The Iron Tiara:A Nine Minutes Spin-Off Novel

By: Beth Flynn


Naples, Florida 1978

Anthony Bear fumed as he sat astride the riding mower and gazed across the large expanse that was the Chapman property. Their lavish home sat on several acres in the exclusive community of Land and Sea Estates. He glanced down at his hands that were gripping the mower's steering wheel and realized there was still some blood caked beneath his fingernails from earlier that day. He hardly noticed the roar of the mower as he reflected on the events that had transpired over the last few hours.

Three Hours Earlier

When he'd found out that morning from his bookkeeper that a client was in arrears for almost seventy thousand dollars, he had to reel in anger so intense he could almost feel his blood boiling. After willing himself to calm down, he immediately called his second in command, Alexander, who Anthony called X, to find out how this could've happened. He was almost cooled off when the loud pipes from X's motorcycle announced his arrival at Anthony's business, Native Touch Landscape and Design.

"You know that's Denny's job, Bear. He's the one that collects and squeezes clients when they can't pay," X told him, his blue eyes serious. "And as far as I know, you've never had a problem with Chapman before. He's always paid." X hadn’t been referring to the legitimate customers that used Native Touch Landscape and Design. He was referring to the ones that Anthony had other business with: the ones who needed drugs or loans to finance their gambling, drug or other expensive habits.

According to Anthony's bookkeeper, X's observation had been true up until three months ago. Denny either wasn't doing his job or he was doing his job and keeping the money for himself. There was only one way to find out.

"Get Denny over to the camp. I'll meet you there," Anthony said in a quiet, but menacing voice from behind his desk.

Camp Sawgrass was a children’s camp abandoned in the sixties. It was situated in the Florida Everglades, just southwest of the entrance to Alligator Alley, the long stretch of highway that connected the Florida coasts. It was where Anthony conducted all his darker and more distasteful business.

“He said he’d pay. He’s always paid you, boss.” Denny gasped for air and added, “They always pay—even when I let them slide!” Denny was sitting in a chair, his hands cuffed behind his back. Blood trickled from his nose and a cut on his forehead.

“Them? Are you saying that you’ve extended credit before and not just to Van Chapman but others as well?” Anthony asked. He spoke with deadly calm, and his voice was so low, X barely heard him. X stood back watching with his arms crossed. An interrogation like this was something he normally would’ve handled, but it was obvious Anthony wanted to deal with Denny personally. Seventy thousand dollars was a lot of money.

Denny looked like a deer caught in the headlights. His expression told Anthony it was true, spurring another solid blow to Denny’s cheek.

“How much of a kickback do you get from clients for letting them slide on their dues?” he asked the trembling man.

When Denny told him the amount, Anthony punched him in the mouth, breaking off his front tooth.

“That’s my money. Not yours,” Anthony said. His voice carried an ominous tone. “I’m going to let you go, give you an hour to meet up with Van and bring me back my money. I want Van to get a good look at what I've done to your face.”

Denny started to cry. “I can’t get your money in an hour, boss. Van went out of town and didn’t say where he was going. He told me he’d be back in a few days to settle up with you and everybody else he owes. He’s always paid,” he sobbed. “He’s always paid.”

“You let a client who owes me seventy thousand dollars skip town?” Anthony asked, his eyes blazing with fury and his voice now a growl. “A client who owes not just me, but other sharks?”

“Seventy thousand?” Denny asked, tears, blood and snot dripping down his face.

“Are you telling me he doesn’t owe me seventy thousand?” Anthony was certain that was the figure his bookkeeper had told him.

“I thought it was seventy-five thousand, but maybe I’m wrong,” Denny answered, and then spit a blood-stained ball of phlegm on the floor.

Anthony stiffened when he realized that his bookkeeper had possibly been skimming too. The guy was an accountant for a large corporation who moonlighted by keeping Anthony’s books. Was he so hard up for money that he took the chance of mentioning Van Chapman’s outstanding loan to Anthony? Or was Denny wrong? Either way, Anthony blamed himself. He’d become too complacent, believing that he’d established himself as a force too powerful to be reckoned with. No one had ever dared to cross him before. But they were obviously doing it now. The more he thought about it, the angrier he got.

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