Early evening in Phoenix. A blazing sun still high above the western horizon. One hundred nine degrees in the shade. Those with the wherewithal and accumulated vacation time fled north to the cool pines or west to the balmy California coast weeks ago. Only the dregs of humanity, conscripted company workers and hardcore entrepreneurs are left to bake in the Valley of the Sun’s August heat. Yet beneath the surface layer of superheated atmosphere and social veneers there is another, more subliminal furnace raging—its fumes, stoking the fires of Hell.
Just off the intersection of Greenway and Tatum a white stucco box of an office building squats under a clay tile roof, heat rising off the reddish tiles in shimmering sheets. Mounted on the wrought-iron entry gate, the building directory announces the tenants: Suite 101—Whiting Realty & Development. The office is closed for the day yet the overburdened air conditioning units grind away, sheltering the last remaining occupant from the sweltering heat.
Bloodshot eyes stare at a spreadsheet, the monitor’s image shimmering with harsh reality. Too many negative numbers expose an ugly truth. Anxiously perched on the edge of his high-backed leather executive chair, Gary Whiting waits with the phone to his ear. Dreading the final ring, Whiting lets it go to voicemail, again. He loosens the knot in his power tie and hangs up. This time, without leaving a message.
The four Excedrin have knocked his headache down to a dull throbbing at the base of his skull, but his eyes still ache. He’s been crunching numbers for their Sunset Pointe development project, staring at the monitor all damn day. He rubs at the knots in his stomach through his rumpled white dress shirt, thinking maybe he should eat or maybe he should just shoot himself. He taps the return key with a jittery thumb, hitting it too many times, trying to put the numbers out of his mind. He needs to talk to his partner, Rodriguez. As a last resort Whiting tries Rodriguez’s home number and gets his wife, Connie.
“Is Mike there?”
“Hi Gary. Did you try his cell?”
“Yeah, a couple times”
“Try again in a couple minutes. He’s not around here, haven’t heard from him all day.”
“Thanks Connie, tell him to call me if you talk to him.”
As he hangs up, his pulse pounds in his temples. Shit! Got to get ahold of that asshole, Rodriguez.
Whiting runs a trembling hand through thinning hair, his scalp hot and moist. They’ve got to do something about these numbers. Short stubble on raw cheeks twitches as he anxiously works his jaws. They could lose the whole damn project. Thirty million! He can’t believe it, he’s bet everything on this project. And with the hard-money loan, they’ve got a bigger nut than ever. Shit! Those hard-money bastards, they’re Rodriguez’s contacts. Of course they had to have the money to finish—all the construction cost overruns. Fucking Rodriguez. His fingers manically drum on the hardwood desktop, their nails ragged, bitten to the quick. They’re in way too deep to quit now.
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Genre – Mystery & Thrillers
Rating – R
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