rate used to calculate prime. In addition she had been charged a real estate commission, attorney's fees, documentation fees, mortgage brokerage fees, appraisal fees, origination fees, courier fees, recordation fees, and even something called "accounting fees" (supposedly to make sure that the attorney's calculation of fees was accurate). Since the fees were all calculated as a percentage of either the amount loaned or the purchase price of the house, the inflated numbers also resulted in grossly excessive fees.
Finally, to add insult to injury, Lena was charged for credit life insurance. The premium had been over five thousand dollars, adding nearly ten percent to the effective interest rate that she was paying. By law, the interest rate, along with certain fees, had to be combined and disclosed on a federal form called the "Truth in Lending" form. However, the credit life premium had not been included on the Truth in Lending disclosure and was thus a hidden charge. Even worse, it was a decreasing life insurance policy. The longer she kept it, the less it paid. In the event of her death, the policy would pay off the remaining mortgage. Samantha knew that simple term life insurance would have paid three times the benefit for half the price.
Also unknown and undisclosed to Lena was the fact that the insurance company that was required to supply the coverage was a subsidiary of the bank lending her the money in the first place. The bank was in essence being paid a premium to insure itself. The overreaching of the bank was ridiculous, thought Sam. The fact that the bank held a first mortgage on the house, a personal note from the borrower, and an insurance policy meant that they were triple secured and making triple money off the security.
It infuriated Sam that this type of predatory lending had sadly become more and more prevalent in the Mississippi Delta, as it had in the rest of the country. In this instance, as in most others, the bank had taken advantage of a poor, undereducated borrower. Because Lena didn't have sufficient income, she didn't qualify for a conventional loan. However, the mortgage industry had an answer for her in the form of a product known as the subprime loan.
Samantha had discovered in her review of the case that actually Lena's credit score wasn't too bad. She paid what few bills she had, although she only made seven thousand a year cleaning houses.
Now, thought Sam as she continued to stretch, at least the proper government agencies might get involved and shine some much needed light on this criminal practice. Sam couldn't wait to tell her partner, Jake Harlow, about her discoveries and the meeting she had had with the Mississippi banking commission.
Jake had been on extended "vacation" for the past month at a substance abuse clinic in southern Mississippi. Jake's battle with the bottle had already cost him his marriage, as well as the custody of his two kids. In the past few months his drinking had worsened. Finally after Jake had shown up drunk at work for the third day in a row, Sam had confronted him in the privacy of his own office. She had insisted that he voluntarily check himself in for treatment. "If you don't," she had told him, "I will sue to have you committed involuntarily."
"You wouldn't do that, you love me too much," he had said with a laugh. With that Sam had handed him the court papers that she had already drafted and then told him, "I do love you. That's why I have to do this."
As she began her run, she recalled the look on Jake's face when he first saw those papers. It was painful then, and the memory was painful now. After he had read them, she remembered that he stood frozen in place for what seemed like a full minute. It couldn't have been more than three seconds. He had then turned and given her a look that would have turned Medusa to stone. "Bitch," he had said as he threw them down. He stormed out of the office. Two hours later he had come back. "I'm sorry. Please forgive me," he had said.
"I forgive you, Jake," Sam had said, "but that doesn't change what you must do."
They had cried together.
He had been gone for six weeks now and was expected back in two days.
Sam knew that the prevalence of alcoholism among lawyers was higher than any other profession. The unique combination of pressure, excessive ego, victory, defeat, success, and failure combined with the simple fact that they dealt with other people's problems, often ignoring their own, led to a common flight to get lost in the bottle. Sam had long ago forgiven Jake.
For now Sam would have to calm her excitement about her discoveries through her daily jogging ritual. Endorphins, the body's natural narcotics, would enter her bloodstream about midway through her run, producing a natural high, Sam's substitute for alcohol.
It was a typical summer day in the Mississippi Delta. Even though it was 6:45 in the evening, the temperature still hovered around 92 degrees, and the humidity was above 90 percent. The air was so still you could hear a fly fart-just the way Sam liked it. She loved running in the heat to the point where she sweated like a hog, followed by a cold shower. The experience was truly rejuvenating. Afterwards, Sam felt purified, as if all the problems and evils of the day had been expelled through the pores of her skin.
When Sam left her house, she noticed the white Ford pickup parked four houses down, but she didn't think much about it. This was pickup country. From the cotton fields to the catfish ponds, agriculture was king. Around here, hunting and fishing were far more popular than golf or tennis. It seemed that every third person and his brother drove a pickup. Even Sam's partner Jake drove a pickup.
The occupant of the white Ford pickup truck saw Samantha Owens walk out her front door and begin stretching. Murphy had been watching the beautiful attorney for two days now from the relative anonymity of the Ford's cab. On both days, Murphy noted that Sam had left her house at about the same time and had followed the exact same route on her run.
Excerpted from DEATH PLEDGE by Bill Walker Copyright © 2010 by Bill Walker. Excerpted by permission.
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