Excerpt from ‘Jagged Grass’

Paul Lorio was sitting at his desk sorting through budgets for the proposed landfill project with the Seminole Tribe. Unknown to the Tribe, he was a mafia boss, a man to be reckoned with. He always got his way and when he didn’t, people usually didn’t live to talk about it. He was ruthless and cunning, yet suavely friendly and charming. Unlike most bosses in his position, he believed in using proper language most of the time and thus, refrained from swearing. He believed it was pointless and often remarked there were better ways to express one’s ideas.

The intercom on Paul’s desk suddenly crackled to life. “You have a telephone call on line two Mr. Lorio,” the secretary said.

“Who is it?” Paul asked.

“It’s a Mr. Billie Panther with the Seminole Tribe of Florida sir,” she replied.

“Excellent,” Paul said. “Put him through and hold all other calls. Also, call Ms. Sandow and tell her that we need to talk immediately.”

“I’ll take care of it,” the secretary said.

As Paul picked up the telephone, he swiveled a half circle in his chair and stared out the large plate-glass window in front of him. His view was filled with the ugliness of an unsightly landfill. Fortunately, the glass kept out the stench that went with it. Bulldozers were pushing heaps of trash; trucks rushing to and fro, dumped even more trash. Here and there, flocks of frenzied sea gulls fought each other for choice morsels of New York’s finest garbage. The view was in stark contrast to that of the primeval beauty of the Florida Everglades. None of this mattered to Paul. He was a businessman; the only thing that mattered was the money he could make on this venture. The amount promised to be substantial.

“Billie, it’s great to hear from you,” Paul said. “Have you and the tribal government made a decision about the landfill operation?”

“It looks like it’ll be a go,” Billie said. “However, I have two council members who want additional information.”

“What can I do to help?” Paul asked.

“Send down several more copies of the environmental impact studies and arrange a presentation between your people, the state, and our council officials,” Billie said. “That should convince them.”

“That will take some doing on this end,” Paul said. “Are you sure it’s necessary?”

“There is absolutely no way to sway these two men if you don’t,” Billie replied. “If you do, the project is in the bag. Don’t let me down Paul; I have a lot riding on this.”

“Likewise, my friend,” Paul said. “We both have a lot to lose.”

At that moment, two of Paul’s associates, wise guys of the darkest order, Mike Crandell and Blayde Incitti, dragged a man into the office and placed him in a chair directly in front of Paul’s desk. The man was in great pain, having already been nearly half beaten to death. Paul glanced over his shoulder at the trio and held up one finger for silence. Waiting, Mike and Blayde positioned themselves on either side of the man who was handcuffed, slumping forward in the chair.

“Consider it done,” Paul said. “I’ll have my associates get to work on it right away and make the necessary arrangements. Don’t worry my friend.”

As Paul talked, he leaned over to the windowsill in front of him, grasped a small box and placed it in his lap. Opening the lid revealed a 9 mm Beretta pistol and silencer. He casually screwed the silencer onto the barrel.

“Alright,” Billie said, “I’ll continue to discuss the operation with the council and arrange a meeting. Keep in touch.”

“I’ll contact you as soon as I’ve made the necessary arrangements,” Paul said. “Ciao.” Paul hung up the phone and signaled to Blayde to close and lock the door behind them.

“Here’s the scumbag boss,” Mike said. “Do you want us to waste him for you?”

Paul still had his back to them as he spoke, not answering Mike’s question.

“I don’t like traitors,” Paul said. “You stole money from me and my clients. What you did tarnished my reputation. My boss found out and has asked me to correct the problem. I have repaid him, but one small matter remains—Paul paused as he spoke. What do you have to say for yourself?”

“I needed the money,” the man replied. “My wife and kid need to eat.”

“To hell with your wife and your bastard kid,” Paul said. This has nothing to do with them; it’s business. Your explanation is unacceptable.”

“I promise I won’t do it again,” the man said. “Give me another ch…”

The man stopped in mid-sentence as Paul swiveled in his chair to face him, gun in hand.

“If I give you another chance, I lose,” Paul said. “I never lose. I’ve already lost money, but this will repay the debt.”

Paul squeezed the trigger and put a bullet through the man’s forehead. The lifeless body jolted backward into the chair from the force of the bullet penetrating hard bone. Only a trickle of blood ran down the man’s forehead onto the front of his shirt.

“Blayde, dispose of that trash,” Paul said. “Put him in the usual place. I do not want any traces. Mike, go with him. When you’re finished, get rid of the wife and kid. There is no telling what he’s told them and that could be a liability we shouldn’t have to deal with. When you’re through, the secretary has some plane tickets for you. I want you to go to Miami and check out Panther. I want to know everything about him and the other council members that make up the tribal council. There are millions at stake here. If you screw this up, you’ll be joining your friend there.”

“No problem boss,” Mike said nervously, glancing at Blayde. “We’ll make sure everything’s taken care of.”

Mike and Blayde took the corpse out the back entrance and loaded it into the trunk of their car.

Excerpt 1 from ‘The Transparency’

The isolated docks on the edge of the harbor in Hong Kong were empty. At 2:00 am, only a few prying eyes were up, who knew if they talked, death would visit their door before sundown. The seven figures standing in a semi-circle beneath the dock lamp, which cast a perfect circle of light around them, seemed oddly out of place. Rain drops passing through the light looked like falling diamonds before spattering onto the wooden planks.

The leader of the seven men was easy to recognize, standing in the center of the group, talking to a man on his knees, head bowed, hands tied behind him. He was dressed in a camel hair overcoat and tan Panama hat, wearing a gold watch. His right hand rested atop a straight, ebony, lacquered walking cane with a golden foot tip and a handle shaped like a dragon’s head, the body wrapping around the cane downward about six inches. His hands were perfectly manicured. It was obvious he was a man to be reckoned with. One of the seven figures was slowly walking in front of the group and behind the kneeling man. It was obvious she was a woman, hair falling almost to the waist. She stopped and stepped back into the shadows, waiting.

“You have placed the organization in great jeopardy,” the leader said.

“That was not my intent.”

“What do you call it?” the leader asked. “After all, you were talking to the Hong Kong Police Force. You were giving them information.”

“Only to trap them,” the man said shakily, knowing there was no satisfying explanation for divulging information to the police.

“We have already taken care of your handler,” the leader said. “You know the penalty for what you have done.”

“But I have a family,”

“We all have families. If you truly had their welfare at heart, you would have obeyed our rules instead of being so greedy. We have always taken care of you.”

The woman stepped out of the shadows. Passing by the leader, he handed her his cane as she continued walking without interruption until she stood behind the kneeling man. Glancing from beneath the brim of his hat, he gave the woman a slight nod. Instantly, she pulled the dragons head and the cane separated into a sword and scabbard. The drawing motion of the sword made a distinctive click and slide as she swiftly drew in one motion stopping with a one-handed high hold. The light had caught the draw, the blade gleaming as it hovered for the briefest instant in the air, rain drops striking its surface before it rapidly descended in an arc. In one motion the sword had been drawn and brought down, the man’s head dropping onto the planks as his body collapsed, blood oozing quickly from the neck onto the wood, dripping through the cracks.

Looking at her handiwork, the woman placed the blade on the man’s clothing, pulling it toward her, cleaning the blood as she turned the blade over and repeated the motion. Sheathing the sword, she handed it to the leader then, bent over and picked up the man’s severed head. The men around her, despite having dealt death themselves, felt squeamish as they watched, wondering why she seemed to enjoy it so. They would be glad when this night was over.

“Ummph,” she muttered, as she held the head up and then, dropped it by the fallen body, casually backing away into the shadows, the others looking after. The leader knowingly grinned as the woman’s panting decreased, a smile of satisfaction on her face. He was about to introduce to these men who she really was. . . . .

Excerpt 2 from ‘The Transparency’

. . . . “Note the order of the artifacts,” the Medicine Man said. “When petitioning the Great Spirit for the people, the order must not vary. Now, close the circle until the artifacts touch each other, like a five-pronged wheel. Hold the root, the dii potentia until last. Now we must pray.”

The five pieces of artifacts began to glow blue and then gold, a wavy gold mist, like the flickering of a flame shooting up about a foot into the air.

“Oh, Great Spirit,” the Medicine Man petitioned. “We come before thee to make this place of worship sacred, so that it’s ground may be hallowed, a place of worship for the people and those who would help us.”

Billie, his head bowed, but eyes opened, had been observing everything. He felt so inadequate as he watched the Medicine Man.

“Now young warrior, the final touch. Place the dii potentia here like this so that one end is atop this artifact and the other atop this one. Never divulge the order. It completes the circle of six parts. The seventh part is the Great Spirit, which the purified root beckons, it being a part of the first foundations of life. Bow your head and watch, but do not turn your head outwards lest you die!”

Billie laid the dii potentia in place as instructed. The golden flame atop the bundle of artifacts grew until it reached the top of the cypress trees thirty feet above and began to swirl outward, emanating in a circle from the alter to several hundred yards around it. The color burst from gold to emerald green as it shot across the top of the sawgrass. Next, the burst was orange then a faint purple. There were no sparks, just a perfect circle of color, lighting up the sky as if it were noon. Purple was followed by red, then ruby, then a crystalline sky blue. Billie kept watching the dii potentia. Each time it changed color, that color was the burst of brilliance that shot outward from the altar. Almost instantaneously, the color bursts began changing every second, beginning with royal purple, followed by red purple, dark red, bright red and then, changing so fast Billie couldn’t keep up. Without moving his head, he glanced upward with his eyes through the cypress head. He saw individuals, like spirits encroaching the alter. As they did so, the next flash of color caught them and they burst into a yellow, blue-green flame, exploding like a firework. At the far edge of the circle, several hundred yards away, a great many more spirits waited, moving forward after each flash. Suddenly, the color changed to blue white, producing an eerie, humming sound as it shot for over a thousand yards outward from the alter, catching all the spirits as they encroached. The color began to fold inward like petals of a flower closing as darkness fell. The spirits attempted to escape, running up the sides of the flower then, all at once, exploding like a crystalline glass into millions of tiny pieces; they faded to nothing. The color closed completely like a flower and fell straight onto the altar, turning to the original gold flame as a few sparks shot outward. Billie assumed it was the remnants of the spirits he had seen.

“Look up,” a voice said. “This place is now hallowed and sacred. See to it only the faithful and pure in heart visit.”

Both the Medicine Man and Billie looked upward. They saw a pair of eyes inset in what appeared to be the shape of a Shaman’s head bones. The gaze was fierce and determined, yet soft and loving. Billie wanted to look away but could not. The eyes faded into the darkness leaving the altar intact, the artifacts of the bundle now separated. Billie and the Medicine Man could scarcely move as they retreated away from the altar and sat once again by the fire.

“What were the spirits or what looked like spirits I saw through the cypress trees?” Billie stammered.

“They are those who desire the light of the Great Spirit but are condemned to darkness because of their actions in our previous life,” the Medicine Man said.

“Were they killed again by the colors?”

“No,” They saw the light and migrated to it, the colors represent the many realms of the Great Spirit and when they caught the spirits, they were cast back into darkness.”

Billie sat, deep in thought at what he had witnessed. It was overwhelming. He didn’t know if he were up to the tasks the Medicine Man was going to require of him.

“It is not I that require the tasks,” the Medicine Man said, discerning his thoughts. “It is the Great Spirit. Conduct yourself as you have, with honor and commitment and you need not fear.”

“If I do not?”

“Then you will be like those you just saw,” the Medicine Man said. “You must keep the path. Come, let us think about this and sleep.” . . . .