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Authors: William Hutchison

Dawson's Web

BOOK: Dawson's Web
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Lies are like a spider's web,

Thin strands of half-truths woven intricately

To catch the hapless prey.

Acknowledgements

 

Thanks to all my friends, family and fans that encouraged me to continue writing. Special thanks to my friends in Santa Maria, California, who provided valuable feedback, plot line ideas and in-depth experiences from which I drew inspiration.

 

Vern and Barbara your comments and editing were very helpful. Finally, to Mike, the cover design is beyond good! Your friendship made this journey fun as did your comments as I was developing the story. See you on the red carpet!

 

This is a work of fiction. Any reference to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

 

My mind is a playground. Sometimes the swings work, sometimes they don’t. But it’s all fun!

 

Hope you enjoy it.

Chapter 1

 

Charlene Messenger approached her white Mercedes, jammed the key into the lock, and twisted hard.

It didn’t turn.

Overnight the temperatures had plummeted to below zero, which was unusual for New York City in mid-October. A freak Arctic air mass had slipped down out of Canada following the jet stream that dipped into the Mississippi Valley and brought with it frigid temperatures all along the Eastern Seaboard. Across the Atlantic coast, roads, which had only two days earlier been covered with leaves, now glistened with half an inch of ice and snow.

Charlene worked the key back and forth a few more times, careful not to apply too much pressure lest it snaps off. Finally, it opened, and Charlene got in, started the engine and turned on the heat.  The frost on the windshield reflecting the bright morning sun made it impossible to see.

“Damn it!” Charlene exclaimed. She was going to be late for her appointment, and that just wasn’t in her plan.

Charlene was too hung over to get out and scrape the frost off, so she turned the heater up and began to check her email on her phone while the window defrosted. It was another wonderful fall day in the city, but it didn’t feel that wonderful to her. She dreaded what lay ahead.

Finally, a small patch, about the size of her hand cleared. It was not enough to see to drive if you were a sane person.

But it was enough for Charlene.

She’d take her chances.

She couldn’t afford to be late.

She accelerated out of the parking and narrowly missed a mother pushing her kid in a stroller. She screeched to a halt as she watched the mother giving her the one-fingered salute, scramble to the safety of the sidewalk.

“Damn it! What the Hell are they doing out so early anyway?” Charlene complained as she leaned forward to see to avoid another possible accident.

She accelerated slowly this time and began driving into her deepest nightmare.

It didn't seem right.

The sun was beautiful.

The day was crispy-clear.

It was the kind of day kids dream about when they are on snow break.

There wasn’t a breath of wind.

It was, in a word, PERFECT.

That message was lost on her. She should be snuggled in bed with the heater on. Instead, she was heading to Lower Manhattan and reluctantly drove on. She pulled her car onto West Highway, adjusted the visor to keep the sun from her eyes, and fiddled with the top of her blouse, exposing a peek of cleavage to make it interesting.

She looked into the mirror to check her eyeliner.

Her blonde hair cascaded over her forehead and a hint of taupe eye shadow peeked out through her bangs. Her white blouse hung loosely between her taut breasts.

She was a catch and she knew it.

So would the Mark whom she would trap with her charms.

Her job was easy and she was very, very good at it. But her work took its toll on her psyche. Dread was gnawing at her like a bulldog chewing on an old sock.

It was simple enough: drive through an expensive part of upper Manhattan; pull her Mercedes over to the side of the road and put on the emergency blinkers. Open the hood, loosen the coil wire so the car wouldn’t start and wait for her signal from Randy, who would film the entire encounter, from the greeting, to the meeting in the bedroom. They would then threaten the Mark with exposure if he didn’t pay. And ultimately, they all paid--one way or another.

Randall Chappelle was an entrepreneur’s entrepreneur.  He met Charlene in a speed-dating encounter only six weeks earlier and they had hit it off instantly.

She was stunning and Randy was immediately smitten.

He often went to these speed dating gigs to build his business, sometimes scoring a tramp he would use and abuse for a week or two in his hit and run blackmail schemes. Sometimes the financial arrangement he made with his accomplices lasted longer, but he was tiring of having to work so hard to keep in the business--same day, different hooker. He almost didn’t go that night, but he was behind on his rent and needed the cash. So he dragged himself to the seedy hotel in the Bronx where, for twenty-five dollars, he was guaranteed to meet his dream girl, or at least that’s what the ad said.

He had no idea he’d fall in love that night, but as soon as he saw Charlene, he was done. He caught a glimpse of her across the room as she strode in from the cold, tossing her coat nonchalantly to the bellman who handed her a ticket so she could take her place amongst the love-starved trollops and worthless hookers who showed up at these events looking for a free ride. When Randy spied her, she reminded him of an old girlfriend he almost married.  The resemblance struck an unconscious chord in him, and he forgot everything he came there for.

And he went for it.

She was beautiful.

She was, in a word, PERFECT, for him.

He had to meet her, so he walked up and introduced himself quickly, lest someone else grab the prize. His approach was awkward at best, and over-the-top at worst, but it was good enough to get her interest. They left the hotel for his apartment after little more than twenty minutes of conversation and spent seven hours together in bed getting to know each other.

That first night was unbelievable.

They matched rhythms quickly as if they had been making love for years. They both sensed it, but neither one said anything, not wanting to jinx it and break the spell.

That was six weeks ago. Now they both openly even talked about the “M” word, which is something Randy never, never, never, considered (not even in a million years). Hell, he was single. He loved his freedom. No way was he going to settle for one when he could have dozens.

No way, Jose’!

He wasn’t that bad looking himself, but he was no match for Charlene’s stunning appearance, which put him immediately on the defensive and made him want to act differently around her. He wanted to treat her with the respect he knew she deserved. He found himself actually fawning over her, which was really against his nature. Normally, in a new relationship, he played the tough guy, which is what added to his initial appeal as far as Charlene was concerned. But after sensing the change in her attitude when he turned on the charm, he was smart enough to tone it down a notch and act more of a bastard, which seemed to work better.

Women love bastards and bad boys. They want…no need a project. Randy’s instincts told him this about Charlene, and although he didn’t want to be that type of a person around her, he had to. Otherwise, he knew she would lose interest in him.

But he was mistaken.

In Charlene’s eyes, Randy had something no other man she had been with had. Randy had dreams. And he had ambition.  Only his ambition involved her having to do a modest amount of work, and him doing some long-range photography at first, and then some close-up work—the money shot--later. It was the ambition, not the bad-boy attitude that attracted her and made her sell her soul to him, and it’s what kept her with him for the past six weeks they had been together.

Their plan seemed simple enough. Drive to the Upper East Side where the prospects for finding a rich Mark were a lot better than other parts of Manhattan. She'd fake having engine trouble and she would wait--somewhat like a spider weaving a web waiting for the hapless fly.

And Charlene's web was irresistible.

How could any man in his right mind resist an opportunity to help someone as stunning as she was?

It was every man's dream -- the helpless goddess stranded on the side of the road waiting to be rescued. Stories had been written about such escapades.

Why, in Greece, thousands of years ago, ships had been launched to ravage Troy based on Helen’s beauty.

Charlene was equally as fetching though instead of launching ships, she merely attracted scores of men seeking to vie for her attention and to trying to get in her pants.

She loved that part of the job—the attention part, not the pants invasion part--in spite of the fact the latter wore at her psyche. She thrived on the attention paid her by her suitors. What she didn’t like was the guilt she felt afterward when she gave in to their advances to get her blackmail evidence, and it was that guilt which was bothering her now. Combined with the night of debauchery with Randy a few hours earlier, she felt bile in the back of her throat rising as she drove on.

She swallowed hard, still thinking about the life she had made for herself.

She liked that men found her attractive. It gave her life meaning, but inside, she knew there was something else.

She felt hollow.

There had to be something more.

She grew up thinking herself a homely child as a result of her abusive stepfather who would come home drunk and verbally abuse her when she came to her mother’s defense.

Charlene couldn’t even think or talk about those times now. She had buried them deep down in her soul, but they influenced her actions even to this day. She bore those scars of abuse until she was seventeen and then, with her mother’s help, they stopped it. They made sure “Dad” had a terrible accident one night after a binge-drinking incident.

The coroner suspected that Jack Messenger might have been pushed down the flight of stairs. But there were no witnesses. Jack’s Blood Alcohol Level was also 5 times the legal limit, so the coroner reported the cause of death as a “broken neck, resulting from a fall down a flight of steps.”

That one phrase was enough for her mother, Marie, to collect over $200,000. Unfortunately, she lost it in short order when she became involved with a stockbroker who defrauded her for every last penny.

The Messenger women were stunning, but they were also very, very unlucky. They were also not the “shiniest tools in the shed,” a phrase Marie used in jest realizing she should have said “sharpest tool in the shed.”  Her mom often undersold herself, which made her appear innocent and like a Pollyanna. It was that same flirtatious and faux-innocence which attracted that stockbroker who played her like a bad fiddle in a band, only to discard her two days after getting the money.

The loss of the insurance money at the hands of the Shyster drove Marie into a deep depression. Six months after losing it all, she committed suicide. This left 18-year-old Charlene to fend for herself. Charlene dropped out of high school at seventeen and had no marketable skills. This left her very few options except to move from one relationship to the next, sucking the life and money out of the men she met, discarding each after getting what she wanted from them.

But that was before she met Randy.

Now things seemed to be falling into place and she thought she might actually have a chance at a more fulfilling life after one final score.

That was the agreement she made with Randy.

Only one more score. Then it was quits.

She had always wanted to be an actress.

And, in her mind, that was precisely what she was doing now. With each new job, she rationalized she was studying how to become a new character as she was forced to act out different scenes for each Mark, depending on their circumstances and desires. For some, she would be dominant, telling the Mark just what was going to go down, playing to the little boy within who needed to be told what to do at every turn. For others, she would play the passive, helpless female, giving him what he needed to be in control and be the protector. Each role stretched her acting abilities a little more than the next and she was becoming quite adept at the chameleon caricature she was learning to be. This was at the expense of losing a little bit of herself in each new transaction. After each new encounter, she rationalized it was preparing herself for better roles. Each job was like being in a new play.

Every time she picked up a different stranger, she adopted a different persona and practiced several different accents, albeit, some were better than others were.  Her favorite was the young blonde Southern Belle accent where she continually threw out ‘y’alls’ and ‘bless your sweet little hearts’ like they were beads thrown from the floats at Mardi Gras.  And like so many other actors before her who loved to have their egos stroked and pretend to be someone they’re not, Charlene did things, not so much for the money, but for the attention.

After meeting Randy, not only did he provide the constant attention she craved, but also enough money for them to live a lavish lifestyle which she enjoyed. Hopefully, all this would lead to her landing a leading role in some off-Broadway musical.

And in the short time they were together, she was becoming used to the lifestyle, which is why she was determined to make her appointment, which, if traffic allowed, she would.

Charlene turned left onto West Side Highway and was only moments away from the spot they had agreed she would stop the car. It was only two hundred yards from the Battery Park high rise apartment Randy had borrowed for the day from a friend to secure a good view of Charlene’s first encounter with her unwitting Mark. The apartment was perched on the southern tip of Manhattan near the financial district and was surrounded by water on three sides. Battery Park City is probably the most picturesque waterfront location in all of New York City. Upper-class families and individuals who work in the financial district call it home because they can walk to work or bike along the Hudson.

BOOK: Dawson's Web
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