A snippet from the beginning of Chapter 1 – PAYING RESPECTS
According to Raina, the funeral procession took place in late September 1922. It was a cold, windy day in Birmingham; the cemetery trees’ twisted fingers lay bare of their brown and orange leaves. Moving slowly among the colorful foliage that littered the grounds were many black-veiled mourners. Like the body of a long black centipede, they moved in a steady line through the rows of budding tombstones. Amassing around the gaping mouth of a freshly dug hole, a small crowd assembled on this dreary day to pay their respects to a fallen comrade and friend, Special Agent August Day.
Pale, white faces hung forward in sheer disbelief; their eyes rested wearily on the polished oak casket that centered the group. Floating just above the hole by a series of straps, the wood-lined shell gleamed with the bitter gray sunshine illuminating the stormy skies.
However, the whole formality of the tense situation was not lost on Raina’s father, Special Agent Francis Laurent. And even though he was a strong, professional man, his downcast stare spoke volumes to the hidden battle of surging emotions inside. Ranging from bitter sadness to flaming anger, Francis Laurent felt himself slowly being consumed by the need for vengeance. As he watched the pill-shaped casket descend into its final resting place among the other tablets of stone, he vowed solemnly to himself: No matter what, I’m going to bring those responsible for this to justice… dead or alive.
A snippet from Chapter 7 – A TOAST TO BETTER DAYS
A young woman wearing a beautifully fitting blouse that flows with each step taken and a black knit skirt that adorns her elegance walked into the restaurant and stood silently beside Marilyn at their table. Her amber eyes were sharp and piercing, her face trapped somewhere between grief and rage.
Francis turned in his seat to the newcomer and said, “This here is Lena, Al Baker’s widow. Al was the driver of the armored truck you and your friends decided to hijack. He’s the man who, against his better judgment, I might add, stopped to help you.”
“What a nice guy Al was,” Francis continued. “And what a shame he suffered such a vicious and merciless death. Isn’t that right, Marilyn?” Francis couldn’t help but smile as he watched Marilyn squirm uncomfortably in her chair.
“Okay, what’s going on, Francis? Why did you bring me here? To meet this woman?” Marilyn asked, her words now cracking under the pressure of the situation. Her once pristine makeup was beginning to smudge under the sweat. Her aura of promiscuity replaced by one of immense guilt; she felt the tide of panic inside, starting to swirl faster.
“Not quite. Lena’s here to meet the woman who had a hand in killing her husband and the father of her children. Seems only fair, right? You were one of the last people to see him alive, after all. I’m just the event coordinator,” Francis explained coolly.
Marilyn forced herself to look up from the table to Lena’s judgmental stare. “Look, I didn’t kill your husband. It was those other guys I was with. They are the ones to blame.”
“You were there, weren’t you? Why didn’t you try to stop them?” Lena grunted aggressively, speaking for the first time. Her body, from her though petite, stands tall as her brown hair moves with her in her suppressed anger. With her fists clenched at her sides, she awaits Marilyn’s answer as Lena’s gaze pierces into Marilyn with disdain.
Mouth already open to defend herself, Marilyn suddenly faltered to speak and ended up remaining silent. Overcome with remorse for her pitiful deeds, her gaze dropped back to the tabletop as she yelled, “I didn’t shoot your husband, I swear!”
“You helped pull the trigger the second you lured that truck off the road with your lies,” Francis quickly chimed in, plunging the verbal knife deeper into Marilyn’s straining heart. “Al stopped that truck because of you. Four innocent men died because of you. Loving families forever broken; because of you.”
Lena abruptly spat at Marilyn’s feet, her hands twitching by her sides.
“What do you want from me?” Marilyn begged, tears beginning to rim the dark lids of her puffy eyes. “An apology? Okay, I’m sorry. What I did was wrong. But you would have done the exact same thing if you were in my shoes, so don’t you stand there and act like you’re some kind of high and mighty princess or something. You trashy little…”
Marilyn clasped a hand to her wandering mouth to stop herself from saying more, immensely regretting the few words she had already spoken. Steadying her nerves, she turned in her chair to face Lena properly, summoning all the courage left inside her body. “Look, what do you want from me?” she reiterated, unable to stop herself from pleading with the angry woman.
Eyes still hard with bottomless hate, Lena unflinchingly said, “Nothing. I don’t want anything from you.”
Marilyn couldn’t hide her confusion any longer, “Well, what the hell are we doing here then?”
“I know exactly why I’m here, or should I say, what I’m gonna do,” Lena replied calmly. “I’m going to make sure you never have the chance to take advantage of anyone’s good nature ever again.” At that moment, there was no doubt in Marilyn’s mind that the young woman had ice running through her veins.
In one steady motion, Lena dipped one hand into her skirt pocket, revealing a small handgun. With impeccable reflexes, she slid over and quickly pressed the gun against Marilyn’s exposed windpipe. The sudden touch of cold steel to her delicate skin caused Marilyn to emit a desperate choking sound. But before she could properly react, Lena pulled the trigger. A loud pop echoed throughout the room as blood splattered across the girl’s face and decorated the front of Marilyn’s dress. The bullet shred right through Marilyn’s throat, a more than fatal wound.
Marilyn’s eyes bulged in stunned horror for the briefest of moments as she lifted her hands to clutch at the gushing wound on her neck. In slow motion, she turned clumsily back to the table, knocking her glass onto the floor where it smashed to pieces. She retched, gargled, and choked as the dripping blood from the gaping wound ran steadily through her fingers and soaked into the front of her dress. Marilyn swooned in her chair for a couple more seconds before finally collapsing forward, her head giving way to gravity and thumping loudly against the tabletop. A pool of maroon blood spread slowly across the white linen tablecloth and eventually dripped onto the floor, submerging the shards of the broken wine glass in her draining life essence.
No longer shaking with rage, Lena laid the smoking Derringer pistol carefully onto the table in front of Francis and said, “Thank you, sir. I’ll be able to sleep a little easier now that I know that my one of my husband’s killers has been brought to justice.” Lena then picked up a cloth napkin and gently dabbed at the specks of drying blood on her face. Once clean, she tossed the soiled cloth onto the back of the lifeless woman’s head in one final act of defiance. Without another word, Lena slowly turned away from the table and headed out the front door of the restaurant.