Read the first chapter to Grave Intention.
Fearfully, Charles Dugan searched his dark proximity. One tiny bulb, mounted way up high from a beam in the centre, lit the cavernous warehouse. To a stranger, it would appear to be empty, but Charles knew that Hawley, his adversary, never showed up anywhere without “his boys.”
Again, he gulped down the bile tickling his throat as he took one tentative step, then another, towards the light. Hawley had definitely put his trademark intimidation tactics to work. Charles’s stomach churned with the Italian meal he’d bolted down at lunchtime, and he took another few steps, regretting—not for the first time—ever getting involved with Hawley and his gang.
A rasping noise off to his left alerted him to movement. Although he had no inclination what it was, he could hazard a guess. He wanted to clamp a hand over his mouth, to hold back the scream desperate for release. However, before he had the chance, two sets of strong arms grabbed him from behind and forced him to the ground. Lying face down, Dugan realised struggling would be pointless. A pair of polished black shoes came to a standstill in front of him, a mere ten inches from his nose. He closed his eyes and braced himself for the impact.
“Get him up.”
Charles felt his six-foot frame being lifted and then lowered abruptly into the waiting chair, which sat alongside the light, just like in a torture scene from a movie about the CIA. “All right, Larry?” he asked, trying to disguise his rising hysteria.
Hawley bent down, and Charles could feel the warmth of the man’s breath against his cheek when he sneered. “I will be, when I get what’s owing to me, scumbag.”
Charles gulped noisily. “Ah, about that…”
“Don’t bother giving me any more of your useless bullshit, Dugan. This has been going on for weeks now, and I’m at the end of my tether. No more delays. No more ‘just give me another few days to come up with your money’ shit. Your time’s up. Today is the deadline we both agreed on. Am I right?”
When Charles didn’t answer immediately, one of Hawley’s men punched the back of his head. Jolted into action, he replied, “Yes, that’s what we agreed.”
“So? Where’s my money?”
Charles stared at Hawley, agog.
“Lost the use of your tongue, have you?” Hawley nodded, switching his gaze to one of the men standing behind Charles.
Charles prepared himself for a beating. Terrified, he shouted, “No! Wait. I’ll get it to you by the end of the week. I promise.”
“Not good enough. We had an agreement, Charlie boy, and you’ve reneged on that. Now it’s time to pay… with your life, if need be.”
A fist hit one side of his head, then a second blow hit the other before Hawley raised his hand to stop the onslaught. “Wait. I’ve just had an idea.”
An ominous silence descended over the group. Charles closed his eyes. From past encounters with the notorious gang, he had a feeling what Hawley was going to say next.
“How’s Mrs. Dugan and the little ’un? What’s her name now? Ah, yes, Peaches. She must be all of thirteen now, yes?”
“They’re nothing to do with this. Larry, I’d rather keep them out of this. I swear I’ll get you your money. I’m begging you not to hurt my family. Your gripe is with me, not them.”
“And you think you’re in a position to barter for either their lives, or yours?” Hawley spat at him, his eyes bulging with contempt. He swivelled on the heels of his expensive shoes, turned his back on Charles, and strode off into the darkness. His footsteps echoed to a dull thud before a door slammed.
Charles knew that his life was about to change—how, he wasn’t quite sure. Maybe he would know more once Hawley’s men had finished with him—if he survived the imminent thrashing.
Behind him, metal jangled. He turned and instantly wished he’d kept his inquisitiveness in check. His face took the brunt of the force of the heavy chain. The blow sent him reeling to the ground.
“That’s sure to improve his looks,” the one known as Tiny joked. Both men laughed as Charles spat out the teeth that had rattled loose in his mouth. His lips swelled up straightaway. He swiped a hand across his mouth and gasped when he saw the amount of blood covering the back of his hand.
He needed to try to buy some time. Convincing the men it would be in their best interest not to pummel him to a pulp was imperative. “Come on, boys, we can come to some sort of arrangement now your boss has gone. What do you say?”
The other goon who went by the name of Sloath answered him with a kick in the gut. “You know what, arsehole? Deals like that are the ones that got you in this mess in the first place. You better shut your mouth if you know what’s good for you. Take your punishment like a true man, not the snivelling shit the boss thinks you are.”
Charles knew arguing with the thugs would be a waste of breath. He clamped his mouth shut, closed his eyes to block out the smirks on the gorillas’ faces, and took the punishment Hawley had ordered them to mete out, like a man.
After the ten-minute thrashing he could barely move. The men homed in on his lower back and kicked the shit out of it. Pain erupted at several points throughout his body. He recognised immediately that several bones were broken, among them a rib or two, and his right arm. He even feared that his kidney wouldn’t be salvageable.
Dazed and on the verge of drifting into unconsciousness, he could only plead for his family’s safety. “Please, don’t hurt them…”
The men’s crazed laughter echoed around him as the blackness descended. Whether he would wake up from the spiralling darkness, he had no idea.
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