CHAPTER 62

Mecho walked the lawnmower up the ramp of the truck and positioned it next to two other pieces of motorized equipment. He turned and stared back out across the Lampert estate. He didn’t know how much the man spent on landscaping, but it must be a lot. They had come every day and worked all day. When one part was done it was time to move on to another. When the cycle was complete it started over again.

When he had asked the foreman about it the man had just shaken his head and muttered, “He spends more on grass than I’ll make in my entire life. What’s fair about that?”

“Life is not meant to be fair,” Mecho had told him.

“You got that right,” the man said. “Life is meant to suck. Unless you’re rich.”

“There are things other than money,” Mecho said. “To bring happiness.”

The foreman smirked. “Keep telling yourself that. You might actually start believing it.”

“I do believe it,” Mecho had said after the man walked off.

Mecho climbed down and washed the back of his neck with cold water from a bucket carried on the truck. He glanced toward the yacht. Lampert had never come back off it. He had been on there most of the day. But then again, when you had a yacht like that why would you get off?

Then Mecho wondered if he were there by himself. He doubted it.

He knew that Chrissy Murdoch was not there. He had seen her go into the house.

>   The maid Beatriz had not gone out there either.

But there were other women here. And one could have arrived directly at the yacht from the waterside via a tender and Mecho would not have been able to see it. The yacht blocked the water view along its full length.

Mecho looked back over at the guesthouse and then at the remains of the Bentley. The police had finally left, apparently having exhausted the evidence remaining at the crime scene.

Actually, they would not find any, because he had not left any. If they were looking for a bomb signature they would not find one. He had gone totally generic on that. It would provide them with a thousand possible paths to go down with nary a viable prosecution case at the end of any of them.

He looked up in time to see the sun reflecting off something in an upstairs room of the main house. He immediately walked in the opposite direction, took cover behind a tree, and knelt down, ostensibly to look for weeds to pull or mulch to tidy up.

From the partial cover provided by the tree canopy he looked up, shielding the sun’s glare with one of his huge hands. He counted windows. Third floor, second window from the left. Southwestern side of the house.

He squinted to see if he could tell who was holding the optics. But he couldn’t make out the person.

He ran a sightline from the window to what the person was looking at.

It was a simple process and yielded a simple answer.

The yacht.

With decent optics and from that height the person could probably make out quite a few details on the boat. Which also meant the person was well ahead of Mecho when it came to recon.

He saw Beatriz come out again.

Mecho moved swiftly enough to intersect her path. He walked along with her for a few paces. He asked the question that he needed answered.

She didn’t seem to want to, perhaps thinking he was casing the place for a later burglary. But finally she did tell him.

Mecho thanked her and said that he would try to help her.

“How?” she immediately asked him.

“I can get you out, perhaps.”

“You cannot do that,” she replied, her face turning as pale as her almond skin would allow. “My family.”

“I know,” he said. “It’s complicated.”

“It is not complicated,” she whispered back. “Do not do anything to help me. I am beyond help.”

She turned and rushed off.

Mecho looked around to see if this conversation had engaged the interest of anyone, security types or otherwise.

He could see no one paying them any attention.

They were merely servants conversing. Perhaps it was expected.

Class to class.

It was only when you tried to mingle outside your class—steerage passengers emerging on the main decks during daylight hours—that people became upset.

But she had told him what he needed to know.

The room with the optics belonged to Christine Murdoch.

She was the one spying on Lampert and his yacht.

And Mecho wondered why that was so.

CHAPTER 63

Peter Lampert sat back in the leather chair that was located in his private office on Lady Lucky. He was surrounded by only the best here. The best boat, the best equipment, the best crew, the best wine, the best views, and the best ass money could buy.

It had been a long slog for him, though. South Beach was a rough place to survive, much less build a successful business. Lampert had tried the legitimate side for a long time. But ultimately he found it too stifling with all its rules and regulations and laws that could trip you up. He did not like regulatory agencies looking over his shoulder. He didn’t know of one businessman who did.

After his hedge fund had imploded he had decided to build a different business model. Thus he had taken his talents to another line of work. He had installed proven business systems in a field that often existed on crude violence and sketchy accounting.

Now he had built an incredibly profitable empire by charging fees tied to profitability, like royalties on a book. He charged a standard fee up front to find and transport product to the end user. If the product hit certain benchmarks once deployed in the field, additional monies started to flow back to him.

If a prostitute reaped over six figures then monies started to come back to him. If a drug mule successfully completed ten missions, monies started to flow back to him. The lowest- level product, the common laborer, typically had a more modest threshold to meet because their initial cost was the least. But the profits generated by them added up because there were so many of them deployed in the field. Volume was volume.

Slave labor in civilized countries was one of the fastest-growing segments of the criminal world. Not that he ever saw anything remotely criminal about it. To Lampert he was doing these poor folks a favor. As slaves they were fed and housed and lived a decent life, despite the fact that they were not free.

He had often had these people taken from worlds where there was never enough to eat, never a roof over their heads, and where wages were something one dreamt about but never actually received.

Freedom was vastly overrated in his mind.

He had accountants placed in strategic areas with full access to the books of his business associates. These associates, often not the most cooperative of men, had fallen in line with his demands solely because he had made the business far more lucrative and stable than it ever had been before. And he guaranteed a steady stream of product across all service lines. That was the most critical factor in his business and it demanded constant foraging for bodies in some of the most remote places on earth. There was no margin of error in this segment of the business.

As a result a boat that was late with product was a boat that would not be sitting above the water much longer, along with its captain and crew.

He looked out the starboard window and checked his watch. Then he glanced back at the computer screen over which a stream of business data poured over secure networks.

He played hard, but he also worked hard. It was not easy building what he had. Most people would not have the nerve or stomach for it. He had been bom with a silver spoon in his mouth on the shores of Lake Michigan. His father had been CEO of a Fortune 500 company. His mother was a beautiful socialite who entertained often and lavishly at their multiple homes. They had lived the life that most Americans dreamed of.

He had gone to the most elite universities and set up shop on Wall Street along with a gaggle of his classmates. Many were now titans of industry and preferred to keep the money and influence that came with it in tightly controlled circles of people who were just like them. Upward

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