“Revenge is like a rolling stone, which, when a man hath forced up a hill, will return upon him with a greater violence, and break those bones whose sinews gave it motion.” Jeremy Taylor
Home of Dominic Luca – Morning –
Luca wasn’t quite ready to write last night’s dinner off as a complete failure, but it was close; it was, memorable as Nia had called it. That was putting it mildly and she was too much of a lady to call it by its real name. It was a nightmare. His father was an ass and his brother seemed to enjoy the train wreck as it unfolded in real time.
Carl Luca, a veteran SWAT officer had never made it a secret on how he felt on certain things and to see his son’s new girlfriend irritated him to no end. Too dark and too determined, he’d whispered to himself as he watched her wrap her hands around his son’s pale arm. It was an act of defiance, nothing more the elder Luca insisted and he would not be forced into accepting it; no lasagna dinner with family would change his mind.
The meal was eaten in relative silence with Terry and Dom catching up on each other’s lives with Nia laughing at the two trying desperately to one up each other with cute stories from their childhood.
She wasn’t fooled, and Luca knew it, but she had already been warned and she’d assured him, that she was a big girl; men like his father were more the norm than the exception. Still, Luca foolishly hoped that perhaps age had softened the old man and maybe even loosened the worn, tattered strings around his heart. He was wrong. The strings around the old man’s heart were made of tough, rusty barbed wire, built to survive the test of time and any attempts to loosen its grip would not work.
There was no changing his father, he was who and what he was and as Nia reminded both Luca and Terry when the evening had ended, the old man had every right to be who he was, and to believe whatever he believed no matter how wrong it felt to them.
Home of Hondo Harrelson –
Jessica had called him last night and so Hondo knew about her meeting this morning with Herman Lauder. He was against it, but she insisted that it was the next move in the government’s plan against the man. It was important to drive a wedge between him and Maurice Jamison; the sooner the better. If they could get the two to turn on each other, their case would be sealed.
Still, Hondo’s gut was restless and all he could see was danger. Jessica was smart and he knew that, but his gut feelings insisted that she was walking into something that she had no possible way of predicting or controlling. Even worse, if things went south, Jessica would be alone.
20 years ago…
Mt. Hope Hospital – Los Angeles, CA – Morning –
“I’m sorry, Mr. Lauder, I wish I had better news.”
Herman turned and watched as his father sat quietly digesting the news. He’d always admired his father for his strength and this moment was no different. He’d built an empire, one that he’d leave one day for his son to run. The immigrant’s wealth had defied the naysayers and men more powerful and wealthier, envied the senior Lauder. His wealth and success had placed a target on his back, but fate had beat all of his enemies to the punch. The prognosis felt like a fist to his gut, yet he sat unmoved.
“How much time do I have, doc?”
“Six months, maybe more, maybe less.” The doctor replied remorsefully.
“Isn’t there some new experimental treatment, or drug, clinical trials, anything?” Young Herman asked.
“No son, it’s okay. Dr. Berkowitz is the best and if there was something more out there for me, he’d tell me, right doc?”
His father never shed a tear. It was as if the doctor had just given him a clean bill of health as he stood and steadied himself on his feet. Herman wanted to cry, after all, who would blame him and who would consider him weak? But like his father, Herman didn’t shed a tear; not one. The tearless stoned look on his son’s face as the two walked side by side out of the office, gave the elder Lauder the assurance that his son had learned the lessons that he’d spent the last thirty years teaching him.
Herman’s father was dead in three weeks and as he lay on his death bed, Herman renewed his promises to restore his father’s name and to destroy the men and the city who’d turned their backs on him. He’d make them pay, all of them, if it took his last breath.
Office of Herman Lauder – Morning –
Today would have been his father’s birthday, instead it was also the anniversary of his father’s death. The doctor’s diagnosis of stage four colon cancer had been blamed for his death, but Herman begged to differ. He believed that his father’s heart had been irreparably broken by the accusations of men with ulterior motives; motives of greed that had caused his father’s life to end prematurely and unjustly. So, today like every other day but especially on the day of the year that marked both the beginning and the ending of his father’s life, Herman felt angry and determined but most of all, he was distracted.
Herman heard her heels against the tile floor coming closer; he checked his watch, seven-fifty-five. Right on time, he was impressed.
Jessica inhaled and knocked lightly on the open door. Her boss looked up and smiled, waving her inside.
“Good morning, please come in.”
“Thank you.” She replied.
“Have a seat.”
Jessica took the seat in front of the desk and waited for him to sit down.
“So, what’s so important that you had to talk to me in person?”
Jessica handed a file across the desk. Herman took the file puzzled, and slowly opened it. His eyes widened before he closed it and set the file on the desk in front of him.
“Are you sure about this?” He asked.
“Yes, sir. I’ve check and rechecked a dozen times.”
“Damn! I can’t believe he’d steal from me! We’re like brothers and he knows that there’s nothing I wouldn’t give him or do for him, so why?”
“Maybe there’s some other explanation?” She asked innocently.
“One thing I learned in school is that numbers don’t lie.”
The Grimy Grinds Café –
Maurice rolled down the window as the shapely caramel-colored woman approached his car. It had been a while since they’d spent time together and watching her hips sway from side to side, an obvious reminder of what he’d been missing, awoke his animal nature. Maurice moaned promising himself that he would make a point of getting together with the woman soon.
“Hey baby.” She drawled.
“Hey Keisha, you’re looking good girl.” He responded.
Smiling, satisfied that she had gotten her point across, she handed him a file through the window. Just as he suspected Jessica Arrellano was not who she claimed to be.
“Is there anything else, you need baby?” She winked as his smile broadened.
“You know what I need but I have some business to take care of.”
“Does it have anything to do with that report?”
“Yeah, yeah it sure in the hell does.”
“Well, call me when that business is handled. I been missing you, Mo.”
“I miss you too, Kee. Don’t worry, I’ll be calling real soon.”
And with that assurance Keisha turned and sashayed away out of sight. Maurice shook his head in glee and started his engine.
Federal Building – Office of SSA Bruce Hammerlind – Director, Special Task Force Against Domestic Conspiracies – 7 a.m.
SSA Hammerlind slammed the phone down. He couldn’t believe what he had heard. The federal government had a system in place that alerted them whenever one of their agents came up in a forensic request. His heart stopped, he’d assured Sgt. Hondo that she would be safe, that she could handle herself, that every precaution to protect her cover had been taken. He was wrong.
The next number was one he didn’t want to make.
Lauder Enterprises –
Jessica breathed a shaky sigh of relief as she neared her office. The seed had been planted, now all she had to do was wait.
Maurice rushed through the office door without invitation. Herman looked up with fire in his eyes. Maurice was too excited to notice.
“Boss…” He began.
“You stole from me, Maurice?”
Stealing was the last thing he ever expected to be accused of. Herman handed him the file.
“What the hell is this? You know me, we’re like brothers! Ain’t no way in hell I’d steal from you!”
“Then explain those figures!”
“Let me guess, your wonder bitch did this, right?”
“Are you saying these deposits and withdrawals are fake?”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying!”
Maurice slammed his file on the desk and stood waiting for his friend to pick it up.
“She’s a cop! That woman who you’re willing to believe over me is a federal agent!”
Herman looked at the report; it was indisputable. His face was flushed, red with furry. He didn’t know what to say to the man who’d done nothing but protect him all of his life.
“I’m so sorry, Mo. I knew you wouldn’t betray me but when I saw…”
“I know how it looked, man but you know me! I’d die for you! I’d die for you, man!”
“I know. You’re the only one in this world who has my back. I’ll make it up to you, I promise!” Herman pleaded.
Maurice closed his eyes trying to cool off. He’d make her pay, but first he’d make her suffer.
“Where is she? She’s mine now and you better not try to stop me either!”
Herman nodded, still ashamed for thinking the unthinkable about his lifelong friend. He wouldn’t stop the man who loved to cause pain, loved the sight of blood and loved the sight of life leaving another human being’s body.
Hondo raced frantically toward Lauder Enterprises. He’d gotten the call from Jessica’s supervisor. He had to go, and he wasn’t going to let anyone stop him. No one did. Both Hicks and Hammerland knew if anyone could reach her in time it would be Hondo.
Jessica had gotten a text; her cover had been compromised. She hadn’t seen the message until she’d gotten back from her meeting with Lauder. Grabbing her computer and her bag she turned toward the door, nearly running into Maurice.
“Going somewhere?” He asked eerily calm.
His large powerful hand was a blur racing at the speed of light toward her, crashing across her face. Her small body slammed into the dark abyss as her tiny body crashed to the floor before she had a chance to answer.