I had one of those moment when the voices begin talking. Every writer has them. Ususally, in my experience, either the timing is wrong or there isn’t anything to write down what is ‘heard’. This time is different.
Besides my fantasy epic, The Milward Chronicles, I am working on a series of mysteries centered around the San Francisco bay area. This idea was about that series. The story is that of a wizard, other than the alcoholic one I have already established as a central character for the series. This wizard has decided to be a vigilante, dealing out a particularly nasty form of justice on those the established legal system choses to ignore out of expediency. Here is the opening:
A Tony Mandolin Mystery by Robert Lee Beers
Harry reached into his coat and pulled out the envelope. He understood the use of plastic as far as convenience was concerned, but since banks had developed a disturbing tendency to notify the feds every time someone moved any amount over 10K, he preferred the security of cash.
Chucking to himself at his own pun, Harry lifted the flap of the envelope and counted the money. A cool 25K, he thought, smiling to himself. The mark never knew what hit him. He should have gotten into the insurance racket a long time ago. He tossed the envelope onto his desk where it joined its many friends.
Harry Reed, no relation to the Nevada politician, was a thin-framed little man with a receding hair line and watery blue eyes. He had started out as a runner for assorted white gangs in the bay area, working his way up through the ranks until he was able to take his place at the top of his own organization. The fact that he had managed that feat through betrayal and blackmail meant nothing to him, but it spoke volumes to those who considered and then rejected the idea of deposing the bantam crime boss. The San Francisco bay’s bottom was littered with a number of skeletons chained to concrete weights as a testament to the ferocity of Harry’s intention to remain in power.
As he moved upwards through the ranks of corruption, Harry tried his hand at nearly every one of the marketable vices, gambling, drugs, prostitution, unlicensed tobacco and alcohol and so on. It wasn’t until the turn of the millennia that he noticed the really big money was being made at the corporate level. His assorted businesses netted him about a million a year, nowhere near as much as Shultz’s organization and not even close to Luccesi, but it wasn’t chicken feed either. Then one day he decided to pick up a copy of the city’s business magazine along with his usual Chronicle. The man on the cover was Randall Driver and when Harry saw the estimated yearly income he nearly lost his teeth. He was no longer a small fish in a big pond; he wasn’t even in the pond. The man had other people doing all the work for him and he was raking in billions, that’s millions with a ‘b’, and it was considered legal.
Through a few of his legislative channels, along with several thousands in bribes, Harry managed to acquire himself a corporation. From there he searched around and located those industries which allowed the greatest degree of theft built into their business models, time share sales, insurance and stock management, he grew quite fond of hedge funds.
Even though the greatest amount of graft came in through the stock markets, Harry felt the most of his satisfaction in cheating people out of their insurance settlements. Sure, there were companies stupid enough to hand out awards like they were candy, but to Harry that seemed almost blasphemous, like giving away food, or treating everyone equally regardless of race, creed or color. That way lay madness.
His latest acquisition had been particularly satisfying, and old man had been the victim of a theft, several old paintings claimed to be nearly priceless works of an American master supposedly an ancestor of the homeowner. He, through his ‘investigators’, managed to ‘prove’ to the underwriters that the supposed American Masters were little more than worthless attempts by a hobby painter. Of course the owner protested the decision, but Harry also had a couple of judges on retainer. His reward for a few minutes work was the rather thick envelope sitting on the pile in the middle of his desk.
On impulse he reached across the desk and picked up the envelope. This last one, he mused, was special. He had the unique pleasure of watching the old man dissolve as he delivered the bad news. Harry stuck the envelope into his pocket and patted it. He was going to go shopping as a celebration, and the old man’s tears would pay the bills.
The heat began as Harry grew near to his door. He first thought that someone had been messing with the air conditioner. By the time he reached out for the doorknob he was sweating. As he pulled the door open the fabric of his coat began to smoke and then it burst into flame.
Harry screamed out in both fright and pain, but ripping off his coat did nothing as the flames erupted from his shirt, pants and underwear. The heat increased to the point that none of his employees could even get close enough to try to staunch the flames. When the fire finally died out Harry was reduced to a pile of white ash and a few scorch marks.