Friday, October 16, 2015

"Foreclosure" by S. D. Thames

by S. D. Thames

Foreclosure is currently on tour with Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours. The tour stops here today for a guest post by the author, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

It’s just business - but it’s about to get personal for hard-nosed lawyer David Friedman when the housing crash of 2008 derails his shot at partnership with Southwest Florida’s most prestigious law firm. Given a year to prove he can make rain during the economic drought, David rolls up his sleeves and lands the client of his dreams - Frank O'Reilly, a real estate developer embroiled in dozens of lawsuits and hell-bent on turning a profit during the recession. Little does David know that Frank's company is involved in a murderous plot to cover up years of mortgage fraud in the Sunshine State.
As David prepares for a trial that will make or break his career, he discovers that a secret investor in Frank’s company is responsible for murder and will continue killing to hide the truth. The only thing David can’t figure out is whether Frank is the conspiracy’s victim or its mastermind. To answer that question, David must risk far more than partnership as he unravels one dark secret after another about his client, his law firm, and, ultimately, himself. 

The elevator eased to a halt high above the beach. The door behind David glided open. He took a final glimpse at the beach, then turned to follow Robbie into a living room of sprawling cherry wood floors and walls that in the dark appeared dusted with ash. The kitchen was cold stainless steel and dark cabinets that matched the stained wood floors. David set his bag on the polished granite countertop. Then he followed Robbie through another living area, this one with open French doors that led to a balcony that wrapped around the beachside perimeter of the penthouse.
Outside, Frank shielded a joint from the flickering rain that was finding its way under the balcony’s awning. David could still hear swells beating the shore twenty-five stories below.
“One of the few sounds I never grow tired of.” Frank held another hit and stared over the balcony.
“I found him down in the sales office,” Robbie said.
Frank seemed like he could care less.
“I didn’t know you lived up here,” David said.
“This one I personally designed.” Frank seemed to be talking to himself. “My masterpiece.”
David almost forgot why he was here.
“What did Katherine say?” Frank asked Robbie.
“She’s not coming,” Robbie answered.
“I guess that’s good.”
“Frank,” David said, “you wanted to talk about—”
Frank raised his hand. “I know damn well why you’re here. I’m just not ready to go there yet.” He stared at Robbie. “Did you tell her I’m leaving?”
“She knows.”
Frank took the last hit from the stub between his fingers. Then he squashed it like an ant, popped it in his mouth, and swallowed. “So be it.”
Frank rose and leaned against the balcony wall overlooking the beach. “Come here.”
David presumed he was talking to him, so he took a few steps in his direction.
“Closer,” Frank said.
At least David knew to whom Frank was talking now. He joined Frank, side by side.
“You like the view?” Frank asked.
“It’s great.”
Frank’s breathing was heavy, nearly panting. David couldn’t tell if it was from the smoke or anger or both. “You want to work with me?” The breathing was growing guttural.
“Of course. I brought the engagement letter with me.”
Frank put his arm around David. David smelled the stench of marijuana and curry and a storm brewing in the Gulf. “You need to learn some rules then.”
“What’s the problem, Frank?”
Frank’s grip tightened, filling David with the realization of just how strong this guy was. Not just strong arms, but a strong torso, a primal strength genetically honed over centuries of labor.
“Here’s some rules,” Frank said. “One. Never make a concession without my approval.”
“What concession?” David asked.
“Don’t argue with me. Just listen. No concessions. And that concession concerns rule two. We don’t produce escrow records.”
“Cummings asked for that, Frank. You don’t have to sign it. It’s just a draft.”
“David, repeat after me: we don’t produce escrow records.”
“It’s not that simple, Frank.”
Frank squeezed him like a constrictor. “We don’t produce escrow records. Say it.”
“Okay, Frank. We don’t produce escrow records.”
“Good.” Frank loosened the grip a few notches, but kept David locked.
David didn’t want to push his luck. “As your counsel, I need to advise you that Florida statutes require you to keep those records for five years.”
Frank laughed. “Hear that, Robbie? We have to keep them for five years. We’re paying this guy the big bucks to tell us this.”
“I hear you, Frank,” Robbie said, but David had no idea where Robbie was standing right now.
“David, look down here with me.” He pulled David closer again and made sure he was looking over the balcony. “You like this feeling?”
David felt a surge of nausea. “It’s a great view.”
“You feel tied to me, David? I fall, you fall?”
“That’s how it feels, Frank.”
“Because if I fall, David, you fall. You willing to fall with me?” Frank jerked David, causing David to flinch. “Is that a ‘no’?”
“No, Frank. It’s not.”
“You’re not willing to?”
“I am, Frank. I’m your guy. I’m on your team.”
“What are the rules, David?” Frank jerked him again.
David closed his eyes. “No concessions without your approval.”
“And?” he screamed with another jerk.
“We don’t produce escrow records.”
“You afraid of dying, David?”
“You sure?”
“I’m sure,” David said. “I know, death, Frank. Too well.”
Frank pulled David away from the wall. “Give me a hug, young man.” He pulled him even tighter for a bear hug. “Welcome to the team.”
“Any other rules I need to know of?” David asked.
“That’s all I can think of for now.” Frank let him go and grinned. “You’re my attorney now, David, isn’t that right?”
“As soon as you sign that retainer agreement and give me my check.”
“Robbie will take care of that.”
Frank returned to his chair and reclined. A gust of wind blew debris in his face and knocked his ash can over, but Frank seemed oblivious to it all.
“There’s one more thing we need to discuss,” David said.
“That’s news to me,” Frank sighed.
“Meridian Bank.”
Frank rubbed his head like he had a migraine. “In due course.”
“It’s urgent, Frank.”
“In due course.”
Robbie stepped forward and pulled on David’s shoulder. “Let’s get that agreement taken care of.”
David followed Robbie back into the kitchen, and pulled the agreement from the bag he’d left on the countertop. “You can sign for the company?”
Robbie nodded. He scribbled his name on the signature line. Underneath, he printed a title, COO.
“I didn’t know you were an officer of the company,” David said.
“Now you do.” Robbie retrieved an envelope from a drawer and handed it to David. David opened it and found a check. The watermark glistened under the light of the kitchen. Payable to Hollis & Alderman, in the amount of $50,000.
David’s pride swelled as the elevator descended. Having the check and signed agreement in hand gave him the confidence to ask Robbie something that had long been on his mind. “So what’s the story with Frank and Katherine? They an item?”
Robbie grunted. “He’s old enough to be her father.”
“Well, this is Gaspar County.”
“Is incest common in Gaspar County?”
“I don’t follow,” David said.
The elevator stopped on a dime on the ground floor. David grabbed the rail.
“She is his daughter,” Robbie said. “Frank’s only child.”
“Are you serious?”
“He didn’t know her until five years ago. Now she’s his right hand.”
That made perfect sense to David. Almost perfect sense. “But I thought you were his right hand.”
Robbie grinned. “Frank’s left-handed.”

Praise for the Book
"Few can match Thames' authority and veracity of presenting his story with the manner of pungency evident on nearly every page of the book. Watch this author rise." ~ Amazon Top 100 reviewer Grady Harp
"Attorney S. D. Thames attempts a Herculean task: make real estate ... actually interesting. Amazingly, Thames succeeds." ~ Above the Law
"The story really hooks you – I literally read the book from start to finish in one day." ~ Amazon reviewer B.D. Wesley
"This was one of those that I hated to see end. Nice to read a novel with interesting plot twists, and believable flawed humans ... like a lot of us." ~ Amazon reviewer Ida Cow

Guest Post by the Author
Foreclosure –The Lost Prologue
For my guest post today, I thought I'd share something with readers of Books Direct that is very dear to me—the lost prologue to my debut novel, Foreclosure. You often hear the exhortation to kill your darlings. Well, what follows is one of those darlings. I labored countless hours trying to get the details in this prologue just right. In the end, my editor finally convinced me that the prologue, while  well written and captivating, just did not quite fit with the novel I had written. I stubbornly had to agree. Still, that doesn't mean it isn't a good read. I hope you enjoy it. And if you check out my novel, I'd love to hear whether you think my editor and I made the right choice.
Stefan knows this will be his last sunset. He's lost himself in countless sunsets like these since he was a boy, when his dad would take him fishing for marlin or whatever game was in season off the keys. They'd drift for hours under the unforgiving sun before it would slip away behind the undulating waves and graying sky and seemingly meld into infinity. A mild December sea breeze whispers across the deck, but the chill he feels is one of premonition. His mother warned him at a young age that he had inherited the gift from her grandfather, and those with the gift are most likely to die by ignoring it. Which is precisely what he did today when he boarded this boat to fish Wahoo with Tommy and the Swede. Stefan never cared for what Tommy had to say about the Swede. Now he's beginning to understand why.
"I said you shouldn't have said that, Stef."
This time Stefan turns from the sunset and meets Tommy's gaze. "I heard you the first time."
"Well?" Tommy sets his rod against the rail and clasps his hands to hide their trembling. "Why the hell would you say that?" Tommy glances over his shoulder toward the helm, where Stefan last saw the Swede gripping the wheel and staring into the azure abyss surrounding them. Stefan glances too. Now the Swede cuts chunks of chum on a butcher block hinged to the boat's center console.
Stefan sighs. "I said it in jest, Tommy. But your reaction makes me wonder."
"Wonder what?"
"Do they want the whole damn thing to blow up? Cause that what it sounds like to me."
Tommy squints through the salty air. "And what if they do?"
It makes sense now. Too much sense. Why today of all days they'd make this trip, which now feels more like an audition than a day of fishing. Why Tommy came into Stefan's life months ago—eager to learn the trade, eager to act like a son.
"No one would have to die. They got a good plan. Just hear them out."
Stefan takes Tommy's rod and tightens the slack from the line. "You're throwing me quite a curve here, Tommy."
"This could set you up for life."
Stefan shakes his head. The sun has finally disappeared in the horizon, but fluorescent beams of light still trace the fleeting silver clouds. "Always talking about setting me up for life. Now I see why. Remember what I told you? There's no easy way in life. Remember? What's a man profit—"
Tommy jerks the rod from Stefan's grip and spins the reel angrily. "Jesus Christ, I remember. What's a man profit if he gains the world and loses his soul?"
"That's right."
"And it's the stupidest thing I ever heard. He profits the world, Stefan. That's what he profits. And that's good enough for me."
Stefan can't hide the disappointment on his face, but Tommy doesn't look up to see it.
"Quoting proverbs are we?" The Swede's voice is twisted.
As Stefan turns, he notices the knife the Swede was using to cut bait is now jammed upright in the butcher block. "Know any?" Stefan asks.
The Swede snarls, shakes his head.
Stefan gets his first good look at the Swede's neck. Trails of burn marks rise from his chest, thick and bulbous. "I'm afraid I won't pass your audition today, Mr.—what did you say your name is?"
The Swede dismisses Stefan's question, looks to Tommy. "I need a hand here."
Stefan stares back to the sea. Best case, he'll have to swim fifteen miles to reach land. In the dark Atlantic of December. Worst case, this was his last sunset.
A door squeals open. Tommy's grunting echoes over the water, as though he's moving something that weighs more than he does.
"Stef," Tommy yells. "We need you back here."
Stefan takes a final gaze at the horizon and tells it goodbye.
Tommy's chest rises and falls, nearly in unison with the pitch of the sea. Stefan knows he's not wheezing because he's tired, but because he's scared. Stefan saw it countless times in Nam when a boy Tommy's age would see death for the first time. And death is waiting: at Tommy's feet lies a man, naked, his hands bound behind his back with duct tape. His flesh has turned to a deep shade of indigo.
"Recognize him?" the Swede asks.
Stefan shakes his head, avoids the prisoner's face. "Is he alive?"
Tommy speaks with a renewed urgency: "Like I said, Stef. They need to know they can trust you."
The Swede offers the handle of the butcher knife to Stefan. "Something tells me you've done this before." Then he takes a step forward. "I can see it in your eyes."
Stefan returns the Swede's glare; his eyes are gray pits, lifeless and cold. His fine blond hair flutters in the wind like a ball of yarn tattered by a cat.
"What's your beef with this man?" Stefan asks.
"What's it matter? We cut him up, feed him to the sharks. You help us, we can do business. If not, you can join him."
"He knows too much," Tommy whispers to Stefan.
The Swede inches the knife towards Stefan. "Which now goes for you too now."
"I don't care what you're planning in Fort Gaspar. It's got nothing to do with me, and I don't plan on talking to no one about it. I suggest you leave me out—"
The Swede's cheeks redden. "I suggest you take this knife and cut his throat."
Tommy quivers. "Just do it, Stef. You told me you've done it before."
Stefan keeps his eyes on the Swede. "Not like this. That was different. I do this, I won't be forgiven."
"Please," Tommy cries. There's something in his voice, something worth saving.
Stefan nods to the Swede. He gently takes the butcher knife from his grip. It appears dull for the job, already traced with blood and guts.
The Swede nods back.
Stefan turns the prisoner over with his foot. The man is a few breaths away from death. His eyes are welded shut with blood; his lips grotesquely bloated and blue.
Stefan grips the knife handle, turns the blade perpendicular to his wrist. He kneels toward the prisoner. The instant he squats below parallel, he reverses his pivot and lunges for the Swede with the butcher knife extended like a bayonet. The blade penetrates the Swede's head, but Stefan can't tell how deep the gash. He can't tell anything but that the Swede is also holding something. By the time Stefan realizes it's a machete, he sees his own right hand. Still gripping the butcher knife. In a puddle of blood on the deck.
Just as the shock sets in.
And the machete pierces his gut.
The Swede grabs Stefan by the shoulders and lunges him over the railing. The sting of the salt water on his open skin. Feels like ice, but he knows it's not. Water slaps him down. A glimpse of the Swede returning to the helm.
The boat veers to the right.
Circling around.
Stefan feels something pulling him under.
The desire to die to the water and not the Swede.
The Swede holds a rifle. Pppfffhh. Cuts through the air.
Stefan feels the hit in his chest, underwater. No pain. Just pressure. Breathe. Breathe. But he can't. His lungs are collapsing.
The boat moves in a perfect circle around him. And there's that name again, painted on the starboard stern. Catherine Anne.
Of course it was her. She drew him here.
Premonition failed him.
And Charybdis is pulling him under.
He sees her face as he goes down holding, he knows, his last breath.

About the Author
S. D. Thames grew up in the Midwest but has lived in the Tampa Bay area since 1992. When he's not working as a litigation partner at a national law firm, he's writing mysteries and legal thrillers exploring the dark side of the Sunshine State. His first novel, Foreclosure, an offbeat legal thriller set during Florida's housing crash of 2008, was published in September 2015.

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