Monday, May 8, 8:15 AM
Roger Witherspoon discovered the small advert in the financial section of the San Francisco Chronicle. It made a promise for which he would have given everything he had.
Vengeance is Yours
No Down Payment
Since murdering Alex Webber, Roger had lost control of his life. Karl felt free to exploit him for any dirty job he had to do, and Roger felt he had no choice but to comply. Never one to be subservient, Roger deeply resented such treatment. His only consolation was believing that he would overcome Karl by sheer hatred.
When he dialed the telephone number printed in the advert, a refined, male voice answered, “Perdition Incorporated. How may we help you?”
“I saw your ad in the paper today. Who do I talk to about it?”
“Gideon Ellasar will arrive at your residence at precisely nine PM.” And the line went dead. How the hell would he know where to come?
When he tried calling the number again a computerized voice said, “The number you dialed is not in service. Please check the number and try again.” So he did, and got the same recording. Whoever the hell this Gordon Eleazar is, he’s sure not psychic. Finally, Roger dismissed it as a dead end, and without further thought on the matter, continued his day normally.
That evening he was watching his usual “adult” cable channel on the Tele, when the antique, mantle-clock began chiming nine o’clock. Half-way through the chiming, his doorbell rang, its note discordant with the clock.
He drew on a wrap and went to the door, peered through the peep hole carefully, but could see nothing clearly enough to identify his caller. Just as he was about to say something through the door, a deep, resonant voice interrupted him. “Roger Witherspoon, we have an appointment.”
“Ah, yes, who is it?”
“I am Gideon Ellasar.”
“Uh, certainly … uh ….” Finally Roger remembered calling about the mysterious advert. “Oh, yeah. But how did you know my address?”
“Perhaps I have arrived at the wrong door. I had been under the impression that Roger Witherspoon wanted to gain revenge against some person.” Though Roger couldn’t see through the door, he knew that Ellasar had turned to leave.
“Wait Mister … uh … hold on! Please, come back!”
Roger fumbled with the lock, but finally opened the door. Ellasar, taller than he and perfectly dressed, marched into his living room as a conqueror might enter a vanquished city. Turning about to face Roger, the visitor asked, “What do you want?”
Roger glanced about as if looking for a hole in which to hide. Feeling only the piercing gaze that seemed to dissect him, he missed the question’s incongruity.
“Roger, you need not be nervous. I can give you whatever you want, but the advertisement you answered was rather specific.” His voice modulation and power awed even Roger, the habitual status seeker.
“What do I have to do?”
Ellasar flashed a satisfied smile, reached to his inner jacket pocket and withdrew a leather scroll. With a flick of his wrist, the ancient-looking document unrolled before Roger’s eyes. “Please read this covenant and tell me if it meets with your approval.”
Roger stared hard at the archaic calligraphy until it began making sense.
Be it known to all interested parties, that the undersigned, Mister Eugene Roger Witherspoon, an adult of normal faculties and majority age, has of his own free will, choice, and volition, entered into the following covenant:
I, the undersigned Eugene Roger Witherspoon, do agree with and pledge to the following terms in order to have “REVENGE” against the person of Karl Ichabod Adams. In exchange for said revenge, I, Eugene Roger Witherspoon, do pledge by my signature below in my own living blood to grant to PERDITION INCORPORATED, as directed by its Administrator, Lord Gideon Ellasar, the right to possession, at the moment of my departure from this temporal life and for all eternity, of all that is now or ever will be mine, including my body, my soul, and my spirit.
Said contract is irrevocably agreed to and finalized by the signature of the above named Eugene Roger Witherspoon in his own life’s blood below.
Roger studied the scroll carefully and a smile spread across his face. Irrational as it was, he believed this Lord Ellasar could deliver what he wanted most in the world. “Where do I sign?”
Ellasar produced a glass fountain pen. When Roger grasped it to sign the scroll, pain stabbed his fingers, and he saw his blood entering the pen barrel. He shot a glance at Ellasar’s dispassionate face, but said nothing as he looked back down and scratched his bloody signature into the ancient-looking leather. With intense satisfaction, he turned the pen over and handed it back to Ellasar.
Without further comment, the visitor methodically rolled up the scroll, returned it and the pen to their places inside his jacket, turned away, and stepped back over the threshold. Roger followed him to the door, but started as he peered outside and saw no one there.
Tuesday, May 9, 8:00 AM
Roger Witherspoon faced a quandary. Since the evening before, he had formed a plan to do away with Karl. But it required some mechanical ability and he was anything but a tradesman. As hard as it was for him to face, he needed help from someone with the necessary skills. To that end he contacted Lev Markov, the local Russian Mafia boss.
“How do you get my number?” The Russian’s thick accent was hard to understand without paying strict attention.
“Suffice it to say I have my contacts. What matters is you aught to know that Adams engineered Webber’s death, and we need to talk about it.”
“I take care of my own problems. What is to talk about?”
“Let’s have coffee tonight, say, at Bob’s Big Boy, over on the West Side.”
“This better be good, Witherspoon! I don’t have time for to chase the wild ducks!”
Roger barely suppressed his amusement with the stereotypical misuse of American slang, but he managed “Ten o’clock tonight” without laughing audibly.
“Okay, I be there, with my boys!”
Vladimir Romerovich, aka Romeo Obozniev, was Lev Markov’s lieutenant and heir presumptive to the mob’s leadership. He had assumed his particular alias while working as an analyst with the KGB, intending to imply that he was successful with the ladies. His supposed conquests were legendary, at least amongst his comrades.
Markov replaced the ornate telephone handset into its cradle and stared up at Obozniev, who had just appeared in obedience to The Boss’s summons. “Romeo, my son, please sit.” The portly, balding Russian obediently settled into the low chair on the opposite side of the desk. But for lacking the forehead birth mark, he might have passed for Mikael Gorbachev.
“Do you think that I do not read the news papers?” They both spoke English out of habit, having been KGB agents during the glorious days of the Soviet Union. “You leave signature all over whore! How long you think cops cannot find you? They find you, they find me, and I don’t want to explain our business arrangements.”
“Boss, I …”
“I told you these killings must stop! This is last warning. I will not tolerate disobeying me.”
Romeo’s hang-dog expression almost made Markov laugh aloud. Though he would not have seen the humor if he had known the murderous thoughts filling his lieutenant’s imagination.
“But Boss, you said, ‘No more boys.’ Woman was not boy.”
“Do you want I should tell comrades that you like the little boys? They would kill you, then I would have to kill them, and then where would I be?” Romeo looked alarmed at the suggestion of anyone other than his boss finding out his deepest secrets.
“Okay Boss! No more boys, and I be careful with women to change M.O.”
Markov rolled his eyes in frustration, then stared knives at his protégé. “You knock it all off or we go to fishing hole! You understand me?”
Romeo sighed deeply and said, “Yes, comrade.” The “fishing hole” was a deep spot in San Pablo Bay already occupied by a number of Markov’s problems.
“You know I hate talking of this. Let us discuss Witherspoon ….”
Lev Markov sauntered into Bob’s Big Boy with two shifty-eyed associates who made him seem relatively small by comparison. As the Russians approached, Roger couldn’t divert his eyes from the awful scar on the left side of Markov’s face, running from his temple to his cheek bone, narrowly missing his eye.
“Why you stare?” the hoodlum demanded as he neared Roger’s booth.
Roger slid out of the booth and stood, extending his hand to greet his visitor. “Good evening, Lev. That’s a fine scar you’re sporting. Am I to assume you were victorious in that particular battle?”
Markov glanced at Roger’s hand, then sneered up at his face. “You call me Mister Markov.” He gestured to one of his associates to stand next to Roger, then motioned for them to be seated.
Acting fearless, Roger smirked at the bodyguard and slid back into the booth, with Markov’s goon following. The Boss remained standing for a moment, impassively studying Roger now that he held the higher ground, but Roger simply smiled up at him.
Finally, Markov sat opposite Roger, with his other associate seated next to him on the aisle. Roger noticed the Russian’s left eye drooping slightly, probably a minor paralysis from the injury that caused his scar.
“Now, tell me about that marvelous scar.” Roger’s body language and tone of voice showed no fear of the dangerous men surrounding him.
“Sometime you’re friend is your enemy. I made mistake to trust him, but I was quick, and he is dead. If I did not win fight, one of my associates here, or out there,” he nodded out the window, “would be Vor.” Roger glanced out the window and saw three other muscular, shifty-eyed men loitering about a black limousine. Their appearance and mannerisms shouted “Hollywood Hoodlum.”
“I like that.” Roger nodded his approval. “You’re security conscious.”
“Yeah. Security conscious, and if you don’t have good story for me, my boys make you one less security risk.”
“Let’s go for a ride. You know, fewer ears in your car.”
Markov smiled. “Yes, you have nothing to hide when ride in my car.” He nodded to his associates and they stood, waiting for him and Roger to stand and leave.
With one goon on each side, Roger walked to Markov’s limousine, slid into the rear-facing seat, and there, too, was flanked by bodyguards. As the car drove away, Markov silently stared at Roger, waiting for him to yield the advantage by speaking first. But Roger wouldn’t crack, forcing Markov to break the silence.
“So … Mister Roger Witherspoon, why should I let you waste my time?”
“I said, you will call me Mister Markov!”
“Mister Markov,” Roger said with exaggerated deference, “Don’t you Russians say ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend?’ I have a score to settle with Karl Adams. And I understand you have a great deal of affection for him as well.”
“Adams? I spit on him!” And Markov spat on the shoe of one of his bodyguards, who rolled his eyes without otherwise complaining. “He is the son of a dog! I would give anything to see him in hell! But he stays in his fortress and I cannot touch him. Besides, if I did, the man has friends in very high places. It could ruin my business.”
“It would seem to me that he already has.” Roger flashed a knowing grin. “You won’t risk killing him, but I will, with your indirect help.”
“How can amateur like you do what my organization cannot? You are full of hot gas! I do not have time to deal with wishful thinking.” Markov reached over to his intercom, pressed a button and began, “Max! Turn …” But Roger quickly reached over to lift his hand off the switch. Instantly, two guns with silencers pressed uncomfortably against his temples.
“Not here!” Markov said quickly to his men. Then to Roger, “You have just committed suicide. No one touches Lev Markov without his permission and lives.” Again he reached to touch the intercom button and said, “To the bay!”
Roger settled back on his seat with a complacent smile. “Pity you’ll have to go on hating Adams, ‘Mister Markov.’ My plan would have left you in the clear,” and he shrugged, “but, if I die, I die.”
“Amuse me, Witherspoon,” Markov said without smiling, “While I take you to final resting place, you may tell me of ‘wonderful’ plan.”
Roger reached up with both hands to push the silencers away from his temples, and the guards looked to Markov, who nodded. They withdrew the pistols an inch or two and he began his explanation in the tone of a Harvard professor. “Adams’ pad is well secured, you’re right, but it’s not impregnable. With one of your lock men and an electrician, I can get into his place and use that ancient elevator shaft of his to kill him. Do you want to hear more?”
“Keep going, I am not yet amused.” While Markov wasn’t amused, Roger found controlling himself difficult because of the Russian accent he considered laughable.
“Yes. As I was saying, Adams has virtual vault doors at the front and rear of his place, and they’re his only way out. First, your lock man will circumvent the back door alarm and let the electrician in. He’ll jimmy the backup generator and short out the UPS unit. Adams is so proud of his ‘high tech’ alarm system, but its only auxiliary power is that same UPS unit.
“While the electrician is doing that, your lock man will fix the lock so the door can’t be opened once it’s closed. It’ll only take a minute. Then we kill power to the building so nothing’s working.
“Finally the lock man will open the front door and fix that lock exactly like the rear. I’ll temporarily block the door open and take in a barrel of old rags soaked in kerosene to put next to a wood wall. Of course I’ll leave its lid off to the side, so it’ll look like someone forgot to replace it.
“And I have a little modification in mind for the barrel itself. I use some hydrochloric acid to eat holes at the bottom seam. After I neutralize and wash off the acid, it’ll look just like it’s perforated with rust.
“When I light it through one of the ‘rust’ holes, the draft will slowly spread the fire upward and turn the barrel into one giant, flaming smudge pot. That will give me plenty of time to get out before it’s noticed.”
Then, with an evil leer he added, “The fire will spread to the walls and turn the place into a brick oven. Anyone for roast Adams?”
Markov sat through the lecture with a frown frozen in place. Then he burst forth with a sudden raucous laugh and reached out to slap Roger’s knee painfully. “If you are fool enough to try that, my boys will help. But they get out before fire starts. So, when we do it?”
Once again he reached for his intercom and ordered, “Home, Max!”
For the rest of that evening they planned the joyful event for the following Friday morning, and got thoroughly smashed in advance celebration.
Following our all-night prayer vigil, I was dead on my feet, having forgotten that I am no longer twenty-five years of age. Betty, however, seemed to have been empowered by the evening’s activities. She buzzed about Karl’s flat like a humming bird, while I plodded in a frightful temper.
But those days passed and life got back to a semblance of normalcy. We saw little of Karl over the following week, since he was apparently determined to avoid us. One finds it difficult to imagine a gentleman avoiding his butler, but when the occasional encounter became inevitable, his manner was brusque at best.
He made Rachel’s work even more difficult than ours, by disregarding her security recommendations as if each was a personal affront. Once it nearly cost his life, and ours.
Karl’s secure mobile vibrated in his pocket as it was wont to do, with Rachel on the line. “Karl, I’ve uncovered some rather alarming information …”
“I’m sure you have. I suppose I’m in imminent danger of the fires of hell. Well thank you very much for the warning.” He broke the connection with some minor cursing.
Though neither Betty nor I had broached the subject since our previous confrontation, he told me, “I’m getting sick and tired of your little preaching games. Consider yourselves on notice. You’ve got a week to get out!” And he spun about to march towards his office.
Betty was in our flat when I entered and told her what had happened. “It’s all for naught. He’s given us the boot.”
My fiery love became livid. “‘All for naught,’ he says. All for naught? I’ll show you all for naught,” and she began a monologue of promises from God’s word that lasted, apparently without pausing for breath, for at least five minutes. “Where’s your faith, mister? All this means is Karl is under heavy conviction from the Lord, and if we ‘ave to keep our mouths shut to him, we can still pray, and hard!” As usual, she was right.