She awakened not knowing where she was or how she got there. Sydney looked out the window and saw the rough-honed fence posts with non-symmetrical boards crisscrossing through the wooden posts dotting across an overgrown field. Beyond the country outback fencing hung a heavy mist and she lost hope of identifying her whereabouts. She lifted herself up on her elbows and swept tangled hair away from her face. The sticky gooey coating on the individual strands melted leaving a brownish red tint on her fingers. Her eyes were swelling shut and her lips tasted of blood. She wondered how long she had been locked away left to die. She’d kill to remember her past and what brought her to this place and time, but she figured she wasn’t a killer, as she was the one beaten beyond recognition. She felt a lump growing on the side of her head peeking out from the blood smeared hair follicles. The stench of blood was something she could never grow accustomed too, she thought. She gave up racking her brain for details of her circumstances
Carolyn M. Bowen
and began looking for an escape route. She had no idea how long she’d been there and when, if ever, anyone would return, especially her accosters. Time was of the essence.
Lawrence O’Malley, the foreman on the commercial jobsite, had his fingers in several business ventures. Now, one was taking up too much of his time. The JYB Commercial Contractor’s lead man and estimator, Joe Hesterberg, called to let him know he’d been called to the law office of Birdman and Birdman for an interview with attorney Sydney Jones. He had a feeling she’d uncovered something, but what he didn’t know. O’Malley had already determined how to stay safe should the investigation get too close. He’d asked around among his cronies about the private life and habits of Stanford Birdman, of Birdman & Birdman. The partner liked to gamble and had substantial losses at the tables in Vegas. He continued betting on football games, even though his finances were dwindling. He made the call to Birdman to set up a meeting and seemed delighted to discuss a financial opportunity tailored to his portfolio. Stanford Birdman met with Lawrence O’Malley at an out-of-the-way bar and grill. O’Malley proposed a solution to his financial needs regarding gaming debts. Birdman appeared interested and wanted to know what the catch was.
Primed for Revenge
“It’s simple,” O’Malley said. “I’ll pay off your current gambling debts in exchange for information about the JYB Commercial Contractors business and pending lawsuits.” Birdman rolled the idea around in his head for a minute, and said, “You’ve got yourself a deal pending confirmation of my debts being satisfied.” “Just provide me the information about where to deposit the funds, and it’ll be done.” “I’ll call you with the bank routing and account numbers from my office.” “OK, I’ll wait to hear from you.” Birdman kept his word and notified him about the general contractor’s business dealing and lawsuits. When Birdman confirmed his thoughts about their ace attorney, Sydney Jones unraveling his potential alibi, he instructed him to remove her from the case. In no time, Birdman called back. “She’s refused my request and is headed home. She leaves little choice but to fire her.” “Well, I trust you’ll do what you must to keep our agreement,” O’Malley said. Stanford Birdman saw his brother, Hartley, standing at the office door and whirled around in his office chair to face him. “What going on, Stanford?” asked Hartley. Stanford had no idea how long his brother had been standing there or what he may have overheard. He decided to lie for his dealings were none of his brother’s business. He oversaw running the partnership, not him. Their father gave him control of Birdman & Birdman before he passed away.
Carolyn M. Bowen
“Ah, just following up with one of our clients about playing some golf later this week,” he said. Hartley heard enough to know he was lying, and one of the underlings later confided that he and Sydney Jones quarreled about the handling of JYB Contractors upcoming case. He’d had it with his brother’s behavior. He knew more about his dealings than he thought. Something had to be done about his reckless behavior before he sank the firm.
Most people called him Duncan although that wasn’t his real name. He acted as an intermediary for folks who didn’t want to get their hands dirty. His clients came from all walks of life from billionaires, white collar workers to the average Joe on occasion. He remained anonymous in his dealings from clients to day laborers who carried out his assignments. He used burn phones for each transaction and disposed of them immediately afterwards. He maintained a backup get out of jail free card with the information he stored about his clients and assignments. He checked his anonymous drop box for messages and decided to take on a new client. He called the cell number and waited for an answer. “Hello,” said the client. “This is Duncan,” he said. “You need my assistance in a matter?” “Yes,” he said. “Tell me about it,” said Duncan.
Primed for Revenge
The client dove into his problem and asked, “Can you take care of this?” “That’s my line of work.” Duncan provided directions for making the hefty payment for his services and waited for confirmation before moving forward. He knew the right workers to get it done. Mitch Barnes and his sidekick Randy had worked with him on previous jobs without any problems. He called him and described the new job. Mitch promised to take care of it and phone back later for further instructions. Duncan was pleased with their plan.
Judith Garner banged on the front door until she was afraid the neighbors would become alarmed and call the police. It wasn’t like Sydney Jones to just up and disappear. She’d not answered her phone in three days and their boss had asked she check on her and deliver his message. The office was on overload with all the cases either coming unraveled or scheduled for court hearings. Today was not the time for a play date although she had no idea about Sydney Jones’ activities after work hours. They worked in the same office, but Sydney kept to herself and minded her own business. Something she wished others would do especially concerning her career moves. Judith investigated the lower window of Sydney’s townhome and saw nothing out of order. Quite the opposite, the house was immaculate. From all appearances, she had come from money
Carolyn M. Bowen
observing the antique desk and chair, stately bookshelves, and expensive furnishings of her home. These elegant pieces she didn’t buy on the salary of Birdman & Birdman even if she’d been made partner. Judith Garners’ interest was piqued but there was nothing she could do now except report her findings to her boss. He’d take things from there. She made a mental note to silently keep up with her boss’s actions toward locating her. She smelled a scandal brewing and she suspected tidbits of this could land her farther up the corporate ladder. “Judith,” Stanford Birdman roared, “Did you tell Sydney to get down here and explain why someone is having to pick-up her workload?” “I would have,” said Judith. “But she never answered the door.” Birdman shook his head in disgust and said, “That’s the reason we promote our male attorneys, they don’t go all soft on us and place work on the backburner.” Well, that’s one way of dealing with her absence, Judith thought. Just throw all women under the bus for one’s actions. She still couldn’t shake the feeling something or someone else was involved. Seeing a chance to come out the hero or in the least money ahead gauging by Sydney’s apparent fortune, Judith contacted a private detective to locate her. She’d met Duane Nelson in the boss’ office a while back and stayed in touch through some cases they’d worked together. Maybe he’d give her a discount since this wasn’t company business.
Primed for Revenge
Locating Sydney would be easier and less expensive by filing a missing person’s report with the police, but she sensed the firm didn’t want the attention directed at them. “When was the last time you saw Sydney?” asked the P.I. “She was working in her office Monday morning,” said Judith. “Other than that, I’m not aware of her schedule.” “So, you’re not friends?” asked the P.I. looking puzzled. He thought all women in an office were friends. “No, we weren’t. We carry a heavy caseload here and have little time to mingle.” “I’ll get moving on this,” said the P.I. “The sooner she’s found the better.” “Just call me with your findings,” said Judith. “Will do,” said the P.I. There were many different angles to explore; the private eye was at loss to which one should be first. Did she have a boyfriend or husband, family, friends outside the law firm, enemies from her legal cases? He had much research to do before taking one step toward actually locating her; and Judith tied his hands even further by requesting his investigation to be kept silent and away from the eyes and ears of her bosses at Birdman & Birdman.
Sydney’s once manicured fingernails were no longer visible. She’d scratched at everything pliable in the room looking for something to release her from bondage. She was making slow progress with the six paned wooden window she’d shaken
Carolyn M. Bowen
loose from years of piled on paint locking it shut. If she had something to pound against the panes, she’d break them and rip out the borders separating the glass and crawl through. If she had shoes or a weighted object, she’d already kicked or beaten the window open or at least tried. Looking around she thought, the bedroom furnishings were prepared for just this moment. No way out! Her vision was slowly returning under the swollen eyelids. A look around the room revealed an old farmhouse bedroom. The stained linoleum floor showed years of wear. The bed was still made up and sagging in the middle. Spider webs dipped down, making a symmetrical pattern across the ceiling. Apparently, no one had lived here in a long time. She sensed abandonment, knew she was far away from the city. God knew how far she was out in the wilderness, she thought, and barefoot on top of that. Duncan’s phone rang. “Hello.” “I’ve taken care of the woman,” Mitch Barnes said. “She has amnesia and doesn’t even know her own name. Things got a little out of hand. I didn’t expect a fighter. What do you want me to do with her now?” “Make sure she’ll keep her mouth shut, and then dump her at home,” Duncan said. “It’s listed on her driver’s license in her wallet. You do still have her purse, don’t you?” “How stupid do you think I am? “Well, that remains to be seen. Call me when it’s done.” “Sure boss.”
Primed for Revenge
Duncan hung up the phone. He’d just wanted the woman warned there would be consequences if she didn’t do as told. He’d give Mitch B. some slack though, for he was handy when needed. The client didn’t need to know the particulars of getting the job done.
Duane Nelson, the private eye, began his investigation discretely on the internet trying to locate her next of kin and possible friends. Her Facebook page hadn’t been posted on in weeks and the information wasn’t personal, just photos of cute cats, funny quotes, and the like. No photos of her hanging out with friends, or vacationing. She was a private person, he thought, making his job harder. The sites on the Internet that provided information for his cases in the past came up void of anything other than the death of her husband, Raymond Jones and her parents, Catherine and David Stewart. Her former husband Ray Jones had died of a brain aneurysm at 28 years old. He was a well-known real estate attorney working in his father’s law firm at the time of his death. David Stewart was a respected restaurateur owning several restaurants in the southern United States. He’d recently retired and sold his business including the real estate to a conglomerate. He retired in Atlanta where his corporate headquarters had been located. He and his wife both died in the car accident leaving their only child, Sydney Jones, alone and vulnerable.
Carolyn M. Bowen
Sydney Jones had done a decent job of keeping her personal information private on the World Wide Web. He quickly looked over county records and found deeds from an estate containing a trust fund in her name. Her taxes were up-to-date on properties she owned. She appeared to be like any other private citizen guarding her assets. He would begin his missing person search by locating the administrator of her family’s estate and trust fund, perhaps they’d allow him into her townhome where he could look for clues. His plan was to follow the money to get answers.