Chapter One

Man is the hunter; woman is his game:
The sleek and shining Creatures of the Chase,
We hunt them for the beauty of their skins;
They love us for it, and we ride them down.

Alfred Lord Tennyson (The Princess)

Boston, Massachusetts - December, 1979

Davie knew when he was in deep and right now he was in up to his neck. This particular Shit Creek was in flood and no amount of the old charm and razzle-dazzle was going to help him find a paddle this time. He swallowed another ball of saliva, cleared his throat and tried to keep it all together.

Yeah, that’s what you gotta do Davie boy, just keep it all together man. So the guy you’re lookin’ at is the richest, most powerful son of a bitch that you’ll ever want to see up close. Not to worry Davie boy, this dude’s speciality is women and the occasional pretty boy maybe, so you’re safe as houses.

So, why am I here you bastard?

Merhot Capritzo’s eyes moved upwards from the piece of paper he was reading to focus on the young man seated, in some discomfort it would seem, across the polished ebony, glass and chrome desk.

Davie felt his skin crawl as every feature of his face was methodically scrutinised. Blackest damn eyes he had ever seen, and the scary part was that they were like dead looking or something. Shit! Hold on man or you’re gonna lose it! And Davie held on — just.

Three days ago now he had been summoned to this almost legendary address by a representative of Mr. Capritzo. Nice looking dude too. Real smooth in his three-piece suit and shiny shoes. Yeah, a real class act. He was waiting by Davie’s clapped out old Mustang in the parking lot of the university where Davie was suppose to be studying Pre-med. He was failing his courses but getting straight A’s with the chicks. Knocking them over like ten pins. He ought to get bonus points! Sandy haired, blue-eyed, with the fresh faced charm and gift of the gab of his Irish ancestors, Davie had the world by the balls except that right now he, ah …

He had been told to wear a suit and tie. It never occurred to Davie not to and so here he sat in exactly the same outfit he had worn last year when his mother was buried in that big, old, fancy cemetery out at Concord. That was no fun, no fun at all man. He remembered the snow falling, landing in big white globs on top of her coffin as it was slowly lowered into the cold, cold ground. Shit! His mother had just enough time before the cancer ate her up to say what she wanted written on her tombstone - Beloved Mother of David Michael Kendall - like she was hoping that he would join her someday, but Davie had it all worked out. He was going to live to be ninety-one, then die of a massive heart attack while screwing some nubile teenager in the back-seat of one of them flash electric cars of the future. ‘Wham, bam I’m outta here ma’am and I do thank you!’ Then he was going to be cremated in an oven just like a pizza only when he came out he would have more than his mozzarella melted!

'A most regrettable situation my young friend. You are, I believe, not yet twenty years of age. Is that correct?' Capritzo’s tone was strictly business, almost formal with perhaps just a hint of condescension as he raked the young man over with eyes that would missed nothing.

'Yes sir,' Davie managed, his voice nothing more than a hoarse whisper.

'So young,' Capritzo replied with a sigh as he moved the papers aside. The smile that accompanied the sigh was cool, aloof; the lips moistened repeatedly by a quick, efficient tongue that darted in and out.

Like a snake, Davie thought then shuddered inwardly. Actually, come to think of it, everything about his man reminded Davie of a snake - the deadly kind. No, not the kind that bite. That would be too easy, too quick. More like the constrictors. You know, the kind that suffocates you while breaking every bone in your body so you’re more compact and easier to swallow.

How old? Hard to say. Fifty maybe, but with that well-cared-for, smooth-skinned look that only big money can buy.

Davie didn’t believe half the stories told about this guy; didn’t want to either. He was Egyptian or something. Jet black hair drawn straight back to accent a high forehead and a widow’s peak. It made him look even more predatory, more evil if you like and right now Davie didn’t like so he concentrated instead on his fingers resting none too quietly in his lap.

If it was true that women lined up to sleep with this creep, then all Davie could say was that either they had cast iron stomachs or one hell of an itch. Whatever the truth was, one thing was sure, Capritzo had the finest stable of whores this side of the Mississippi. Nothing but high quality stuff too, with price tags to match. If he regularly oiled these dames himself, and it was rumoured that he did before sending them off with big smiles and a few new tricks of the trade to practise with, he would be one hell of a busy boy.

'I have learned of your indebtedness purely by chance. Tell me, have you sufficient funds to satisfy Mr. Stark?'

'Well, I … my car is, ah …'

'…1972 Ford Mustang, worth perhaps less than nothing considering that the brakes are in need of major repair. Come, come Mr. Kendall, surely you must have other resources.'

Davie lowered his head.

'I see. You realise, I trust, that Mr. Stark is quite prepared to make an example of you. The sum of money is incidental to him, the debt negotiable, but alas you compounded your error when you felt compelled to bed his current mistress. As I said, most regrettable. Has it occurred to you as yet Mr. Kendall that you may well lose your life, all for the paltry sum of four thousand dollars?'

'Sir, I don’t know why you … ah, why I’m ah ... here.' Davie’s veneer cracked like the shell of an egg.

'Then I shall tell you. I have a proposition for you. If you do exactly as I ask of you then I will arrange to have not only your gambling debt erased, but I will actively seek to amend the damage caused by your little indiscretion with Miss Napier. Do we have an accord?'

'I, ah … I mean, it depends on what you …'

'Please Mr. Kendall - David - you are hardly in a position to question me or to debate the finer details. Either you undertake the task I have in mind for you, or you do not. I can assure you, however, that this thing is of no great matter, legal and well within your scope. I would even hazard to suggest that you may enjoy it. Your answer, please.'

'All right, I’m in,' Davie replied, more terrified than ever.

'Good.' The smile again, only this time it was more triumphant than condescending. Caprizo had hold of his prey and was just about to squeeze. 'I believe you are acquainted with a young woman by the name of Sarah Winthrope Churchill. Is that correct?'

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