Brandon stood outside the prison waiting, in the same clothes he’d walked in wearing two years ago. His limousine would arrive momentarily and drive him to downtown Houston—to the scene of the crime. He wondered how his victim was faring these days. Quite well, Brandon imagined.
That was about to change.
It was a cool February morning, and he would have been shivering were it not for the hatred burning in his chest. But his plan of revenge would be fully executed within a week. Then he could relax and live in peace. Maybe even find happiness with the girl of his dreams, Dani Dimingo.
He looked around. Most of the other releasees of the day had already been picked up by taxis, friends, or family members. One other man was still there, pacing the sidewalk and chain-smoking cigarettes. When a woman pulled up in an old clunker, the man started yelling and cursing at her for making him wait so long. He kicked the passenger door, imprinting it with a dent that matched the one on the back door. Then he yelled another string of obscenities. Passing drivers slowed down to stare. Finally, he got into the passenger seat and the car drove away.
Brandon wondered how long it would be before the man was back in prison. Some men were just not capable of functioning in a civilized society.
A few minutes later, Brandon’s limo pulled up and he got in. A navy business suit hung from a coat hook. A white, long-sleeved shirt, still in its packaging, was on the seat beside him, along with a box of dress shoes and a pair of socks. The business apparel would allow Brandon to blend in without arousing suspicion.
The driver eyed him in the mirror and smiled. “Good morning, sir.”
Brandon hadn’t been addressed respectfully in a long time. Sure, the man was an employee of the limousine service, and was paid to be courteous. Still, Brandon took a moment to savor the civility of his tone. “Good morning. Do you know where I want to go?”
“Monkfort Food Distributors’ main office, downtown.”
“The address you gave was incorrect though, sir.”
“Yes. The company relocated to a different building last year.”
“I hope the clothing suits your taste, sir. I picked it out myself.”
“It’s perfect. Thank you.”
By the time they reached their destination, Brandon had transformed himself into a well-dressed businessman. He asked the driver to pick him up in fifteen minutes. He got out and walked into the building. The lobby was three stories tall, and probably spacious enough to host the company-wide Christmas party. The clicks and clacks of high heels and Rockports ricocheted off the granite and glass. The building looked and smelled brand new. Obviously, business was good.
As he walked past the information kiosk in the center of the lobby, the two young receptionists gave him a quick glance and resumed their gossip session. They should have asked if he needed information. If he hadn’t changed out of his crappy clothes, they would have taken more of an interest. Might have even called the cops.
There were no guards in the lobby, no metal detectors, and not a single security camera, which was not surprising. This wasn’t a bank. There was probably no significant cash inside these walls, no gold bars. Nothing but secretaries, executives, and computers. So, why waste money on security?
After today, that attitude would probably change.
Brandon checked the directory, took an elevator up to the ninth floor, and went to Suite 900. When he opened the door, the first thing he noticed was the new secretary: Amber Sanns, according to the name plate on her desk. Her light-brown, wavy hair rested gently on her shoulders, as though she had placed it there lovingly for all to enjoy.
She looked up from her computer and smiled.
He wondered what happened to Jennifer. Probably long gone. That was over two years ago. If Jennifer were still around, she would remember Brandon. How could she possibly forget that day? But Amber was oblivious to the danger. She had no way of knowing that she should be calling 9-1-1 right now, no inkling that her boss was in jeopardy—unless he’d given her a picture of Brandon and warned her.
“Good morning, sir. May I help you?”
No, she was clueless. “Good morning, Amber,” he said with a big smile, pretending to know her. “Is Kevin in?”
“Yes, sir, he is. Did you have an appointment?”
Brandon went for Kevin’s door.
“Wait, sir, you can’t just—”
He barged in and closed the door. “Kevin Monkfort.” He said it as though he were introducing a famous celebrity.
Kevin looked up from his computer. He was forty-two, well-manicured from head to toe, and dressed in the finest business wear money could buy. “What the hell are you doing here? I thought you were—”
“Locked up? Just got out this morning.”
“So, aren’t you on parole or probation or something? You can’t come in here threatening me.”
“No parole. I served my full sentence: two years.” He grinned. “So, I’m free to come and go wherever I want.”
“You’re not welcome here, you son of a bitch.”
“Look Kevin, I just came here to apologize. It’s part of my therapy.”
“You had a shrink in prison? Good. You needed one, you crazy bastard.”
“According to Dr. Davis, it’s crucial to my healing process that I apologize to you.”
Kevin studied Brandon’s face. “You’re serious.”
“Yes. I learned my lesson. I was wrong, and I’m sorry.”
“So, you’re not accusing me anymore? You accept the fact that I wasn’t the one who killed your parents?”
“I forgive you.” Brandon walked around to the side of Kevin’s desk.
“You forgive me? You don’t need to forgive me because I didn’t do it. But obviously you still don’t believe me. Well, you know what? I don’t give a crap.” Kevin reached into his top right drawer, pulled out a pistol, and pointed it at Brandon. “But if you’re not out of here in ten seconds, I’m gonna blow your damn head off.”
“But you just said you’re not a killer. So, why would you kill me for just standing here? That’s cold-blooded murder.”
“After what you did to me two years ago, nobody would blame me. It wouldn’t even go to trial.”
“Hmm. That’s probably true.” Brandon took a step back. “But we’re good, right? We’re good now?”
“Get out of my office and get out of my building, and don’t you ever come near me again.”
“Well, okay then. Have a nice life.” Brandon turned and walked out.
He smiled and winked at Amber as he went through her office, but he felt sorry for her. He was sure Kevin was exploiting her, like he did Jennifer, sleeping with her and making promises he had no intention of keeping. Hinting at marriage, in spite of the fact that he was never going to leave his rich wife and his son. Kevin had it all, but he could never be satisfied. To him, women were like smart phones: he’d always be looking to upgrade to a newer, sexier model.
Brandon strolled through the hallway to the elevator, smiling and nodding to various employees and visitors along the way. Kevin had reacted exactly as he’d anticipated—except for the pistol. Kevin had no doubt purchased it after Brandon had beaten him half to death two years ago. Who could blame him for wanting to protect himself? But now that Brandon knew about the gun, he would factor it into his plan.
He stepped into the elevator and pressed the lobby button.
During his 731 days behind bars, Brandon had plenty of time to develop a strategy, to enhance it and refine it to perfection. Although he’d never committed it to paper. It wasn’t the kind of thing you’d want the warden to get his eyes on. No, but it was seared into Brandon’s memory. Unforgettable. Unerasable. Unless, of course, he had completely lost his mind—which had been a real possibility.
Dr. Davis had often warned Brandon that he was playing with fire, that one of his many personas might someday take over permanently. Brandon had always shrugged it off. Not because he was convinced the doctor was wrong, but because he couldn’t bear to give it up. He’d become adept at using self-hypnosis to manipulate his mind to the very edge of mental stability. In a sense, it was his drug of choice.
It was also his tool of choice for exacting revenge.
Kevin would be expecting Brandon to return soon, possibly armed. So, Kevin would take defensive actions. Actions that were, in fact, necessary for the success of Brandon’s scheme.
He stepped out of the elevator, walked through the lobby, and exited the building. Brandon laughed to himself.
In securing his building, Kevin would be helping to implement his own execution.