State of Vengeance


Phillip Lanuto





WorldMaker Media


WorldMaker Media

P.O. Box 610383

Newton, MA 02461


Copyright 2013 Phillip Lanuto.  All Rights Reserved.

All rights reserved.

First published by WorldMaker Media, a division of TheNextBigWriter, LLC on January 10, 2011.



Chapter 1



“Can you change Samuel’s diaper?”  Rachel asked him as she zippered closed her suitcase.  Woman’s shirts, slacks, and dresses lay scattered across the bed and brightly colored children’s books were strewn across the hardwood floors along with an assortment of other items including a measuring cup, a cassette tape, three cd’s, and a light blue stuffed bunny. 

The clutter drove him nuts but this morning he hardly noticed it.  If it wasn’t for the fact that Sam and Rachel were leaving for a week, he would have been even deeper in thought.  Today he would find out if the financial gamble he had staked their future on was going to work. 

He pulled a dark green polo shirt over his head and became aware of a small form looking up at him.  Samuel, their two year old son smiled, and then went back to spinning a nine volt battery that he had fished out of a toy.

 “You’re not listening to me, are you Zeke?”

“Sorry, did you say something?” he asked. 

“I said you aren’t listening to me.  You’re thinking about today, aren’t you?” 

“Well, I…” he stammered, not wanting to admit the truth.  Five years ago he had left the big bank he worked for after his main idea, a new system for calculating risk in the commodities market had been rejected by the risk and compliance committee. "Unproven" and "fundamentally flawed" had been written in big red letters on the front of the presentation binder. This from a bank that just a few years earlier had almost managed to sink the global economy with its mortgage backed securities and traches of securitized debt. He had anticipated this might happen and so Zeke had put together a backup plan, he always had a backup plan, and within two months he had let the bank and set up his own hedge fund to try out the idea. At first, he had tested his theories with small investments to see if they were valid, and with each success Zeke became convinced that he had developed a viable, legal, and  enormously profitable way to arbitrage the financial markets.  Today, after five years of experimenting, struggling to raise money, living with the hope but also the doubts, he would see if the theory would work.

"Zeke, you there?" Rachel asked.

"Yes, sorry, just spaced out a for a minute."

He thought she would be mad but instead Rachel smiled, walked over, and threw her arms around his neck.

“I understand,” she said.  “It’s okay.  You can neglect us, but just today.  Even though you won’t see us for a week, I understand.”

“Do you have to leave today?” he asked.  “Wait a day.”

“I can’t or we’ll miss the boat.  My parents will be waiting.  If things work out, why don’t you try to get on the boat in Sicily.”

“You know how I feel about your parents.”

“That’s in the past Zeke. This trip is their peace offering.”

“Really?” He doubted it. More like some ploy. They knew how bad the timing was for him and he hated the fact that her parents had paid for the trip. They couldn’t have afforded it by themselves. The two of them hadn’t been on a real vacation since their honeymoon. Rachel’s nursing job covered the rent and most of their expenses. Five years of little to no income had taken its toll and Rachel's parents thought him reckless and irresponsible.

They hadn’t liked him from the beginning. First, even though he had a Jewish grandfather, he had been raised Episcopalian, not Jewish. Strike one. Second, he had been raised an orphan and rather than elicit sympathy, it had raised suspicion. He found that people pitied orphans but didn't want them marrying their daughters. Strike two. Third, he had studied business and economics in school.

“You’re a banker,” her father had said. "And worse, a gambling banker." He hated bankers. Strike three. With no hope of getting their blessing, Rachel and Zeke had eloped and given them the news. Instead of joy, they reacted as if someone had died in the family. Sam’s birth had thawed them a bit and the cruise invitation had been another step forward but he could still remember hearing Rachel’s father asking his daughter if Zeke had any future, any means of supporting her.

“He’s an unemployed banker with no family working on some idea rejected by all of the banks. You deserve better, you can do better. We just want you to make your life easier,” he had overheard on a call.

“He’s working on something Dad. You’ll see.” You deserve better. He had to repay Rachel's loyalty with success. He was fairly certain she would stand by him even if the idea failed but he wasn't sure if could remain the same person.

He scooped up Sam and caught a whiff of the load in his pants. Still, if everything went well today, he might be able to tolerate them for a week. He wondered how they would feel knowing that the bum who had married their daughter had now become wealthy. He had spent countless hours daydreaming about the look on their faces when Rachel told them about his success. The plan had to work.

“That’s a stinker you have in there little guy.”  Sam twisted and he put him on the changing table. 

“What time does your flight leave again?” he asked as he cleaned the mess with a wet wipe.

“We’ve got about 2 ½ hours.  It leaves at 10:30.”

“I’ll drive you to the airport.”

“Do you have time?”

“Yes, the position won’t start too really kick-in until the end of the day.”

“Okay, that would be nice,” she said from the other room. The phone rang.

“Can you get it?” he called.  He smothered on some goopy white Dessitin and then closed up the diaper.  Sam gave him a kick and then smiled.

“Better?” he asked.

“Kha-kha,” was all that Sam said before he scurried off into the other room to throw more toys onto the floor. 

Zeke scanned the room for his phone, found it under a magazine, and quickly glanced at the headlines. The President was traveling to the UN for an address to the General Assembly, heavy rain threatened flooding in Louisiana, the Patriots had won their first regular season game. The universe appeared to be in harmony, at least for the moment.

Any major headline event could distort the algorithms and disrupt the complex financial positions they had built over the lasts three months. That was the only major risk he had been able to identify over five years of testing the model.

The forecast looked just as good for Rachel and Sam with the meteorologist calling for clear skies and a high of 65. 

He turned and noticed Rachel leaning against the door with a concerned look on her face.

"Rach, is everything okay?"

"I just received the strangest call."

"Okay," he said slowly. She looked spooked as if she had seen a ghost in their small kitchen.

"He said he could only speak for a second. Someone was listening."

"What did he say?" She paused for a moment as if deciding whether or not to divulge the information. "Rachel," Zeke said impatiently.

"He said not to leave today for the trip."









Chapter 2


Her words hung in the air for a moment, allowing Zeke to hear a truck chug by outside and Samuel whisper something to one of his stuffed toys.

"He told you not to take the trip today?" She nodded. Zeke's phone pinged and he saw a message from Patric at the office asking a technical question about the position.

"Did he sound old, young? Did he give you any clue to his identity?" he asked while composing a response. There was too much going on and this strange twist of events only complicated a very busy morning.

"No. He sounded in his twenties or thirties, I guess. It's hard to tell over a phone."

"What about the caller ID?"

"It reads Private." Zeke sent the response and another message came in from Adele. He needed to get into the office soon.

"Well, maybe you should delay a day. Skip the flight and go tomorrow," he said curtly, looking up. He really didn't have time to deal with this. Sam crawled into the room and began to tug at Rachel's leg. She reached down and scooped him up.

"We'll miss the boat. I've been looking forward to this vacation for so long." She had worked long shifts the last year to make extra money and the work had taken its toll, leaving dark circles under her eyes. It must have been a prank call," she said as Sam wriggled in her arms. "We're nobodies in the grand scheme of things. Why would anyone bother to really call us?" He bristled at the thought of being a nobody but had to admit she was right. When he Googled his name, the only result that came up besides social networking results was Sam's birth announcement. 

"But how did he know you are going on a trip?" She thought for a moment.

"It could have been someone at work. Yes," she said, becoming more certain, "I bet Lorna put someone up to it. She was mad at having to cover my shift."

"Would she stoop that low?" Lorna had been a bur in Rachel's side since his wife had started working at the hospital, seeing her as a rival and trying to undermine her reputation. It made sense and Zeke felt a measure of relief at having solved the mystery. Still, something about the call made him a bit uneasy.

"I've told you about her.  Yes, I bet it was Lorna." It made sense.

"Still, maybe you should..."

"There is no way I am giving Lorna the satisfaction of ruining my vacation."  The look she gave him made it clear that she had made up her mind and would be on the plane. Another email made his phone vibrate.

"Okay, you're probably right," he said glancing at his phone and trying to ignore the knot which had formed in his stomach.


* * *


The three of them drove in an old Buick Regal that Rachel had inherited from a great uncle. Uncle Lenny had only put 30,000 miles on it and it looked about new, other than the dent on the left side that Rachel had put into it by backing into a concrete column. They had been planning to get a new car, just like they had been planning to move into a larger space – Rachel wanted a house in the suburbs but they didn't have the money.  They had invested everything in the idea.  Their friends had bought nice houses and posted pictures on Facebook of their idyllic vacations, and while Rachel had fully supported his plan and didn’t mind sacrificing in the short term for the “dream,” he sometimes caught her staring jealously at a picture of her ex-roommate frolicking on the beach in the Bahamas. He would make it up to her.

He took the exit for Boston Logan Airport and spotted the sign for Terminal D.  A plane went by and Sam pointed excitedly from his carseat. 

“Plan, plan!” he said, forgetting the e.  He pointed his finger out the window at the ascending jet. 

“Plane,” he said correcting his son.  “You’ll be going on one soon.”  Zeke tried to force a smile through the sour taste in his mouth and the building dread in his stomach. He already felt nervous about letting Rachel and Sam travel without him and the phone call had only magnified the feeling. Since Sam had been born, the longest he had been away was two days to attend a hedge fund conference.  He slowed as they approached the terminal. Iberia, Air France, Singapore Air, Alitalis, and then American Airlines. 

“Call me as soon as you find out the results,” Rachel said.

“Remember to keep your phone on.”

“I will,” she said.  "Zeke, cheer up. It's going to be fine. You need to focus today. Are you still worried about that silly call? I'm going to really give it to Lorna when I get back."

He saw the international terminal.  They reached the drop-off point for American Airlines and he maneuvered the Buick into the right lane, narrowly avoiding a collision with a rental car bus before pulling over curbside. Cars swerved in and out and beside them an Indian man embraced his wife and daughter and then helped to pull their considerable luggage out of the car, grunting with each suitcase. Zeke grabbed the luggage out of the trunk while Rachel unhooked Sam from the car seat.  Another plane went by, its jets thundering in the sky and leading Sam to squeal in delight.

Zeke looked at Sam and Rachel and forgot about the day’s business.  Rachel looked beautiful, her dark brown hair falling in pretty waves down to her shoulders and glistening in the sun. Although she still had a little extra weight from Sam around her hips, it only accentuated her figure.  She smiled but he could see that her big brown eyes had become a little teary.

Sam, thank goodness, had her face, including the eyes and her easygoing disposition.  Every day his son learned something new and lately soccer seemed to be the rage, with Sam kicking a soft stuffed ball around the apartment. When he saw them again, he planned to take Sam out and give him a soccer lesson. 

A state trooper sauntered by and gave Zeke the signal that he needed to speed it up and move the car.

Zeke went over to Rachel and clasped them in his long arms.

“Stay safe.”

"Of course. You stay safe without us," she said trying to lighten the moment.

"I'll be over as soon as I can."

“Meet us in Sicily,” Rachel said, giving him the eye and reminding him of their previous conversation on the matter.

“If all goes well, we’ll buy Sicily,” he said.  “Save me some wine and pasta.”  A porter came over, checked their bags, and issued the boarding passes.

“What’s your flight number?”  She put down her carry-on bag and opened up her ticket.

“Flight number 2718, American.”  He pulled out his smart phone and quickly entered the information.

“Remember, call me right away,” she said taking Sam by the hand. 

“Put your phone on,” he shot back. 

“Travel safe.”

“I will.”

“Hope no one is sitting in the center seat.”

“Hope not.” She paused. “Good luck Zeke. Love you.” She cupped his cheek and gave him a soft kiss.

“It’s going to work,” he whispered, trying to sound confident. Rachel had risked everything for him, had believed in him, and now he needed to repay that trust.

A plane roared overhead and Sam pointed up into the sky.

“Plan, plan,” he said again and the two of them burst out laughing.  He gave Rachel a passionate kiss on the lips and then turned to Sam.

“Sam, promise me you will take care of your mother until I get there.”  Sam returned his stare and then gave him a toothy smile before squeezing Zeke’s nose, while at the same time wrapping his right arm around Zeke’s shoulder, pulling him gently forward.

“Hug-a,” Sam said and Zeke could feel his little lips on his neck, kissing his skin.  A lump formed in his throat and he placed another kiss on the boy’s forehead.

“Have a safe trip,” he said again, not wanting to part and feeling glum.

“Cheer up Zeke. Focus. We’ll see you in a couple of days. Say bye to Daddy.”

“Bye, bye,” Sam said in his little baby voice.  Rachel took Sam’s hand and they walked towards the door.

"Rachel," he called out, "are you sure you don't want to delay it a day?"

"And give Lorna the satisfaction, never!" she said pumping her fist in the air.  Before they went in, Sam looked back and began to wave at Zeke, his little face crinkling up into a smile as the doors whooshed shut. And then they were both gone. 

Submitted: March 27, 2019

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