Tuesday, April 10
A silvery moon, full and bright, hangs over Chesapeake Bay, wavelets shimmering like tiny pen lights. Thunder rumbles in the West; a storm is brewing. A young man with dark piercing eyes and a neatly trimmed mustache eases his black, late-model Honda to a stop on a lonely treed lane.
Climbing out, he looks about cautiously. Satisfied he hasn’t been followed; he grabs a manila folder lying on the front seat and strides purposefully toward a massive pair of wrought iron gates.
Knowing they will be unlocked, he pushes on one, swinging it open a few inches on old but silent hinges.
Dressed in black and wearing black gloves he passes through the gates; careful to avoid noisy twigs and loose leaves that might alert vicious guard dogs that abide there. Although assured they will be penned up on nights he makes a delivery, he is never sure if they will be.
A stately Tudor mansion surrounded by tightly tended garden suddenly comes into view. Heavily stuccoed with deeply stained oak trim and a dormered third story, it stretches for a full city block; the kind a British Lord might own or envy.
Unimpressed, the man in black hurries across a manicured lawn to a living room window just beyond a southern style front porch lined with white columns basking in the moonlight. All house lights are off.
Crouching in a flower bed, the man checks his luminous wrist watch; midnight, right on time.
He taps on the window.
Seconds later, it slides up. “Hurry!” a gravelly voice hisses. “A servant might see us. Did you bring the contract?”
“Of course,” the gloved man replies.
Passing the folder through the window, he waits impatiently for the man to scan the contents with a flashlight. The man is huge with a bull neck and barrel chest. “Looks okay,” he said. “Here’s the money, one hundred thousand in C-notes.” He hands a briefcase through the window. “Are you sure you weren’t followed?”
“Hey...I’m no amateur,” the intruder smarts. “See ya next time.”
Turning, he hurries down the driveway, through the iron gates and to his parked car. With his heart beating wildly, he checks his pulse.
“Too high,” he mutters, digging a silver vial from his vest pocket. Spilling a small white pill into his hand, he forces it down without water then wills his heat to slow down.
Once satisfied, he speeds off into inky stillness, hoping to avoid the expected storm.
Meanwhile, the barrel-chested walks across the Olympic-size living room, places the folder on an elaborately carved teak bar and pours himself a shot of Kentucky sour mash whiskey. With shaking hand he swallows the amber liquid in one gulp then shudders and coughs, wondering how much more of this he can stand.
“Damn politicos,” he grumbles, “never know if they’ll deliver or rat on me. The bastards better not. I’ve got enough on ‘em to bring ‘em all down and they know it. No one welshes on Big Jake Marlow and lives to tell about it, and they know that, too.”
Downing another slug of whiskey, he grabs the manila folder, crosses into a darkened grand entryway and trudges up a long curved staircase, leaning heavily on the hand rail to aid his climb.
Panting near the top, he clutches his chest against a sudden pain. “Got to slow down some; get Betty involved in the business, somehow... my sons, too. Except Matt is such an air-head he couldn’t run a toy train, and Corky’s only interest is having a good—”
Suddenly, a brilliant flash of lightening shatters his thoughts, followed by a sharp crack of thunder. For an instant, ten formal portraits on the curved stairwell are illuminated; the last of which is him, scowling like the others: Marlow men, dating back to the Revolutionary War.
With the dour images of his forefather seared into his brain, the man stumbles down the hall to his opulent bedroom and jams the folder into a wall safe. Closing it before spinning the dial, he collapses on a huge circular bed
A ghostly pall masks his normally florid face, but his wife is not there to witness it; joining him only on demand from an adjacent bedroom, which hasn’t been often of late.
The next morning a maid finds his body sprawled on the floor, his mouth in a silent scream—hand stretching for the telephone.
Jake’s death makes front-page news and his funeral, fittingly on Friday the thirteenth, is well attended Few, however, mourn his passing, including Betty, his long-suffering wife, and his two business partners: Randall Waverly, Chief of Finance, and Sam Donovan, Chief of Operations. They are obligated to come; others come out of morbid curiosity, half expecting Jake to rise from his coffin in a macabre joke. The kind the immensely wealthy and often abusive man played on his many employees, much to their chagrin.
His two sons attend out of fear. Fear of having to run Marlow Enterprises, a mammoth conglomerate with a dozen subsidiaries, for which neither have an interest nor qualification.
Now they will have to; Big Jake is dead.