By W. Ward Neuman
Prologue: Part One
A New Beginning
The meeting began promptly at four o’clock on a glorious fall afternoon. The Payback Team had assembled at Henry’s, their favorite sports bar, and the first order of business, naturally, was to order a large pitcher of Guinness.
Wade “Spike” Courtland, the founder and leader of the group, raised his glass and gave a brief toast: “To a new beginning.” After clinking glasses with his partners, Tommy “Chico” Martin, and Michael “Rocky” MacMillan he suggested that they get right to the point. “Are we going to continue with our mission, or should we just spend our time playing poker and golf until dementia gets the best of us?
“It’s been three weeks since we got back from Guatemala, and so far we’ve kept our agreement not to discuss business. It was great to get in the two rounds of golf, and I know we all enjoyed the weekend we spent cruising on the Chain O’ Lakes in Chico’s Sea Ray, but we need to decide what’s next.
“I’m not really sure where to begin, but let me just put a couple of things on the table for discussion. First of all, we lost one of our team. I don’t know if either of you has fully recovered from seeing Sergeant Callahan murdered right in front of our eyes, I know I sure haven’t. So does that mean that we should hang it up, or, conversely, is that a sign that we should continue with a vengeance?”
It was a rhetorical question, so he didn’t actually expect an answer. They sat in silence for a minute or two, pondering the loss of their fallen comrade. Then Wade continued. “ And what about the list? I have it; it’s right here. Do you remember what Calllahan said just before he cashed? ‘Look in my little black bag… there’s a list I put there…I wrote down some projects I wanted us to tackle when we get back in operation again…’
“Well, I guess you could argue that we owe it to him to check out the list again; I know you both looked at it on the plane on the way back from Guatemala, but now we ought to do more than just glance at it.
“And you haven’t talked about it since it happened, but I know you both paid a price for getting involved in our cause. A broken rib, a broken jaw, a concussion, the better part of a day in jail and in court. I’m sure you weren’t planning on that when you signed on six months ago.”
Rocky and Chico both rolled their eyes as if to say “Let’s hope we never have to go through anything like that again.
“Okay, you haven’t brought it up, so I guess I’ll just say it. Rob’s gone. That wouldn’t have happened if we had just taken a pass on this crazy undertaking. No one has ever loved their son more than I loved Rob, and yes, I’ve thought of the issue that no parent should ever have to bury a child, but that’s now a fact of life in Paula’s and my case. I know you both loved him as well. Rocky, you were his godfather, and you both were there when he came into the world twenty-one years ago. Now we have to focus on accepting what can’t be changed, you know, the serenity prayer. I’m not saying I’ve accomplished it, but I’m working on it.”
As Wade paused for a breath, they suddenly realized that no one had touched a glass to their lips since the toast, ten minutes ago. They spent a minute or two gazing at two young women throwing darts about twenty feet away. Rocky was about to break the ice by commenting on the fact that their looks were in direct contrast to how badly they were playing, when Chico spoke. “Everything you said makes sense. We definitely need to assess whether the gain is worth the pain. A quick conclusion from what you just said would be to wrap it up and pack it in. But you only looked at it from one angle. Think about the results we’ve accomplished. We took out one of the worst drug running cartels in Central America, stopped a hijacking operation that had gone on for years, put an end to a child prostitution ring, and took care of the guy who raped and murdered a fourteen year old girl. I especially liked that one. We can definitely relate, because we each have a daughter. I wish I could be a fly on the wall in that prison for a day. Remember Rocky, you were going to have one of your contacts arrange for a daily dose of prison justice. I really don’t think Mr. Medrano will make it till the end of year one.”
Rocky was about to provide some feedback he had gotten from his contact, but Chico held up his hand in a “let me finish” gesture.
“Okay, that’s just a few of the things we accomplished in only about six months. And I’m not saying that those are reasons why we should continue, but I think someone should bring it up so that we can make the right decision for the right reason. I’m saying that we should look at it from more than one angle. Listen, we’ve known each other for over forty years, going back to when we met in seventh grade. We work well together, we have, as near as I can tell, about eighty million dollars that we can never spend in our lifetimes. We’re all fifty-three years old and in the best of health, and we’re retired. Life has been very good to us…no, it’s been spectacular.
“The point is, we can act like retired guys are supposed to act, or we can continue using our resources to help those who can’t do it on their own. We’ve really done a hell of a job at that so far.”
Rocky finally saw his chance to weigh in. “You both have made a lot of sense, but let’s change course for a minute. I think we should take a look at Callahan’s list and see if that helps us decide which way to go with this.”
Wade was about to respond, but Rocky wasn’t quite finished. “Before we ask Spike to read the list, I have one more thing to say. I think we should…” Rocky stopped in mid-sentence as their attention was drawn to a commotion at the bar. A woman began shouting at a large man in a tacky Hawaiian shirt. They couldn’t make out the words, but it was obvious that both were pretty well wasted. Then, to everyone’s disbelief, he planted a good one on the right side of her head and she went down in a heap, faster than a blink. Time stood still for everyone in the place, and no one moved or spoke, except, of course, for the three members of The Payback Team.
THEY LIKED IT!
Here’s What Readers Said About His First Novel:
I could not put the book down! I finished it in three days. Can’t wait for his next book! –Paul Hennip
The book is great, wow, what a finish! PLEASE WRITE A SEQUEL! –Ruth Frendon
This book is a page turner! Highly recommended! –Jo Beth Omell
Good story, fiction intertwined with reality, which kept me captivated from page one. –Slavica Cvijetic
Exciting, engaging, and well worth my time. A great read and I’m anxious to get the sequel. –Joe Ward
Kept my interest from the first page. The book, although fiction, is not far from the truth. –David Griffiths
Had a hard time putting it down. Can’t wait for the next one! –Kathy Kuhnke
Captivating from the very beginning! I really would enjoy reading a sequel. –Jillian Maverick
About the Author
W. Ward Neuman lives with his wife, Pam, in Illinois and Arizona. His background is in real estate investing and he has published three books about managing income property. He has also written numerous articles that have appeared in running, finance, and poker magazines.
After a lifetime of concern about injustice, he decided to write his first novel and has put to life on these pages some of his fantasies about how the bad guys should be made to pay for harming the good guys, especially when “the system” has failed.