Authors: John W. Mefford
Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Crime, #Murder, #Spies & Politics, #Conspiracies, #Suspense, #Thrillers
Greed Series: Book One
Copyright 2014 by John W.
All rights reserved.
This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you're reading this book (not just the sample) and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Other books by John W.
The Greed Series
FATAL GREED (Greed Series #1)
LETHAL GREED (Greed Series #2)
WICKED GREED (Greed Series #3)
GREED MANIFESTO (Greed Series #4)
The Booker Series
BOOKER – Streets of Mayhem (Volume 1)
BOOKER – Tap That (Volume 2)
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For my amazing wife, Chris. My one and only…forever.
“Greed is a fat demon with a small mouth and whatever you feed it is never enough.”
Tiffany ran her French-manicured fingernails across his hairy, salt-and-pepper chest. Finally, she spoke. “You scared me. More than usual.”
He didn’t reply. This tryst had been especially rough. He turned his head toward her, licked her shoulder, then bit it.
Tiffany winced, her body hardened like petrified wood. A desperate, tormented scream pressed against her rigid lips. It took every ounce of internal fortitude to keep the pain within. She clenched her teeth so hard her jaw nearly trembled, attempting to shift pain away from the lesion, where mangled flesh dangled off her shoulder.
Tiffany’s choppy, sputtering gasps nearly matched the pace of her machine-gun pulse. Her hand was clammy from the shot of adrenaline, but she calmly moved it to rest on her hip without drawing further attention. Finally, a deeper breath.
The two of them lay totally naked on the industrial carpet, a splinter of light from the window now slicing the middle of his body, starting at his groin. Their bodies were pasted together with dried sweat, blood adding to the toxic mix, the latest wound possibly the deepest.
A mixture of scents invaded her faculties: a combination of sour, repugnant body odor and copper, old-fashioned aftershave, and the smell of sex. She held her breath for a second, but the repulsive stench hung in the still air. It made her want to vomit. But she was used to suppressing her bile, and every human emotion around this living, breathing creature.
The man’s enormous chest lifted, reminding Tiffany that while he wore a mortal façade, he used physical intimidation to get whatever he wanted, whenever he desired. A brief clip from the past shot through her frontal lobe—his calloused hand gripping her neck like it was a pencil, his throaty, putrid, breath spewing threats. She nearly gagged at the thought and quickly attempted to think of happier times—frolicking in the park with her dear mother, tossing a ball around with a childhood neighbor, sharing ice cream with friends at the end of a hot summer day.
But her tortured, brainwashed mind couldn’t break free from the endless loop, replaying the last fifteen minutes.
A single tear escaped and slid down her cheek, hung for a second, then dropped in the open wound on her shoulder. It stung and she chewed the inside of her cheek.
They’d left their marks on each other, like wild animals marking their territories. But they both knew the agreement—nothing visible to the public eye.
It wasn’t even noon yet, and as I approached the front door to our office, I could feel pressure building in my frontal lobe. An all-morning, off-site customer meeting had drained me. A single “brain-storming” session had morphed into a full-on customer bitch session. The kind that makes you examine your career path. The kind that makes you question your ability to resist the urge to jab a pen in the eye of the asshole CIO as he spits out expletives quicker than an auctioneer. I paused at the double doors, closed my eyes and rubbed both temples, seeking a calmer state of mind. “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home…” I repeated for no reason, although I chuckled internally.
I swung open the door and stopped two steps in. Something had changed, dramatically. The always fast-paced office of our tech company resembled a funeral home. The few people I saw moved in slow motion, their eyes glazed over like a bunch of zombies. I hadn’t seen such a lifeless, nonproductive group since a couple of months after I was hired, during the aftermath of 9/11.
I took out my phone and noticed I’d missed ten text messages. “
in Paula’s office?
” read one. Another said, “
Are u on the inside?
” The last said, “
B-day or memorial, do u know?
One of our interns waved me to the back half of the two-story building, where it appeared most of the company’s two hundred fifty employees gathered. People leaned over the second-floor atrium railing, but no one spoke louder than a whisper. I maneuvered around the throngs of cubicles and extra chairs. Along the path, I received a number of uneasy looks and a few worried smiles.
A mini stage and lectern had been set up against the side wall. As I moved closer for a better view, a sudden blast of music startled me. At least it wasn’t hip hop. The bubbly, strawberry-blond HR lady handed me a balloon and said there was a huge cake in the back
Paula and four men exited her office in single file. Jeffrey and William, brothers and co-owners, I knew. But I didn’t recognize the other two suits, men who strutted as if they’d made a significant contribution to mankind, chins held high, wearing broad smiles. But like many executives, their manner lacked authenticity. Paula stood to the right, hands clasped against the front of her gray dress, head bowed, solemn, as if she were attending a eulogy. William took center stage.
“Good afternoon, everyone. Today is an exciting day for all of us here at J&W Technology Services.” Besides the speaker’s flapping jaw, red and gold balloons were the only moving objects in the room. Stiff necks and frozen eyes fixated on the surreal scene. “In the last twenty-two years, we’ve grown this business from a three-person startup into a well-respected company. We’ve built a legacy of delighting our customers and giving back to our wonderful community.” He looked at his prepared notes, apparently expecting an ovation. Muffled coughs and the hum of the decades-old furnace filled the dead air.
“Jeffrey and I have had the honor of working with many of you personally over the years, watching you have families, seeing your kids grow up. It truly has been a blessing for us.” I thought I heard him say “a blessing for my bank account,” but realized my cynical subconscious had planted words in my mind.
“The time has now arrived to take this company to another level, a level Jeffrey and I aren’t capable of directing. We’re absolutely thrilled to have found a new team to take the reins of our, or rather, this magnificent company. With J&W attached to their other service offerings, the new company will create one of the most effective end-to-end providers in the region.”
Heads swiveled side to side, as a sea of puzzled, confused, even scared eyes searched for an anchor. A couple of obvious brownnosers arched their backs to gain even the slightest political advantage. Next to me, Reinaldo, a mid-level manager peer of mine, scribbled something on paper, his thoughts presumably somewhere else. The words appeared to be in his native Portuguese.
William announced our new owner, PHC–Patel Holding Corporation. Go figure, an Indian-based conglomerate. The chairman of the international technology company,
Patel, gave an uplifting speech…to the one PHC employee standing next to him on the podium. I resisted the impulse to walk out on our new leader. My radar was up, taking in every word, phrase, and gesture.
“In closing, I’d like to say that, while we complete the merger of these two great companies, I can assure you we value your significant contributions and look forward to working with you to help build this arm of the business, now a part of our family, PHC.”
led his own applause.
I felt like I’d been sucker punched in the kidney.
The pandemic wave of corporate takeovers and pillaging had swallowed up my company. I was only a pawn in a game amongst the powerful and rich, and the bullshit promises and half-truths exponentially amplified my cynicism. The suits keep you hooked just long enough to make the integration as seamless as possible. A few employees would survive, but only after new management turned us on each other, like mice eating their young.
“I heard the news, Michael,” Marisa said. “I’m so sorry Jeffrey and William sold out.”
My shoulders sagged and my spine slumped, carving at least a couple of inches off my six-foot one-inch frame. I dropped my keys on the nearest table and put my head on Marisa’s shoulder, like an innocent child clinging to his sympathetic mother.
“I know, I know.”
I’d never evaluated my personal investment in J&W, especially the relationships developed during my twelve-year run. Surprisingly, my heart ached when I thought about the connection with my colleagues, and the customers, even the tough-minded ones like Jeanne Greenberg. Those would all be swept away, just like our jobs.
Marisa and I sat on our deep, plaid couch and stared at nothing, lost in our own thoughts.
I’d been using our lack of financial stability as the main justification for not leaping into marriage, convincing Marisa we’d know when the time was right, once we cleared enough hurdles. Now, the falling dominoes had hit an impediment.
“You know I love you, don’t you?” I hoped my affirmation would ease her concerns.
“I know. Ditto.” She stared straight ahead.
I’d conjured up many excuses for not fully committing to relationships or anything of substance in my thirty-four years. If anyone had ever heard my most private thoughts and beliefs, they’d consider me a loner. But I faked it, which allowed me to live in emotional anonymity. Marisa’s desire to share her feelings and persistent encouragement for me to do the same put her on the border of breaking through my last, yet thickest piece of ice. Still, my subconscious protected me, elusive and slippery as a breakaway glacier.
I pulled a loose thread on the seam of the cushion and envisioned my professional situation for the next several months. I knew I couldn’t endure this turmoil without Marisa.
She turned her entire body toward me. “We had a plan,” she said. “And now?”
More silence. I could feel my heart beating against my chest. I wasn’t good at addressing the future—it meant dealing with my most guarded weakness, commitment. I couldn’t formulate another coherent phrase.
Marisa must have sensed my anxiety. She leaned over and massaged the pockets of stress and uncertainty out of my back. Her fingers tickled my rib cage, squeezing laughter out of me. Her hands homed in on the hardest knots, and I groaned from the perfect distribution of her pressure. Then her hands created another point of pressure. She led me to the shower.
The soap lathered as we rubbed our bodies together. Her lips and tongue danced with mine. She laid the palms of her hands on the side of the glass shower wall, droplets bouncing off her swimmer’s back. I cupped my hands around her succulent breasts, then spanked her backside.
“Oh, Doyle, you going to play that way?” She turned and wrapped one leg completely around my lower torso and kissed me passionately. She was a phenomenal kisser.
Never once separating our bodies, we moved to the bed and continued our lovemaking. I gently kissed the erogenous spots across her entire body, generating goose bumps from her athletic shoulders down to her long, shapely legs.
Unselfishly, she relieved my tension, and we cemented our loving bond. Spooning each other, Marisa drifted off to sleep.
Marisa chose not to persuade or coerce me into a long-term obligation. She understood. I couldn’t think about our future until I dealt with the present. She’d given me another reason to respect and admire her.
Reassured and comforted my foundation was intact, I knew I needed to address my reservations toward commitment…at the appropriate time. For now, I had to face the fear of the unknown.