Max Burnage, Ep. 01: Cheaters Beware

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: General Erotica  |  House: Booksiesilk Classic Group

Cheated and abused husband get help dealing with his wife, and gets justice. He also finds a new love.

Max Burnage Ep. 01: Cheaters Beware

by Saddletramp1956

Copyright© 2023 by Saddletramp1956, All rights reserved



The ending of “Cheater's Gallery 03: Kelli”


Adrestia moved on to the next case that came before her. One day, however, she sat down at her desk and took a long look at everything. All the pain, all the anguish, and all the cries for help. As she looked at it all, she was suddenly overwhelmed. She put her head in her hands and did something she hadn't done for two millennia.


She wept.



And now, “Max Burnage Ep. 01: Cheaters Beware”


Maxwell Burns opened his eyes and noticed the darkness. Where am I, he asked himself. He could hear the beeps of equipment and instantly noticed that his head had been bandaged up. The room he was in was also dark. Perhaps it's night time, he said to himself. It was obvious to him that he was in a hospital, but he couldn't quite remember why.


As his vision began to adjust to the darkness, he thought he saw two shadowy figures in the room at the foot of his bed. One appeared to be a tall, lanky man with a battered Stetson and the other seemed to be a much shorter, petite woman. They were talking quietly to each other and he focused as hard as he could, hoping to glean some information.


What do you think, Eli?” the woman asked.


Well, he certainly appears to have the heart for the job, but,” he began.


He's a bit on the weak side, and he doesn't have the skill set for the work,” she said.


I agree,” the man said.


The body can be built up and the skills can be learned,” she argued.


Idaho?” the man asked.


Yes, for starters,” she said.


I take it you've already got approval for this?” he asked.


Yes,” she said. “The big guy has approved, but with some conditions. One is that you help me mentor him, at least through his first couple of jobs. Will you do that for me?”


Of course, you know I will,” he said. “But I have to ask. Why?”


Not now,” she said. “He can hear us.” The man looked at Maxwell. “I just need to know that you'll support me in this.


Of course, That's what I'm here for, remember?” the man asked, trying to make a joke.


And I would be totally lost without you, Eli,” she said. “That's why I recruited you.”


Well, you need to be careful. He's still a flesh and blood mortal man,” the tall man said. “With all the emotions and desires that go with it. I still can't help but think there's something else going on, though.”


You're very perceptive, Eli,” she said. “But like I said, we'll talk about that later.”


So, why him?” the man asked.


Because I sense the same desire for justice in him that I felt in you all those years ago,” she said.


And what's his story?” the man asked.


Name's Maxwell Burns,” she said. “He's an accountant. A very good one with a sharp eye for detail. He's been married for about five years to Shannon Dupree. No children, at her insistence. She works as a legal secretary and has been involved with a high-end attorney there for about the last year. This attorney, by the way, does work for some rather shady characters. Anyway, Max was gone for a week-long seminar to review changes in the tax code. When he returned, he was ambushed in his home, drugged, tied to a chair and forced to watch his wife take on multiple men. They made demands of him and he refused. So they beat him. Brutally. His wife also participated in all this. When they were finished, they dumped him at the hospital, unconscious. He was in a medically-induced coma for several days so the swelling in his brain could go down. They also did reconstructive surgery on his face. They tried to kill him, Eli.”


I take it she hasn't bothered to visit him?” the man asked.


No,” the woman said. “Some police officers have been by, but he hasn't been able to talk to anyone. Some of the people his wife are involved with are very dangerous. You and I both know that if Maxwell talks, he's as good as dead.”


Why did they target him?” the man asked.


Simple,” she said. “His wife wants his money and her accomplices want him to cook the books for one of their clients in order to hide some of his activities. All very illegal.”


So we need to get Maxwell Burns outta here before they come back, is that it?” he asked.


In a nutshell,” she said.


He's in no shape to move now, that's for damn sure,” the man said. “He needs protection. Is there anyone trustworthy enough to do that here?”


No one I would trust,” she said.


So, you're saying I need to provide security for him?” he asked.


I'm afraid so, Eli. Will that be a problem?” she asked. He shook his head.


No, I can do that. If necessary I'll ask Amos and see if he's available. He's gotten pretty handy with that Winchester,” the man said. “What will you be doing?”


I need to make arrangements for him,” she said. “This is very important to me, Eli.” He studied her face for a moment.


I can see that,” he said. “Alright, but I want your promise that you'll tell me what's really going on.”


I will,” she said. “Promise. Thank you, Eli, this means more to me than you'll ever know.” With that, the two figures seemed to fade away. Am I dreaming, Max asked himself. What the hell is going on? What do they mean by Idaho? What's up there that he can't get here in good ol' Texas? None of this was making any sense. What did she want to recruit him for? He tried to make sense of it all, but was unable to. His door opened and a nurse came in. She checked his vitals, made notes on her chart, then inserted a syringe in the IV line. A few minutes later, he was sound asleep.


The next day after breakfast, a doctor came into his room. He examined Max and checked his notes, then pulled up a stool and sat next to his bed.


Well, Mr. Burns,” he said. “You seem to be healing quite nicely. How do you feel?”


Still a bit sore,” Max croaked.


Well, that's to be expected,” the doctor said. “You were nearly dead when you were dropped off. We had to do a lot of work on you.”


Has anyone been by to visit?” Max asked.


Your boss and co-workers have been by almost every day to check up on you. They're very concerned,” the doctor said. “Of course, you probably don't remember, do you?” Max shook his head.


What about my wife?” Max asked. The doctor shook his head.


I don't recall seeing her here,” he said. “I think we're about ready to remove some of those bandages from your face. Would that be okay?”


Yeah, sure,” Max said. The doctor turned to a nurse who had entered the room with a cart filled with various implements. He put on a pair of latex gloves and picked up a pair of scissors.


Alright, just relax and let's see what we've got,” the doctor said. He began cutting the bandages off and when he was finished, looked Max over before saying anything. “Very nice. Still some bruising, which is normal, but the swelling is going down. Would you care to take a look?”


Sure,” Max said quietly. The doctor handed him a mirror. Max was surprised when he took in his face. There were blue blotches on his face, but he barely recognized what he saw in the mirror. It was almost like looking at a totally different man.


Why do I look so different?” he asked.


Well, there was considerable damage to your face, and we tried our best to make it look the same as before the attack, but we were simply unable to,” the doctor said. “I'm sorry about that.”


That's okay,” Max said. “It doesn't look too bad. It's just different.”


Once the bruising and the swelling goes down, perhaps it won't be so bad,” the doctor said. “We'll keep an eye on it.”


How much longer will I be here?” Max asked.


I'd say about two more weeks,” the doctor said. “I want to make sure all your injuries have healed up sufficiently before we release you. In the meantime, I've arranged for a counselor to come spend some time with you. Will that be okay?”


Sure,” Max said. The doctor made notes on his chart, handed it to the nurse and left the room. As the nurse left the room, a young, petite blonde woman entered, pushing a small cart with a teapot and two cups. She put the cart next to his bed and looked at him with sadness in her face.


Good morning, Mr. Burns,” she said. “How are you feeling today?”


Sore, but I guess I'll be okay,” he said. Her voice seemed familiar to him somehow. He looked at her name plate. All it said was, “A.”


Is that really your name, doctor? A?” he asked. She smiled as she looked at the name plate on her chest.


It's what people call me most often, so yeah, you could say I'm Dr. A,” she said. “My real name is Adrestia Rhamnousia.”


That's quite a mouthful,” Max said. “So I can call you Dr. A, then?”


That'll work for now,” she said, pulling up a stool. She looked at him intently for a few moments. “Would you care for some tea? It's my own special blend. It might help relax you.”


That sounds nice,” he said. “Thanks.” She poured hot water into the cups over a tea bag she pulled from her pocket, stirred in a dollop of honey and handed one to him.


Careful, that's hot,” she said. He blew on the hot liquid before taking a sip, and savored the taste, which had just a hint of citrus.


Very good,” he said. “Thanks.”


You're welcome,” she said. “I'm glad you like it.” She took a sip of her tea and set her cup down. “Can I call you Max?” she asked.


Sure,” he said.


Max, what do you remember about your injuries?” she asked. He thought for a moment before answering.


Honestly, I don't remember hardly anything,” he said. “I had been at a seminar dealing with changes to the tax code. I'm a certified public accountant, and we have to keep up on these things. I got home and the next thing I know, I'm waking up here in more pain than I've ever felt in my life.”


So you don't remember how you got injured?” she asked.


No, I don't,” Max said.


How are things between you and your wife?” she asked.


Now that I can talk about it,” he said. “At best, it's not good.”


What do you mean, Max?” she asked quietly.


I think she may be having an affair,” he said. “She started acting different about a year ago or so. Until then, she was the sweetest person you'd ever want to know. Then she started changing. One day, she'd be friendly and the next she'd be an absolute bitch. Sorry about the language.”


That's alright, Max,” she said. “I've heard a lot worse. Go on, please.”


Then she started going with some of the girls she worked with for happy hour,” he said. “I didn't mind since I sometimes go out for a beer with a couple of the guys now and then. But her happy hours got longer and longer. After about a month, she'd be out till about 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning. And she reeked when she got home. These days, I don't hardly know her at all. And now, I learn she hasn't even been in to check up on me.”


Have you ever cheated on her?” she asked. He shook his head.


Absolutely not,” he said. “Infidelity is a non-starter with me, and she knows it. Yeah, I've been hit on from time to time, but I've never cheated on her and I never would.”


Of course not,” she said. “What would you do if you learned she's cheating on you?”


That's a no-brainer,” he said. “I'd kick her ass to the curb in a heartbeat.” She smiled and nodded approvingly as he said that. He looked at her before speaking again. “Do you think she's cheating on me?”


I would say it's a definite possibility,” she said. “Would you like to know the truth?”


Absolutely,” he said. “Do you have a way to find out?” Her smile widened.


Oh yes,” she said. “Without a doubt. Do you think you can handle learning the truth?”


I have to know,” he said.


Okay,” she said. “Give me some time and you'll have your proof. For now, I need you to rest and get better. Will you do that for me?”


Yeah, sure,” Max said. “Could you leave me some of that tea, please? That's really very good.”


I'm glad you like it, Max,” she said. “Don't drink too much, maybe a cup with lunch and another after dinner. I think you'll find that it'll help you sleep better as well.”


Oh, doctor, I have one more question if you don't mind,” he said.


What's that?” she asked.


Were you in my room last night?” he asked. “I heard someone in here talking to another person, and I could've sworn it was your voice.” She thought for a moment before answering. She could lie to him, but she decided that she simply couldn't do that to him. Finally, she nodded her head.


Yes, Max,” she said. “I was here last night. I've been following your case from the beginning and I want to do everything I can to help you.”


And that man you were talking to,” Max said. “Who was he?”


That was a good friend of mine who agreed to help me watch over you,” she said. He nodded his head. “Well, I need to get going, Max,” she added. “I'll be back tomorrow and we can talk more, okay? In the meantime, drink some tea and get some rest.”


Okay, doc, thanks,” Max said. “I'll see you tomorrow.” He watched her as she left. She was a very attractive woman and well-put together. She seemed rather young to be a doctor, he thought. She was obviously holding something back, but what?


He didn't worry too much about it, as he was also holding something back, namely his memory, which was quite good. In fact, more than one doctor had suggested he might have hyperthymesia, which would explain his highly superior autobiographical memory. So why can't I remember what happened that night, he asked himself.


After lunch, he had a visitor. He was watching the news when a man tapped on his door. He looked up to see a tall man in a gray suit, holding a set of credentials.


Mr. Burns,” he said. “I'm Detective Hanson, and if you're up to it, I'd like to ask a few questions.”


Sure, come on in, Detective,” Max said. The man came in and sat down next to him.


You're sure looking better than you did the last time I saw you,” he said. “How are you feeling?”


Sore,” Max said. “But getting better. What can I do for you?”


I heard you were fully awake and I was wondering if you remembered anything about the attack on you,” he said. Max shook his head.


No, I don't remember anything between the time I pulled into my driveway and the moment I woke up here,” he said. “Which is strange given that I normally have a very good memory.”


Well, maybe it's due to whatever they drugged you with,” the detective said.


Drugged?” Max asked.


Yes. Weren't you told?” Max shook his head, surprised.


No, no one said anything to me about that,” he said. “I'll have to ask the doctor when I see him.”


Have you spoken to your wife?” the detective asked.


No, I haven't seen her nor have I heard from her,” Max said.


So you don't know that she's been in New York with that lawyer she works for? Jake Sylvester?” Detective Hanson asked. Max had met Jake a couple times and didn't care for him one bit. He came off as sleazy, oily. And he hated that perpetual smirk on the man's face.


I understood she was just a legal secretary,” Max said. “I didn't know she worked for a specific attorney.”


That's the word from her office,” Hanson said. “They've supposedly been in New York for the last week or so, meeting with clients and potential clients.”


But that's not her job,” Max said. “She types up legal briefs, documents, that sort of thing.”


Apparently not any more,” Hanson said. Max shook his head. Shannon never said anything to him about this.


I don't know what to tell you, Detective,” he said. Hanson nodded his head, stood up and handed him a card.


Well, if you remember anything, give me a call,” he said. “The longer this goes on, the less chance we have of catching who did this to you.”


Okay,” Max said, taking the card.


Hope you get to feeling better,” he said before he left the room. After he left, Max watched more television and was walked around the ward by the nurses on duty. When he got back to his room, it was time to eat, so he did, and enjoyed a cup of tea. He fell asleep, felling better than he had in some time.


He woke up at 3:30 am with a start, bolting upright in his bed. He remembered what happened the day he came back from that seminar.


Holy fuck,” he said to no one in particular as the memories flooded back to him. He laid back down and tried to go back to sleep, but found it difficult. Eventually, he dozed off, but woke back up when the nurses came to take him for his early morning tests, exams and X-Rays.


He ate breakfast when he was brought back to his room, and was running over his recalled memories when the doctor tapped on the door and came inside.


How are we feeling this morning, Max?” he asked.


Much better than yesterday,” Max said. The doctor nodded his head and placed some X-Rays on the display device so he could see them. After consulting his chart, he turned to Max.


I must say, I'm very impressed with your progress,” he said. “The X-Rays show that your ribs are nearly completely healed, as are the fractures on your skull. On top of that, your testicles appear to be almost completely healed and fully functional. I see the swelling on your face is almost gone and the bruising is significantly diminished. Whatever it is you're doing, please keep doing it. At this rate, we might be able to discharge you in just a couple days or so.”


That's good to hear, doc,” Max said. “You mentioned my testicles. How badly were they damaged?”


Bad enough that we considered removing them,” the doctor said. “But like I said, they now seem to be almost completely healed. Tell me, overall, how much pain are you feeling, on a scale of one to 10, with one being the least and 10 the worst?”


Overall, I'd say about two or so,” Max said.


Good,” the doctor said, making a note in his chart. “We'll keep an eye on things for a bit and I'll adjust your medications accordingly. You just rest and get well, okay? Do you have any questions for me before I leave?”


Just one, doc,” Max said. “What can you tell me about that counselor?”


Dr. Rhamnousia?” the doctor asked. “I don't know much about her, other than to say she's licensed by the state and board certified. She couldn't work in or through this hospital if she wasn't. She's one of several who practices privately but does contract work with us. I can tell you that she specifically asked to be put on your case, and I approved her request. Why? Is there an issue we should be aware of?”


No, Doc,” Max said. “She's been great to me so far. She just seems a bit... young, if you know what I mean.” The doctor chuckled at that.


I know what you mean,” he said. “She's quite attractive and takes good care of herself. But don't let any of that fool you. She's been around for quite a while and I've heard nothing but good things about her. Trust me, you're in very good hands. Is there anything else?”


No, that's all,” Max said. “I was just wondering. Thanks for clearing that up.”


You're welcome,” the doctor said. “I'll be by later to check on you.” With that, he left the room and Max turned on the television, but his mind wasn't on what was playing. A while later, there was another tap on the door, and Adrestia poked her head inside.


Good morning, Max,” she said, getting his attention. He looked up and waved her inside. As he watched, she entered pushing a cart with a pot of hot water and two cups. Her briefcase also sat on the cart. She closed the door as she entered the room.


Good morning, Dr. A,” he said. As he watched, she poured them each a fresh cup of tea and handed him one after dropping a bit of honey into the cup. “Thank you,” he said, accepting the cup. “I really like this tea.” She smiled.


I'm glad to hear that,” she said. “So, how is your memory doing? I understand you made some progress. Is that right?”


Yes,” he said. “I remembered everything about my attack last night. How did you know? I never said anything to anyone.” She smiled, opened her briefcase and pulled out a tablet.


It's my job to know, Max,” she said. “Truth is, I know everything about you and your marriage.” He looked at her, shocked. How could she know all that? “That's part of the reason I got involved in your case. I take it you'll be seeking a divorce?”


Yes,” he said quietly. “Once I'm out of here, I'll be visiting my attorney to get the ball rolling.”


Do you know where your wife is now? What she's doing?” Adrestia asked. Max shook his head.


I was told she's in New York with an attorney from her firm, but I don't understand why. She's a legal secretary and that type of work isn't part of her job description,” he said.


You're right, she's in New York, and she's there with Jake Sylvester,” she said. “Let's just say, her 'work' has very little to do with her clerical skills, if you know what I mean. Would you like to see what she's doing right now?”


Right now?” Max asked. “You can do that?” She smiled as she turned on her tablet.


Yes,” she said. “Watch this.” She put the tablet on the cart so they could both see the screen. The video appeared to come from the back patio of a large, expensive home. A man dressed in swimming trunks and a woman wearing a tiny micro-bikini were sitting at a table. Max recognized the woman – it was his wife, Shannon. He didn't recognize the diminutive swimsuit, which consisted of two tiny strips of cloth that barely covered her nipples and crotch.


That's Jake Sylvester,” Max said. “I remember him from that night.”


As they watched, another man wearing a swimsuit came to the table. He was older than Jake and much bigger. He dried himself off with a towel and motioned to someone behind him. A cart was wheeled to the table as he sat down, and a servant placed glasses of liquid in front of each of them.


Nice morning for a swim, don't you agree?” he asked, taking a sip of his drink.


That's Mario Alvarez,” Adrestia told Max as they watched. “He's a very well-connected man in New York with ties to one of the largest criminal organizations in the country.” They turned their attention back to the video.


Yes, it is, Mario,” Jake said, answering Mario as he took a sip of his drink. “And this drink is perfect. Don't you think so, dear?”


Yes, it is,” Shannon said. Mario nodded his head in her direction.


Thank you,” he said. “You're too kind.” He turned his attention back to Jake. “Enough with the pleasantries. I need to know. Can your guy handle the job or not?” Jake looked at Shannon, a bit uncomfortable.


Technically, he has the skills,” Jake said. “But he's still in the hospital.” Mario shook his head as he put his drink back on the table.


Jake, Jake, Jake,” he said, exasperated. “You weren't supposed to put him in the hospital. At most you were supposed to just scare him. I gave you everything you needed to make him compliant.”


Well, it didn't work,” Jake said. “All it did was knock him out. I pressed him when he came to, but he refused.”


So you and your boys decided to rearrange his face after you fucked his wife in front of him, is that it?” Mario asked. Jake looked down for a moment. Mario shook his head. “What the fuck did you expect him to do? Goddammit, you may be a hotshot litigator in the courtroom, but you're about as dumb as a box of fucking rocks sometimes, you know that? And why didn't you tell me about this before now?”


I tried, Mario, but I was told you were on an extended vacation with your wife and couldn't be reached,” Jake said.


Well, I was out of pocket for a while,” Mario said. “Took the wife for a round-the-world cruise for our 25th anniversary. Okay, I'll let that go for now, but you need to get him on this project ASAP.”


We've got six months, Mario. That's plenty of time to get it done,” Jake said.


You don't get it,” Mario said. “It'll take him at least five months to unfuck everything the last accountant left behind. And before you ask, no one will touch these books. We've already asked around. Everyone worth a shit won't even give us the time of day. And now, thanks to you, one month is already shot to hell. How much longer are you two going to be in town?”


Another week, maybe 10 days, then we're going back,” Jake said.


That puts us into the beginning of next month,” Mario said. “Alright, I'm giving you this one last shot. Get it done. And remember to use the carrot BEFORE the stick, you got it? Do what you gotta do. Suck his dick if you have to. You hear me?”


I got it, Mario, you can count on me,” Jake said, his face turning green at what Mario suggested.


Capisce?” Jake nodded his head.


I understand,” Jake said. “Thank you for the drink, Mario.”


Yeah, you're welcome,” Mario said, standing up, signaling the end of the meeting. The video ended and Max looked at Adrestia, shocked.


How did you do that?” he asked. “Are you some kind of private investigator or something?”


It's a trade secret,” she said, shrugging her shoulders. “Sorry.”


I'd better get in touch with Detective Hanson about this,” he said. She put her hand on his arm.


Not just yet,” she said. “I've got another idea. How would you like to get justice on all of them?”


Of course,” he said, causing her to smile. For the next hour, they discussed her plan. When they finished, he looked at her carefully. “Who are you, really? You're not like any counselor I've ever heard of. Are you really a doctor?”


Yes, I am,” she said. “I have doctorates in a number of disciplines.”


Then tell me, who, or what, are you?” he asked. She considered him for a moment before speaking.


Are you sure you really want to know?” she asked. He nodded his head.


Yes,” he said. “I really want to know.” She nodded her head as she looked at him.


Alright, I guess you deserve to know the truth,” she said. “Lay back on your pillow and relax.” He did as she said. “Now, close your eyes and focus on me for a moment.” He closed his eyes, wondering what she had in mind. He felt her take his head in her hands and marveled at how soft and warm they felt. Then he felt the softest set of lips on his as she kissed him. For a moment, he felt her tongue work its way into his mouth and he began to respond. Then it happened.


A sudden jolt of static went through his body and his mind was filled with strange images – dark, menacing, winged creatures, mountains covered with clouds, lightning flashing in the distance. A much larger version of Adrestia wearing a long robe, a double-edged sword in one hand and a balance in the other. Beneath her sandal-clad feet were snakes and as he looked, he could see people in various stages of distress.


One woman was immersed in a large vat of oil, a fire below it making the gooey substance boil, and another person was tied to a plank while being urinated on by large, horned creatures. He heard a scream in the distance and saw a woman falling into the open mouth of a giant shark.


A part of him knew that he should be frightened by all this, but he wasn't. Instead, he was attracted to Adrestia – an attraction that far outweighed any he had ever felt for Shannon or any other woman. He felt... love. And a sexual attraction he had never felt for anyone before. He could feel the stirring in his groin as his cock hardened and grew.


Instinctively, he wrapped his arms around the blonde woman and kissed her back, harder than he had ever kissed a woman before. He felt that he simply had to have this woman, this goddess. The images kept flashing in his mind as his desire for her grew even stronger. He held her tighter and realized she was now naked. He found that he was also naked, and his cock stood straight up, harder and bigger than he ever remembered it before.


He felt her hand on his cock and looked up to see her straddle him, her eyes glowing like fire. Looking down, he saw her start to guide him into her silky smooth pussy and felt desire as he had never felt before. But in his mind, he knew he couldn't go through with it. He stopped her advance, shaking his head.


I can't do this,” he said. “It isn't right. I'm still a married man.” She looked at him for a moment and he didn't know how she would react.


But your wife is cheating on you,” she said quietly. “Surely you deserve this.”


I know she is,” he said. “As desirable as you are, though, two wrongs don't make a right. Maybe if I wasn't married...” Her face broke into a wide smile and she kissed him deeper, releasing his manhood.


Good answer,” she whispered into his ear as she stroked his face.


Images flashed in his mind as she stroked and kissed his face – the terrified faces of those who dared cross her – people from all walks of life and all stations. He also saw the faces of the men she helped – from a factory maintenance man to a member of the Roman Senate. They all flashed in his mind and he knew who and what she really was.


He found himself falling madly in love with her – more than Shannon, more than anyone else. And he knew he would probably never feel love like this again. He knew that he would do anything she required of him, and he would do it happily, knowing that she would never double-cross him.


I take it you understand now,” she said, now dressed and sitting on her chair. He nodded his head, still reeling from what just happened.


I'm still processing it, but yeah, I think I understand,” he said. “But why...”


I had to test you,” she said. “And you passed. With flying colors. Most mortal men wouldn't have been able to resist but you did. You did the right thing.”


What about Eli? Did you test him this way?” he asked. “I heard you two talking the other day.” She laughed when he said that.


No,” she said. “His heart has always belonged to his lovely wife. Besides, he was already dead when I recruited him.”


So, he works for you, then?” Max asked.


Not exactly,” she said. “He's more of an ally than an underling. He answers to another power, much higher than I.”


Oh,” Max said, still not fully understanding.


But speaking of allies,” she said. “I think you would make a good ally here, in this plane of existence, if you're open to it.” Max thought about it before answering. A move like this would require a lot of changes, and he would basically have to completely walk away from his life as an accountant. But at the same time, he couldn't refuse her request.


Strangely enough, I am open to it,” he said. “But that would require a lot of changes in my life.”


That's why I suggested the name change and the three month stay in Idaho,” she said. “You'll be safe, and you'll get the training and conditioning you need for the work you'll be doing. Eli has agreed to help mentor you, and I'll provide everything you need, including funds. We don't have a lot of time to make this happen, you know.”


Yeah, I know,” he said. “I'll need to get my attorney involved.”


Eli knows someone who can help with that and we both know a judge in this state who owe us a favor or two,” she said. “Let us take care of that for you. You concentrate on getting better. I'll make the arrangements for the camp.”


I'll need to put in my notice at work,” he said. She nodded her head.


I agree,” she said. “Your boss will be here later this afternoon, so you can tell him then. Just don't go into detail. The idea is for Maxwell Burns to disappear without a trace. That will put another monkey wrench in Shannon and Jake's plans.”


I just thought about something else,” he said.


What's that?” she asked.


What about fingerprints? DNA? Those things don't change, you know,” he said. She smiled and took his hands in hers. Her eyes glowed slightly and he felt a warmth in his hands. She released them and gave a slight smile.


They just did,” she said. “I'll get with Eli and he'll arrange a meeting with an attorney. You can expect to see her here tomorrow at the latest.”


So, who will I become?” he asked. She looked thoughtful for a moment before answering.


I like Maximilian,” she said. “That's it. Maximilian Burnage,” she added, pronouncing the last name, “bernahhhj.”


Sounds good to me,” he said. “Max Burnage.”


My personal avenging angel,” she added with a smile. “Are you up for this?” He thought for a moment before answering. He rather liked the idea.


You know what? I am,” he said. She chuckled and wrapped her arms around his neck.


Cheaters beware,” she said, kissing him on the cheek. “Remember, not a word of this to anyone. Now, I have a lot to get set up, so I'd better get going. I've left you some tea bags, and I want you to get rested up. Trust me, you'll need all your strength when you get to Idaho.” He nodded his head and watched as she walked to the door.


Adrestia,” he called before she opened the door. She turned to look at him. She smiled and spoke before he could.


I love you too, Max,” she said. “And I always will. I'll see you tomorrow, okay?” She smiled and waved, then went out the door.


After she left, he laid back and thought about what just happened. It was the most exciting non-sexual experience he ever had with a woman, but it was much more than just an exchange of passion – it was like an exchange of information. He could see every face on the walls of her mysterious gallery. He knew every name and knew their stories.


He also knew everything about her – all the different names she had been known by: Tyr and Nemesis being just two. He also knew that she was more than just Justice – she was Retribution. And there was no escape for those who crossed her.


He had seen how close she had recently come to wiping out millions of people with a single thought. He also understood that she truly loved all those she had helped over the ages, but that love was not quite what she shared with him. Her love for them was an unconditional love that fell short of being romantic, while her love for him went far beyond anything she had ever shown anyone else.


That included Elijah Jones, the former Union soldier who once served in the 8Indiana Cavalry Regiment during the Civil War. Struck down by a rebel bullet during Sherman's March to the Sea, he was recruited by Adrestia and now meted out his own brand of Western-style justice with the aid of his grandson, Amos.


But why me, he wondered. What's so special about me? He knew she had it within her to single-handedly wipe out Shannon and her cronies. So why involve me at all, he asked himself. He was brought back to reality by a tapping on the door. He looked up to see Jim Fredericks, his boss, sticking his head in the room.


Come in,” he said. Jim smiled and came inside. He stopped by the bed and looked at Max, confused. “What's wrong?” Max asked.


You look... different,” Jim said. “How are you feeling?”


A bit sore, but much better, thanks,” Max said. “They had to do some reconstructive surgery on my face and, well, that's why I look different.”


I'm glad to see you're doing better,” Jim said. “I don't want you to worry about anything at the office. I just want you to concentrate on getting well. Any leads on who did this to you?”


Yeah, I've got some idea of who did this,” Max said. “And I need to talk to you about something while you're here. It's pretty important.”


What's that?” Jim asked.


It seems I'm not out of danger just yet,” Max said. “The people who came after me will be back. I hate to say it, but one of them was Shannon.”


Your wife?” Jim asked, incredulous. “Why would she do that?”


Money,” Max said. “That's what this is all about.” Max gave him the Reader's Digest version of what happened and what he knew so far, without going into much detail. Jim looked shocked when Max finished.


What do you need from me? A leave of absence, maybe?” Jim asked.


Yeah, something like that,” Max said. “I'll be getting a new identity to go along with this new face. The bottom line is that Max Burns needs to disappear.”


For how long?” Jim asked.


I'm afraid it'll probably be permanent,” Max said. “I'm sorry, Jim. I didn't want to just disappear without saying anything to you.”


I appreciate that, Max,” he said. “Of course, I understand, given the circumstances. Look, I'll put you on a paid leave of absence for a period of four months. You have enough with your accrued comp, sick time and vacation to cover that. Let me know at the end of that time if it'll be permanent. In the meantime, we can bring in an accountant or two to help take up the slack. I don't want you to worry about anything.”


Thanks, Jim,” Max said. “You've been a good friend and I appreciate it.”


It's my pleasure,” Jim said. “You take care of things and hopefully we'll see you back at the office.” They said their goodbyes and Jim left.


The next morning, Max was taken for his daily exams and X-rays. The doctor was practically giddy when he came into Max's room.


Max, if I hadn't seen it for myself, I wouldn't have believed it,” the doctor said.


What's that, doc?” Max asked.


All of your fractures seemed to be completely healed and your testicles are fully functional. I think we can start the process to have you released tomorrow morning,” the doctor said.


That is good news, doc,” Max said. The doctor made some notes on Max's chart and gave the nurse a few orders, then left the room. After his breakfast, Max used his last bag of tea and sat watching television when Adrestia came in the room. A tall, lanky man wearing a beat-up Stetson and a floor-length duster joined her, along with a slim, well-built blonde.


Good morning, Max,” Adrestia said. “How are you feeling this morning?”


Better than I have in a long time,” Max said. “Doc tells me I may be released tomorrow morning.”


That is good news,” she said. “By the way, this is Eli Jones,” she said, indicating the tall man. He extended a hand and Max shook it. “And this is Danni Jones. She's married to Eli's grandson. And she's an attorney. She'll be working with your attorney on the divorce and the identity change.” Max shook Danni's hand.


Good to meet you both,” Max said. “Let's get started, then, shall we?” Danni sat next to Max and went over the paperwork as Adrestia and Eli watched. They spent about an hour going over everything and when Danni felt the paperwork was complete, she sat back.


Okay,” she said. “I'll get with your attorney on this and we'll get it done.” Adrestia handed Max his cell phone.


This was left in your house,” she said. “Why don't you call your attorney and let him know?” Max nodded his head and took the phone. He dialed his lawyer's cell and waited for him to answer.


Max, how are you feeling?” his lawyer asked when he answered.


I'm doing much better, Saul, thanks for asking,” Max said. “Listen, I need a huge favor from you.”


Any time, my friend,” Saul said. “What's going on?”


Well, it's rather complicated and I really don't want to get into it over the phone,” Max said. “I need some things done, quickly, and I've got someone on her way over to see you, a Danni Jones. I'd like you to work with her to expedite some things for me.”


Ah yes, I remember her,” Saul said. “She's the one who took a huge bite out of Acme if I recall. If she's involved, it must be serious.”


More than I can tell you right now,” Max said. “I've signed all the papers and I've given permission for her to work with you on my behalf.”


Okay, Max,” Saul said. “I'm in the middle of something at the moment, but I should be free about 1:00 or so. I'll call the office and let them know to expect her.” Max looked at Danni before speaking. “Is 1:00 good for you?” he asked her. She nodded her head and he turned his attention back to the phone. “1:00 is good. She'll be there. I appreciate all your help.” Saul chuckled.


Just wait till you get my bill,” he said with a laugh. Max laughed as well. They ended the call and Max turned to Danni.


Saul Dunetz will be expecting you at 1:00,” he said. “Do you know where his office is?”


Yes, I do, and I'll be there,” she said, standing up. “I'd better get going. I'd like a bite to eat before I meet with him. It's good to meet you, Max,” she added, extending her hand. Max shook her hand and watched as she left.


Time for the second part of our plan,” Adrestia said. “Text your wife and tell you you agree to do Mario's books. Tell her I'll meet her in the restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel.”


Four Seasons?” Max asked. “Is that where she's staying?”


Yes,” Adrestia said. “Remember to tell her that she needs to bring everything you need and have her meet me there at 6:00 pm local time.”


Okay,” Max said. “Are you sure she'll respond?”


She'll respond, trust me,” Adrestia said. Max pulled up his messenger app and sent a message: “I agree to do Mario's books. Assistant will meet you at Four Season's restaurant at 6:00 pm. Bring everything. Don't look for her, she'll find you.”


A couple minutes later, he got a response: “OK. What about my demands?”


You'll get what's coming to you,” Max typed out. He hit send and waited for another message, but got nothing. Apparently, he thought to himself, she really doesn't give a shit about how he was doing.


No, Max, she really doesn't care about you,” Adrestia said as if reading his mind. She saw the tears forming in Max's eyes and took his head in her hands. “Don't cry for her, Max. She's not worth it. Stay strong for me. I love you like no one ever has and I'll always be here for you.” She kissed his face and Max suddenly felt much better.


I love you, too,” he said as he looked into her face. She smiled and kissed him one more time before standing up.


Well, I have a lot to do, so I'd better head out,” she said. “By the way, you're set to fly out to Spokane tomorrow afternoon. You should be checked out of here by then. Eli will stay here tonight and fly out with you tomorrow. I'll see you in the morning before you leave.”


Okay,” Max said, nodding his head. “Do I really need to go to Idaho?”


I'm afraid so,” she said. “For a couple reasons. First of all, we need to get you into shape, and fast. Second, we need you out of pocket and safe. You'll be safe there and no one will ever know where you went. Don't worry, I will always be with you.” She placed a hand on his chest. “In here. And here,” she added, putting a soft hand on the side of his head.


I understand,” he said, taking one of her hands in his. “Can you do me a favor, please?” he asked.


Sure,” she said. He pulled off his wedding ring and handed it to her.


When you see Shannon, could you please give this to her? Tell her I have no more use for it,” he said. She took the ring in her hand and studied it for a moment. She looked back at him and nodded her head.


Of course, Max,” she said. “I'll be happy to do that for you.”


Thanks,” he said sadly. They looked at each other for a moment, then she stood and turned to Eli.


Watch over him for me, please,” she said. “I have a feeling something might happen tonight.”


Don't worry,” he told her. “I've got this covered.” She nodded her head and left.



A little more than 1,500 miles away, Shannon Burns looked at her cell phone. She couldn't believe the text messages she had received from her husband. He agreed to do Mario's books, even though he refused earlier. She knew he was still in the hospital, but a few questions crossed her mind.


First, how did he get his phone back? She emptied his pockets before the men tied him to that chair, and placed his phone on the bedroom dresser. No one picked it up when they hauled him to the hospital.


Second, why would he suddenly have a change of heart? That simply wasn't like him. Especially when it came to things like this. He prided himself on his ethics, and would never do anything illegal. So what's changed, she asked herself.


Third, who was this new assistant working for him? As far as she knew, the only “assistant” was a secretary, but she worked for several accountants in his office. She had met most of the people her husband worked with, so she was curious to see who this assistant might be.


And what was his last statement to her supposed to mean – “You'll get what's coming to you.” That almost sounded like a threat to her. Max was many things, but threatening wasn't one of them. In fact, he was the softest-spoken, most kind person she had ever known. She had never heard him raise his voice, and never once heard him speak in such a way.


But the kicker was his statement that his assistant would meet her here – in the Four Seasons. How did he know that's where she would be? Did he hire a private investigator?


What's wrong, babe?” Jake asked from behind her. She showed him the texts she got from her husband. He read them and shrugged his shoulders. “So he finally decided to go along with the program. What's the big deal?”


This just doesn't sound like Max at all,” she said. “And I've never known him to work with an assistant. I have the feeling he knows a lot more than he's letting on.”


So what?” Jake said. “He's still in the hospital, isn't he? Hell, he probably can't even take a piss without someone helping him. And so what if he knows what's going on? He'll be dead the second he finishes with the books anyway. I'll call Mario and give him the good news.”


Okay,” Shannon said quietly. Jake looked at her, concerned.


You're not having second thoughts about all this, are you?” he asked.


No, it's just,” she began.


Just what?” Jake asked. “He'll be dead soon enough. Then it doesn't matter what he decides to give you. It'll all be yours anyway. Then we can be together forever, just like we planned. Right?”


Right,” she said with a wan smile.



Max finished his second cup of tea for the day and looked at Eli, now sitting in a chair next to his bed, reading a magazine.


Anything interesting?” Max asked. Eli closed the magazine and tossed it on the tray that went over Max's bed. He shook his head.


Do y'all really care that much about who some actress is sleeping with?” the tall man asked. Max snickered as he looked at the cover of the magazine.


Personally, I don't,” he said. “But I guess there's a lot of people out there who do.”


Waste of damn time if you ask me,” Eli said. Max nodded his head in agreement.


No argument from me,” he said. He looked up and saw Eli glaring at him, hard. “What?” he asked. “Do I have something in my teeth?”


No,” Eli said. “I'm jes' tryin' to figure out what Adrestia sees in you. I've never known her to get all googly-eyed over a mortal man before.”


I'm trying to figure that out myself,” Max said. “I'm just a regular guy, like anyone else.”


No, you're not,” Eli said. “Trust me on that. I can read a man's face like a book. What I wanna know is, what are your true feelings toward her?”


I can't explain it, but I love her,” Max said. “Does that make sense? I'm a married man, but I love another woman.” Eli chuckled at that.


Makes perfect sense to me,” he said. “You're a fairly young, normal red-blooded man. She's a very beautiful woman. Just a few thousand years older than you, but ya have to admit, she looks good.”


Yeah, she's very beautiful, but it's more than that,” Max said. Eli examined him carefully, but saw no indication of ill-intent. “Much more. It's like she's a part of me now.” Eli nodded his head.


She is,” Eli said. “But trust me, she's not like any woman you've ever met.”


I know,” Max said. “I guess I need to be on my best behavior.” Eli chuckled as he nodded his head.


Reckon so,” he said. “But something tells me that won't be a problem.”


What makes you say that?” Max asked.


Well, you're a good, decent, honest, hard-working man,” Eli said. “You've followed the rules all your life, always sought to do the right thing. Never cut corners or took the easy way out. You've always faced your challenges head-on, even when it meant being the bearer of bad news. All that will serve you well.”


You know all that about me?” Max asked.


Yep,” Eli said. “I can tell a lot about a feller by looking in his eyes. Adrestia loves you. She loves everyone she helps, but it's different with you. Truth is, she needs you probably more than you need her. Just treat her with respect and dignity. Don't try to hide anything from her because you can't. Be open and honest with her, even if you think the truth might hurt. And don't ever do anything to hurt her.”


I could never do that to her,” Max said.


I know you'd never deliberately hurt her, but you are human after all,” Eli said. “Like every human, you're prone to make mistakes. All I'm sayin' is that when you do, own up to them.”


That makes sense,” Max said. “But I'm a bit confused. You said she needs me more than I need her. What did you mean by that?”


That's a fair question,” Eli said. “And it deserves a fair answer. You see, she's been at this for a very, very long time. When she first started doing this, there were maybe 200 million people on the entire planet. Maybe less. Now, there's nearly eight billion. Imagine, hearing the cries of anguish from billions of people seeking justice.”


I can't even begin to imagine what that must be like,” Max said. “But she's immortal, isn't she? I mean, isn't she immune from all that stuff?” Eli laughed.


Hardly,” he said. “She's immortal, but she's not without emotion. Truth is, most mortals would go crazy in a matter of minutes if they had to deal with what she faces every day, all day, year in and year out,” Eli said. “She's been dealing with it for many years. I'm amazed she's been able to stay sane all this time, surrounded by the evil she faces on a regular basis. Can you imagine what could happen if she went insane, even for a moment?” Max shook his head.


I can't even begin to imagine that. So where do I come into all this?” Max asked.


She needs someone who can help her out on this plane of existence,” Eli said. “More than that, she needs someone to help keep her grounded. Someone she can rely on, someone she can lean on from time to time. And more importantly, someone who can understand her and give her the love she deserves.”


That almost sounds like the definition of a husband,” Max said.


Reckon so,” Eli said. “You think you can handle that? Think carefully before you answer. Remember, she's not like any creature you've ever met before. She may look like a young girl, but she's not. By a long shot.”


I know,” Max said.


Think about this,” Eli said. “If you decide to be her soul mate, you'll know love like you've never known before. She may not be there to make your dinner or wash your clothes every day, but she'll always be with you, in every way that truly matters. In a way, the fate of humanity could be in your hands.”


No pressure there,” Max said sarcastically. Eli laughed.


You sound like my grandson,” he said. He slapped Max on the shoulder and stood up. “There's no great rush. Take your time. Consider it carefully.”


I will, Eli,” Max said. “So where are you off to?”


There's a couple fellas down the street I need to have a chat with,” he said with a wink. “Don't worry, I'll be back.” With that, he left the room.



Shannon Burns and Jake Sylvester were sitting at their table in the restaurant of the Four Seasons, finishing their meal. She looked at her watch and saw it was 5:59 pm. The instant her watch read 6:00, she heard someone at her shoulder.


Mrs. Burns, I presume?” a female voice said. Shannon turned to see a young blonde woman standing at her side. She looked to be fresh out of college, if that. My God, Shannon thought, is Max robbing the cradle or what?


No, he's not,” the woman said with a sly smile on her face as she took a seat between Shannon and Jake.


Uh, not what?” Shannon asked.


Robbing the cradle,” the young woman said. “That's what you were thinking, wasn't it?” How did she know that, Shannon asked herself.


It doesn't matter how I know,” the woman said, her smile widening. Jake looked between the two women, confused. His eyes took in the woman's pretty face, her smooth skin and soft, doe-like eyes. I'd love to get that between the sheets, he thought to himself as he felt his manhood stir. The young woman gave Jake an icy glare.


No, you wouldn't,” she said. Now it was Shannon's turn to be confused.


Wouldn't, what?” she asked the woman.


Your boyfriend here thinks he'd like to get me in his bed,” she said. Jake looked embarrassed as Shannon shot him an angry look. “Let's get this done,” the woman said. Shannon reached for her bag and pulled out an external hard drive. She handed it to the woman.


Everything Max needs is here,” Shannon said. “The drive has been encrypted and the passcode is written on the bottom of the drive. We want to get regular updates on his progress.”


You'll hear from him when it's time,” the woman said. “Speaking of your husband, aren't you at all concerned about his condition?”


No, not particularly,” Shannon said. “He has a job to do and if he's smart, he'll do it without asking a lot of questions. And just so you know, if he tries to email any of that information to anyone, like the authorities, the entire drive will be erased. And Max will end up in worse shape than he is now. Do you understand?” Shannon put one hand on the young woman's wrist and squeezed for emphasis.


I understand,” the woman said. “And if you don't take your hand off me, you won't live long enough to regret touching me. Do you understand me?” A spark flew between Shannon's hand and the woman's wrist and Shannon pulled her hand away quickly. “I'll be leaving now. We'll be in touch. And do me a favor – the next time you go out in public, keep your dog on a leash.” She got up from the table, then reached in her pocket.


One last thing,” she said. “Your husband said he has no further need of this.” She tossed Max's wedding ring on the table. “Good night.” With that, she turned and left, leaving Shannon and Jake stunned.


What the hell was that?” Shannon asked. Jake shook his head and pulled out his phone as she put Max's ring in her purse. She felt a momentary twinge of guilt as she did so, but that passed quickly as she thought of getting her hands on his money.


I don't know, but I want her followed,” he said, dialing a number on his phone. “Yeah, she just left,” he said to the person on the other end of the call. “Petite, blonde, good-looking. Be careful.” He ended the call and put his phone away.


So, were you really thinking about taking her to bed?” Shannon asked, anger in her face.


I'm sorry,” he said sheepishly. “I couldn't help it.”


Well, you'd better get your shit together,” she said. A couple minutes later, his phone buzzed. He pulled it out an answered it.


What do you mean, she disappeared?” he asked. “Find her. Whatever it takes. I want to know where she is.” He ended the call and put his phone away. “They lost her. Can you fucking believe it? She turned a corner and was gone,” he told Shannon. She smiled and pulled out her phone.


Don't worry, there's a tracker inside the drive enclosure,” she said. “We'll know exactly where it is.” She fired up her app, but her face turned red with anger after a couple minutes. She shut her phone off and put it away.


What's wrong?” Jake asked.


Somehow, she disabled the tracker,” Shannon said. “I can't get a lock on anything.”



Can ah help you fellas with something?” the tall, lanky man asked as he came up to two large men in dark suits. He could easily see the pistols in their holsters under the jackets. Surprised by the appearance of the man, they instinctively reached for their firearms but were stopped by a voice behind them.


Don't even think of it,” the male voice said. They turned to see a younger man in a cowboy hat holding a long rifle in one gloved hand. They moved their hands away from their pistols and held them out, palm forward.


Now whaddya think these here fellers are doing out here in this dark alley, Amos? All dressed up like they's going to a hootenanny or something,” the tall man asked.


Who knows, Grandpa?” the younger man asked. “Why don't we ask 'em?” The tall, older man smiled and nodded his head.


Good idea, son,” he said. “So, what're you fellers doing out here this time of night dressed up like that? And carryin' those big ol' shootin' irons?”


None of yer goddamn business, old man,” one of the men said.


You hear the disrespect comin' outta these fellers mouths?” Eli asked.


Sure do,” Amos said. Eli laughed and turned to the two men.


You know, I have a mind ta put you two over my knee and give ya the whuppin' yer daddy shoulda give ya years ago,” he said.


Just try it, old man,” the other suit growled. Eli smiled and before either of the men could react, he had the bigger of the two men across his knee, his trousers around his ankles. The other man started to react but thought better of it when Amos put the muzzle of his rifle in his face. As they watched, Eli brought his hand down on the first man's bare buttocks, hard. He screamed when Eli hit him. But the tall man wasn't done yet.


He gave the man ten swats on the rear end, and left him on the ground, crying. Eli looked at the other man.


Well, you gonna take yer licks?” Eli asked. The man shook his head.


No, please, don't,” he begged. Eli laughed and grabbed the man's pistol out of its holster. In seconds, he had the pistol disassembled and the parts strewn across the alleyway. He then grabbed the other man's pistol and did the same to it.


Y'know, I think you boys need to take a little nap,” Eli said. He grabbed the man at the junction of his neck and shoulders and squeezed. The man's eyes rolled into the back of his head and he fell down, unconscious. Eli bent down and did the same to the other man, who quietly closed his eyes and went to sleep.


Damn, Grandpa,” Amos said. “Where'd you learn to do that?”


Saw it on one of them television shows of yers a few days ago,” Eli said. “Some guy with pointed ears did it and I thought I'd give it a shot. Figured it couldn't hurt.”


You do know that was just a television program,” Amos said. “That wasn't real. Those were actors following a script.”


Now ya tell me,” Eli said. “Sure looked real on the television.”


How long you figure they'll be out?” Amos said.


Don't know,” Eli said. “Reckon about a day or so, maybe. I squeezed extra hard to make sure.”


Maybe I should hang around to make sure they don't get back up,” Amos said.


Nah,” Eli said. “We'll be gone tomorrow. I don't think they'll be up before then. Even if they do wake up, they'll need to put their guns back together. Why don't you head on back to the hotel, spend the rest of the night with Danni.”


Okay,” Amos said. “We're heading back home tomorrow after her meeting with Max's stockbroker. Let us know when you're back.”


I will, son,” Eli said. “Thanks.” Amos turned and left the way he came. Eli took the time to smoke a cigarette before heading back to Max's room.



That night, Max and Eli were watching television as Adrestia walked in the room. She went to Max and gave him a kiss, which he returned.


Where's my kiss?” Eli said jokingly.


Lizzy would kick your ass if I kissed you and you know it,” she said with a smile. Max looked confused. Who's Lizzy, he wondered. Eli answered his question.


Lizzy is my wife, Elizabeth,” he said. “And yeah, she would kick my ass.”


Oh,” Max said. He turned to Adrestia. “So, how did it go? Did you get the information?”


Yes, I got it all,” she said. “I've already disabled the tracker and and worked through the encryption on the files. And I got rid of the virus they put on the drive.”


You did all that?” Max asked, shocked.


Of course,” she said with a satisfied smile. “I told you I have doctorates in multiple disciplines and I can multi-task as well.”


So, we're good to go with the plan, then?” Max asked.


Yes,” she said. “I'll start going through this and I'll make sure it just happens to get into the right hands.”


How did Shannon react when you gave her my ring?” Max asked her.


She felt a tiny bit of guilt for a moment, but her greed took over,” she said. “She really doesn't care what happens to you, Max. I'm sorry.” Max nodded his head and felt his emotions rise again. Adrestia sat on the bed and kissed his forehead. He instantly felt better and looked into her face.


I just don't get it. Why would she do all this to me?” he asked. “All I've ever done is love her and support her. Did I do something wrong?” Adrestia shook her head.


You did nothing wrong, Max,” she said. “Shannon is involved with some very bad people and they've twisted her mind and played on her greed. She's not the same woman you married. You're not having second thoughts, are you?”


No,” he said. “Even if I thought I could get past the cheating, which I can't, the fact is I could never trust her again.”


You should also know that they intend to kill you no matter what,” Adrestia said. “Shannon figures that's the only way she can get her hands on your money. She knows she'll get nothing in a divorce.”


And you saw all this in her mind?” Max asked.


I did,” she said. “I had seen it before and hoped it was just a fleeting thought, but it wasn't. She's set on seeing you dead. One way or another.”


What will we do?” Max asked nervously.


We follow our plan,” she said. “Look at me,” she said, firmly, taking his head in her hands. “Look me in the eye and listen to my words. Think of nothing else.” He did as she directed. “No hand raised against you will ever prevail, my love. You must finish what we started. You are my chosen and I will see you through this. Do you understand?” He felt his resolve stiffen and nodded his head.


I understand,” he said. She smiled and kissed him softly. He felt a giddy warmth spread through his body as their lips met. When she broke the kiss, he felt as though he could take on the world. “Drink some tea and get some rest,” she told him. “You'll need it. I'll be by to see you off in the morning.”


Thank you,” Max said. “For everything.” She stroked his face for a moment.


Sweet dreams,” she said with a sultry smile before leaving. He poured another cup of tea and sipped it as he watched television with Eli for a bit. When he finished, he laid back in the bed.


If you don't mind, I'm going to get some sleep,” he told the older man. “You can keep watching the TV if you want. It won't bother me.”


Reckon I jes' might do that,” Eli said as Max nodded off to sleep. As Eli watched television, Max's mind was filled with dreams of a naked blonde goddess. When he woke up the next morning, he could still see her in his mind, her legs spread wide as she lay on the ground under the trees, her beautiful smiling face encouraging him to enjoy what she offered him. He looked and saw Eli was still watching television.


Didn't you get any sleep last night?” he asked. Eli shook his head.


Don't need to sleep anymore,” he said. “I take it you had a good night's sleep.” Max smiled as he recalled his dreams, which seemed so vivid.


Oh yeah,” he said. Eli smiled as though he knew what was going through Max's mind. The nurses came and took Max for his morning X-rays and exams. A few minutes after he was back, the doctor showed up and gave him the good news.


Well, Max, it looks like you're completely healed,” he said. “I see no reason to keep you here. I'll go ahead and start the process and we'll have you ready to go in just a short bit.”


That's great, doc,” Max said. “Thanks.” By the time Max finished his breakfast, Adrestia came into the room.


I hear you're getting discharged,” she said.


I am,” Max said. “No offense, but I'm ready to get outta here and back on my feet.”


No offense taken,” she said. She turned to Eli. “I understand you ran into a couple of Mario's goons last night.”


Yeah, Amos and I took care of 'em,” he said. She nodded her head.


Well, their boss isn't too happy with them right now,” she said. “That's their tough luck.” She reached into her briefcase, pulled out an envelope and handed it to Max. “There's two tickets to Spokane, one for you and another for Eli. I got round trip tickets for you both, but something tells me Eli won't need the return ticket. There's also some new ID cards in there for you, just in case. Danni and your attorney will be working with the stockbroker after they see Judge Stone this morning. Basically, everything is set to go.”


Wow, you have been busy,” Max said. “What about Mario's books? Did you have a chance to look at any of that information?”


Oh yes,” she said. “There's evidence of a multitude of crimes there. Guns, drugs, prostitution, graft, pay-for-play, you name it. And it looks like a number of elected officials across the country are involved as well. No wonder they couldn't get anyone to look at them. I'm sorting through it all, but it'll take some time. So, how are you feeling? You look well rested.”


I feel better than I have in a long time,” Max said. “And yes, I am well-rested, thank you.”


I'm glad to hear that,” she said. “And just so you know,” she whispered in his ear, “that was just a small taste of what's in store for you when this is all over.”


You mean,” Max began before she silenced him with a kiss.


Oh yes, that was very real,” she said after she broke the kiss. “I hope you enjoyed it.”


Oh, I did,” he told her. “Very much.”


I'm very glad to hear you say that,” she said. “I've always had a thing for the outdoors.”


Oh my,” Max said. He could still see her in that forest, giving herself to him completely.


Hang on to that,” she said. “And don't worry. I'll write you every week, and I promise you'll see me every night.”


Write me?” Max said. “What do you mean?”


Well, the rules at Camp Rollins are quite clear,” she said. “No phones, no Internet. Only what you would call snail-mail. I'll make sure you have an address where you can reach me. And remember, your name is Burnage, not Burns.”


Burnage,” Max said. “Got it.”


One more thing, Max,” she said. “I know you've been through Air Force boot camp. Trust me, this is a lot worse than that.”


Terrific,” Max said. She smiled and shook her head.


Don't worry about it,” she said. “You'll do just fine. You're a lot stronger than you give yourself credit for. There's an inner strength you've never tapped into before. That's not your fault. You've just never had to do that before. Trust me. You'll have to do this yourself, but I'll be right there with you. When you feel your strength starting to wane, think of me. Will you do that?”


I will,” Max said.


Good. Listen, they're getting ready to bring your discharge papers, so I'll have to get going,” she said. “And remember what I told you.”


I will,” he said. She started to turn away, but Max stopped her. “What about my luggage? Don't I need to take some things with me?”


No,” Adrestia said. “They'll have everything you need.”


Oh, okay,” Max said. He looked into her face for a moment before he spoke again. “I love you, Adrestia,” he said before kissing her.


And I love you, too, Max,” she said when they broke apart. She smiled at him one last time and left the room. After she left, he pulled out his clothing, which had been washed and returned to the small wardrobe in the room. Making sure he had everything, he got dressed. By then, a nurse came into the room with his discharge papers and a wheelchair. She went over everything with him, and had him sign the papers when she was finished.


What's the wheelchair for?” he asked.


That's for you,” she said. “Hospital policy. We don't want you getting hurt by accident on your way out.”


That makes sense,” Max said, sitting down in the chair. The nurse wheeled him to the patient loading area, Eli following close behind. They got to the curb and the nurse hailed a cab. She helped him get inside, even though he didn't really need any help and Eli got in the other side.


Where to?” the driver asked after the door was closed.


Airport,” Max said. He looked at the tickets to find out what airline they would be flying on. “American Airlines terminal, please.”


You got it,” the driver said, heading out. After they got to the terminal, Max realized they had a couple hours before they needed to check in.


Care for a beer before we have to go? It's on me,” he offered.


Why sure,” Eli said. “Let's go find us someplace to park.” They found a small bar inside the terminal and ordered a beer. Eli pulled out a pack of cigarettes.


Mind if I... smoke?” he asked. Max shook his head.


Not at all,” he said. Eli offered him one. He thought about it, but it had been years since he had smoked.


Go on,” Eli said. “One won't kill ya.” Max shrugged his shoulders and took the cigarette. Eli opened a box of matches and brought one out. To Max, it looked like his last match. Eli scratched the match over his jeans and lit Max's cigarette, then his own. Max took a puff and looked at the cigarette. It didn't smell like a normal cigarette would and didn't taste like one, either.


Is this some kind of special blend or something?” Max asked.


Actually, it is,” Eli said. “Worked on that for a long time to get it jes' right. You like it?”


I do,” Max said. “I haven't smoked since I left the Air Force. Never tasted one like this before.” Eli tossed him the pack and a box of matches.


Glad you like it. Go ahead. Keep 'em,” he said. “You may get a chance to enjoy one now and again. Personally, I like to end the day with a beer and a good smoke.”


Thanks,” Max said. “I appreciate that. So, what do you know about this camp?”


I know it's pretty tough,” Eli said.


You ever deal with anyone who's been through it?” Max asked.


Once or twice,” Eli said.


You don't think I'm up to this, do you?” Max asked.


Well, I think you got the heart for it and I think you have the brains for it,” Eli said. “But...”


But I look like someone who's spent ten years sitting on his ass behind a keyboard all day,” Max said. “That's because for the most part, I have. I've put on some weight and I've gotten soft. I get that. I've been meaning to hit a gym but I just haven't had time to do it. You think maybe that's why Shannon's doing what she's doing?”


Don't rightly know, son,” Eli said. “Could be. Maybe she sees you as someone she can push around because you've let her. Personally, I think it's mostly because she's greedy and she's let some asshole fill her head with a bunch of crap.”


No argument there,” Max said.


We know she's after your money,” Eli said. “How much are we talkin' about?”


A lot,” Max said. “Somewhere north of 10 million dollars.” Eli whistled.


How'd you get all that?” he asked.


I've been fascinated with numbers and economics for years,” Max said. “My dad was a whiz on the stock market and he taught me everything he knew. I learned the value of saving and investing at an early age. He opened a custodial account with his broker for me when I was 14. I started small, made some mistakes along the way, but I learned from them. By the time I was 18, I was worth half a million dollars. I kept at it while I was in the Air Force and by the time I went to college I had over five million. It's doubled since then.”


No wonder she's so anxious to get her hands on it,” Eli said.


When Shannon and I got married, my broker suggested I get a prenuptial agreement, so my attorney put one together. Shannon was livid, but I got her to understand this was just to protect what I'd spent so long building up,” Max said. “My goal was to put whatever children we had though college, set them up and be retired by the time I was 55. Guess she got tired of waiting.”


Reckon so,” Eli said.


So, what advise do you have for me regarding this camp?” Max asked.


For starters, you've got an edge most of the guys who go to that camp don't,” Eli said. “Most of them fellers are scared, alone, humiliated, weak. They don't have the support you do. They go in looking like scared rabbits and they come out mean as hell with a chip the size of Texas on their shoulders. Not all of them, but enough of 'em are like that. They got it in their heads all they have to do is kick someone's ass and their problems are over. They lash out without thinking and sometimes they end up in more trouble than they had going in.”


Basically, you're saying I need to learn to pick my fights,” Max said. “I get that.”


It's a bit more than that, but you're on the right track,” Eli said. “Adrestia and I can help you hone those skills so you're not a loose cannon out there tearing up everything in sight. Let them build you up physically, teach you what you need to know, but you need to remember one very important thing.”


What's that?” Max asked.


No matter how big and bad you think you are, there's always someone bigger and badder than you,” Eli said. “You're not bullet-proof, like me. After all, I'm already dead. I can't be killed twice.”


Good point,” Max said quietly. Eli chuckled and slapped Max on the shoulder.


Don't worry, you'll do fine,” he said. They finished their beer and cigarette and noticed it was time to get in line for the security check. They had no luggage, which surprised the security agent, and went through the detector without a hitch. Soon, they were in line to board the aircraft.


They found their assigned seats and sat down. Max was placed in a seat next to one of the windows. Eli sat in a middle seat and looked a bit nervous.


First time flying?” Max asked.


First time on one of these flying machines,” he said. Max thought that a strange phrase. “Normally, I'm on horseback.”


Horseback?” Max asked. Eli nodded his head.


Yeah,” he said. “I'll tell ya about it someday.”


I can't wait to hear about that,” Max said. “Trust me, these things are safer than just about any other means of transportation. Besides, even if we do crash, you don't have to worry, right?”


Technically, no, but that don't mean I like the idea of falling from hundreds of feet in the air,” Eli said.


Try thousands of feet,” Max said. “These things get pretty high.”


That makes me feel better,” Eli said. Max smiled at that. Soon, the flight attendants were walking around, making sure everyone was belted in. Eli had some difficulty figuring it out and Max helped him. After one of the flight attendants gave her safety spiel, she sat down and the aircraft began its journey to the runway.


They sat there for a minute or two and suddenly, the aircraft began its takeoff. As it lifted off the runway, Max heard a quiet, “oh, shit,” from Eli's seat and smiled to himself. As the aircraft reached its cruising altitude, Max looked and saw that Eli had relaxed a bit and was looking out the window.


You okay?” he asked the older man.


Yeah, this ain't so bad,” Eli said.


I told you,” Max responded. “If you don't mind, I'm gonna get a bit of sleep.”


Okay,” Eli said, looking out the window. A bit more than three hours later, the plane landed in Spokane, Washington, and they followed everyone else off the plane. Eli stayed with Max outside the terminal, and the two enjoyed one last cigarette as they waited for the bus that would take Max to Camp Rollins. Finally, the bus arrived and a stocky man in a khaki uniform stepped out of the vehicle.


You heading for Camp Rollins?” he asked as he approached Max and Eli.


Yes, I am,” Max said. The man nodded his head.


Go ahead and finish your smoke, then get on board,” the man said.


Okay,” Max said. They finished their cigarettes and shook hands after crushing out the butts.


You take care now,” Eli said. “Remember what we told you and you'll do jes' fine. I'll be back to get ya when yer finished.”


Thanks for everything, Eli,” Max said. Eli nodded his head, tipped his hat, then turned and walked back into the terminal. Max saw a few others get on the bus, so he joined them.



Oh. My. Fucking. Gawd,” the man in uniform yelled as he gazed at the small group of men standing on yellow footprints painted on the parking lot asphalt. “How in the hell do they expect me to make men when they won't even send me human fucking beings to start with? This is the sorriest collection of illiterate cum bubbles I have ever seen in my entire fucking life! Christ on a motherfucking bicycle!” He spoke to another man in uniform. “Get this sorry-assed bunch of maggots out of my sight and get them processed before I start cussing!”


Yes sir,” another man wearing sergeant's stripes said. As the sergeant turned to the group of about 15 men, Max wondered what the hell he had gotten himself into. These guys seemed far more severe than the military training instructors he had at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.


Turn to the right,” the sergeant barked. They all faced to their right except for one skinny kid who turned to his left. The sergeant was instantly all over him like white on rice.


What are you, a fucking IDIOT? Do you not even know the difference between right and left?” the sergeant screamed in the kid's face as he bounced the wide brim of his campaign hat off the kid's face. “THIS is your right,” the sergeant screamed, stomping on the kid's right foot. “And THIS is your left,” he added, stomping on the kid's left foot. “Now, turn to your right,” the sergeant ordered. The kid faced to the right, looking embarrassed.


Forward, MOVE,” the sergeant barked. Everyone started walking forward, following the sergeant's direction. When they reached what he realized was the processing center, the sergeant issued another order.


Hippity-hop, mob, STOP!” Everyone stopped except for one guy who took an extra step. “Goddammit, I said STOP! When I say STOP, you STOP, understand me, maggot?” the sergeant screamed in his face. Before the man could respond, the sergeant walked away and opened the door to the building. He ordered the group inside and watched as they received their buzz haircut, then took them to the clothing and equipment issue area.


There, the students, as they were called, gave up all their personal items – clothing, wallets, jewelry, everything, was tagged, inventoried and placed in a locked container. They were even required to remove the batteries from their phones and give those up as well.


They were then issued two sets of olive green overalls, several pair of white t-shirts and boxer shorts, socks, tennis shoes, boots, caps and a bag filled with toiletries. The sergeant gave then just a few seconds to shower, shave and don their new uniforms. Once finished, he instructed them to form up outside, where he explained the rules, which were simple. They were not to speak unless spoken to, they would run wherever they went and were to follow whatever instructions they were given without question.


He double-timed them to another small building, which they learned was their barracks -- their home for the next three months. They were set loose and told to find their designated racks – the term that was used for their beds – and stow their gear in footlockers located at the foot of the small twin-sized beds.


That night, Max slept soundly, dreaming of a particular blonde goddess.



Shannon was clearly angry as she looked at her phone. Jake saw the anger in her face and approached her.


What's wrong?” he asked.


He's gone,” she said. “I can't find him anywhere. I called the hospital and they told me he had been discharged and had already left. I know I put a tracker on his phone, but it doesn't seem to be working.”


Maybe he turned it off or blocked you,” Jake said.


The GPS should still be able to track his phone,” she said. “Where is he?”


Don't worry, we'll find him,” Jake said.


You'd better,” she said, her face red. “There's 10 million dollars on the line and I can't afford to lose him. Not now.”



The first month of camp was rough on Max, but he expected it. They ran everywhere – up and down steep hills, through obstacle courses that included rope climbs into tall trees, and to the gym, where they worked out with weights until their arms could hardly move.


They were given exercises that made little sense to him at the time. These workouts took place every day from 5:00 am until 6:30 pm – that was the time they returned from dinner and were allowed to have one cigarette in a formation outside their barracks. Max couldn't help but notice that the partial pack Eli gave him never seemed to be empty. He wondered about that, but didn't dwell on it. Where Eli and Adrestia were concerned, nothing surprised him anymore.


The only other break the students got was on Sundays. Those who wished, went to church. The rest were given jobs around the camp – mowing the grass, or washing laundry. That was also the day they were allowed to write letters. Some wrote to their wives, while others wrote to their children.


Max would write Adrestia, telling her how much he missed her and updating her on his progress. He thought it was a bit silly, since he was certain she already knew what was happening to him. Still, it felt good to put pen to paper and express himself to her.


He responded to the letters he received from her, which he treasured. He loved reading her carefully-crafted calligraphy, which looked like an art form unto itself. He could even detect her scent on the paper she used.


She kept him up to date on her progress with Mario's books, and what was happening with Jake and Shannon. Like the other students, a private investigator kept tabs on Shannon's activities, and filed weekly updates complete with pictures. She was a very busy girl from what he gathered, and not just with Jake.


But unlike the PI, Adrestia was able to record Shannon and Jake's thoughts and plans. She was able to record the two of them in places the PI couldn't. Of course, he had no way of watching any videos, so Adrestia kept those on file for him in case he wanted to look at them later. He really didn't want to, but realized he might have to at some point in the future.


As time went on, he realized that Eli was right about her. Yes, she was immortal – a goddess with abilities and knowledge he was barely beginning to fathom. But at the same time, she was very much a real woman. The more he read her letters and the more time he spent with her in his dreams, the more he found himself falling madly in love with her.


The first month of camp ended soon enough, and Max found that he had lost the flab that had gathered around his midsection. He also found that his muscle tone had improved considerable and while he felt tired, he seemed to have more energy than before.


The second month of camp began with the class telling their sad tales of cuckoldry. He listened as they spoke and realized he didn't have it nearly as bad as some of the others. When his turn came, he told them about the night he was ambushed, drugged, tied to a chair, cuckolded and beaten. He didn't mention Adrestia or Eli, but simply said he got help from two close friends. The counselor, a Dr. Deborah White, listened intently as he told his story, taking notes.


Your case doesn't seem quite as bad as the others, Max,” she said as he finished. “I can't help but wonder why you're here.”


My friends said it would do me good,” Max said.


Do you feel like it's helping so far?” she asked.


I do,” he said. “For starters, I've gotten rid of that spare tire around my gut,” he added to laughter. “And I'm feeling more confident than I have in quite some time.” She nodded her head.


Okay, Max,” she said. “We'll talk more in private later. Next...”


The physical training continued and the curriculum now included psychological counseling. He found some of it useful, but a lot of it was psychobabble to him. Adrestia confirmed that to him several times in his dreams.


Meanwhile, Shannon and Jake were beside themselves trying to get a lock on Max's location. Shannon was even more concerned, given that she had never been away from her husband for more than a few days at a time.


She thought it odd that she never heard from him – no texts, no calls, no emails – nothing. Nevertheless, all their bills were being paid and she received a weekly stipend, which she spent on food and other things she needed. She began to wonder if maybe Jake and Mario had taken him out. She broached the subject to Jake a couple times but he shut her down.


As for the updates on Mario's books, all they received were anonymous emails saying they were being processed. When they tried responding, all they got were error messages saying the address they attempted to contact did not exist. What they didn't know is that enough information had already been forwarded to certain agencies who were preparing to make some big arrests.


Max finally got to the third month of his training, and found that he enjoyed the close combat and self defense training he received. Of course, the physical training and psychological counseling continued. They also offered him free legal help, but he turned that down, since he already had an attorney working his case.


Then came the BTB, or “Burn the Bitch” ceremony, which marked the end of their training. The instructors gathered them outside after dinner around a pole that had a pile of wood around it. A straw figure lay on the ground next to it.


When I give the command, take one photo of your spouse and pin it to the figure,” their senior instructor commanded. “Ready? Move!”


They all pulled a photo of their spouse and pinned it to the figure. All Max had was a photo he got from the PI that showed both Shannon and Jake. He stabbed a pin through Shannon's face, securing the photo to the figure.


Mount the figure!” the instructor ordered. They picked up the straw effigy and tied it securely to the pole.


“Burnage! Front and center!” the sergeant ordered. Max stepped in front of the sergeant, who handed him a lit torch. He grabbed the torch with both hands and held tight. “Burn the Bitch!” the sergeant ordered.


“Sir! Burn the Bitch! Aye, Aye, Sir!” Max shouted in response. He walked to the pile of wood below the straw effigy and set it on fire. The flames licked up, catching the straw figure on fire.


“Burn! Burn! BURN!” they all chanted as flames devoured the straw figure. The photos quickly curled up and burned to ash. “BURN! BURN! BURN!” the men shouted, pumping their fists in the air.


They continued to chant and pump their fists in the air. The chants turned into howls and angry growls as the figure burned. The men sounded more like wild animals than human beings as they howled. Soon, the figure fell off the pole and burned as it lay on the ground. A few of them unzipped their trousers and urinated on the figure. Max joined them.


The sergeant gave everyone a beer from a chest at his feet and they celebrated the end of their training. Max joined several others and lit up a cigarette to go with his beer.


That night as he lay in bed asleep, Adrestia joined him in his dreams, as she had every night since he arrived.


That was quite a ceremony,” she said as he lay in her arms. “How did it make you feel?”


Like a weight has been lifted off my back,” he said.


Well, I'm glad it helped,” she said. “The last thing I want is to compete with memories of an ex-wife.” He chuckled.


You have nothing to worry about, dear,” he said.


I must say I like what they've been able to do with you,” she said. “Physically as well as mentally.”


I feel like a new man,” he said. “And I owe it all to you.”


No, my love,” she said. “You had it in you all along. All I did was help you realize it.”


I couldn't have made it through this without you,” he told her. “And truth be told, I can't imagine ever being without you.”


I told you, my dear sweet man, I love you. And I'll always be here for you. Always,” she said. He looked at her before continuing.


I love you so much, Adrestia,” he said.


And I love you too, Max,” she said. “I'll always love you.”


Well, tomorrow is the big day,” he said. “We graduate tomorrow.”


I know,” she said. “Eli will be there to fly back with you. You should know that Shannon and Jake plan to be at your house tomorrow. They'll have some of Mario's guys there as well. They intend to track you down and kill you unless you provide the work they think you've been doing. The FBI has already brought in several high-powered figures for questioning and Mario is convinced you somehow provided the evidence. There's going to be a lot of people arrested over the next few days.”


What do you suggest we do?” Max asked.


This is your show, remember?” she asked. “You need to handle this. We'll back you up, but you have to do the heavy lifting. I'm going to give you something that I think will help you. Lay back and close your eyes.”


Max did as she said and felt a warmth go through his head as she took his head in her hands. He felt a strange tingling in his brain and saw flashes of light in his mind's eye. He sat up when she was finished.


What did you do?” he asked.


I gave you a little gift,” she said. “I call it a 'command voice.' You can use it to control any mortal.”


How do I use it?” he asked.


Just focus on the command and give the order, like your instructors did here at the camp,” she said. “Use it wisely. And don't forget what I told you earlier. No hand raised against you will prevail. Think of me as your armor.”


Okay,” he said.


There's one last thing,” she said.


What's that?” he asked.


Kiss me, now!” she moaned. He smiled and took her soft form in his arms and kissed her deeply. He felt her take his manhood in her delicate hand and suddenly...




Damn it, he thought to himself as his eyes flew open. That always happened to him. He got up, and followed the rest of the class into the head where he showered, shaved and got ready for the day. After getting dressed in freshly-laundered jeans and denim shirts, the class went to breakfast, retrieved the stuff they turned in, then formed up for the graduation. The camp commander and the senior instructor stood before them.


“You men have come a long way since you arrived,” the camp commander said. “You came here, scared, uncertain about your future, defeated and humiliated by the ones you loved the most. Now, you've gotten your manhood back. You look like men with the confidence to take on the world. You have the tools and the wherewithal to take on and successfully complete whatever you set out to do.


“I wish the best for each one of you. Remember, we're here for you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you need anything – anything at all – even someone to talk to, we're here for you. Now, go and take on the world!”


Their senior sergeant stood in front of the class.


Class, attention! Dis...missed!” The men whooped as they picked up their bags and headed to the bus, stopping to shake the sergeant's hand. Many of them gathered before entering the bus to exchange contact information, promising to stay in contact with each other.


When they got to the airport, Max saw Eli waiting for him in the terminal. Eli smiled as he held out a hand.


You look good, Max,” he said. “I see three months in the fresh air have done wonders for ya.”


Thanks, Eli,” Max said. “It's good to finally be able to go home.” They checked in and boarded the plane. After they took their seats, Eli turned to Max.


You should know that Shannon, Jake and some of Mario's boys are at your house,” he said. “Amos is with the private investigator keeping an eye on things. I'm told there's some sheriff's deputies with them.”


Yeah, Adrestia told me they'd be there,” Max said. Eli nodded his head.


You gonna be able to handle this?” Eli asked. Max took a deep breath and let it out slowly.


I think so,” he said. “I just need to get some sleep.”


Okay, pardner, y'all jes' get some rest,” Eli said. Max nodded his head and was asleep before the plane reached altitude. When the plane landed, Max woke up and saw Eli reading a magazine.


Sleep well?” Eli asked.


Yeah,” Max said, stretching his arms. “I'm ready to get this done.” Eli nodded his head and the two of them stood up with the other passengers leaving the aircraft. Not having any luggage, the two of them went outside and flagged down a cab. Before they got in, though, a young man on a skateboard came zipping down the sidewalk, bowling over a woman pushing a baby stroller.


HEY, YOU!” Max ordered. The teenage boy on the skateboard stopped and turned to Max.


Are you talking to me?” the teenager asked. Max took in the ring he wore in his nose and upper lip.


Yeah, you,” Max said. “Get over here and apologize to this woman. NOW!” He ordered. He noticed a slight vibration in his voice when he gave the order and fully expected the kid to give him a bunch of crap. But he didn't. Instead, the kid got off his skateboard, picked it up and walked to the woman he had knocked over.


I'm sorry, ma'am,” he said sheepishly. “I wasn't looking where I was going. Are you alright?”


Yes, I am,” she said. “Didn't you see the signs? There's no skateboarding on this sidewalk. You could've hurt my child.”


I'm really sorry,” the teenager said. He looked at Max. “I didn't see the sign, honestly.”


You see it now, right?” Max asked. The kid nodded his head.


Yes sir, I do,” he said. Max nodded his head.


And you'll obey them from now on, won't you?” Max asked.


Yes sir, I will. I promise,” the kid said.


All right,” Max said. “You'd better.” As he watched, the kid turned and walked the way he was going. He looked at the woman, who was checking her child. “Are you all right, ma'am?” he asked. She looked at him and nodded her head.


We're both fine,” she said. “Thank you.” Max nodded his head.


You're welcome, ma'am,” he said. “You have a nice day now.” The woman smiled and walked on. Stunned, Max got into the cab, with Eli following. Max gave the driver his destination, then turned to Eli.


Did you see that?” he asked. Eli nodded his head.


I did,” Eli said. “Good job. Jes' don't let it go to yer head.” Max chuckled at that. Eventually, they made their way to Max's house, which sat on a five acre wooded lot on the edge of town. They came upon a pickup that Eli recognized. He asked the driver to pull over for a second. The driver pulled over and Amos came to the cab.


There's four fellas inside with Mrs. Burns and her lawyer friend,” he said. “Process server and sheriff's deputies are here with arrest warrants for all of them.”


Okay,” Eli said. “Follow us inside.” Amos nodded his head and walked back to the deputies on the other side of the road. Eli gave the signal for the driver to pull into Max's property. Max paid the driver with his credit card and got out of the vehicle. Eli got out on the other side. He directed the others to follow close behind him and waved the cab driver off.


After the cab left the property, Max, Eli, Amos, the process server and two deputies went to the front door while a third deputy went behind the house to enter from the back door. Max opened the door and walked in. The four goons turned, and began to pull out their weapons, but Max stopped them.


FREEZE!” he ordered. The four men instantly stopped what they were doing. “SIT! And keep your hands where we can see them,” Max ordered. Everyone obeyed, much to the deputies' surprise. Max turned to the process server and nodded his head. The process server walked to Shannon.


Are you Ms. Shannon Burns?” he asked. She nodded her head.


ANSWER HIM!” Max ordered.


Yes, I'm Shannon Burns,” she said. The process server handed her an envelope, which she accepted.


You have been served,” he said before stepping back. Shannon looked inside the envelope, and didn't seem surprised to find a set of divorce papers.


SIGN THE PAPERS,” Max ordered. Shaking, Shannon accepted a pen from Jake and signed the papers before handing them back to the server.


I'll get this back to your attorney,” he said quietly. Max nodded his head.


Now, you are all going to be arrested and taken to jail,” Max said quietly. “When you get there, you will all confess your crimes – all of them. You will sing like canaries and then throw yourselves on the mercy of the court and you will accept whatever punishment you are given. Do you understand?”


But Mario will have us killed,” Jake whined. “Please, have mercy on us.”


Mercy?” Max asked. “You mean like you had on me? Fuck you. You're lucky to be alive right now. That's as much mercy as I'll grant you. If Mario decides to take you out, that's your problem. Not mine.” He turned to the deputies. “Take them away,” he said quietly. As Max, Eli and Amos watched, the deputies took them all into custody, reading them their rights. Shannon looked at Max as she was being cuffed.


What happened to you?” she asked.


You happened to me,” Max said. “And for the record, Maxwell Burns no longer exists.”


What?” she asked. “Then who are you, really?”


Max Burnage,” he said in a tone of voice that sent chills up and down her spine. The deputies took them out of the house and loaded them in their cars. They watched as the police cruisers left the property. Eli slapped Max on the shoulder.


Good job, son,” he said. Max shut the door as they turned back inside and was shocked to see Adrestia standing in the front room. She had a smile on her face as she wrapped her arms around Max.


I agree,” she said. “Although I am a bit surprised you let her live.”


I thought hard about that,” Max said.


I know,” she said. “Why did you spare her life?”


A couple reasons,” Max said. “First, I didn't want her death on my conscience. Second, I figured her suffering is just beginning. Something tells me she won't last too long behind bars.” Adrestia nodded her head in approval.


You were right, Eli,” she said. “He does have the heart for this. There's just one thing left to do,” she added.


Mario?” Max asked.


Yes,” she said, pulling out her tablet. “He's meeting with his attorney in New York even as we speak. She showed him the tablet. He saw Mario sitting on his pool desk with a well-dressed man, discussing the federal case against him. He saw the thought monitor at the bottom of the video.


I'm going to have that Maxwell Burns drawn and quartered for what he's done,” Mario thought as the attorney spoke.


How would you like to crash his little party?” Adrestia asked. Max looked at her, his curiosity piqued.


And how would we manage that?” he asked. Adrestia smiled and took one hand in hers.


Follow me,” she said quietly. “We'll be back shortly,” she told Eli and Amos. She turned back to Max. “I'll be with you, but they won't see me. Follow your heart and do what you think is right.” Max nodded his head. “Now, take one step with me.” He followed her lead...


And found himself on Mario's pool deck. He looked to his right, where Adrestia was before they left his living room. He could discern her outline, but knew they couldn't see her. He turned back to Mario and his lawyer, deep in conversation. He cleared his throat to get their attention. They looked at him, stunned.


Who are you,” Mario asked as he stood up.


Yes,” the lawyer said. “Speak up, man. Who are you and how did you get here?”


Don't you recognize the accountant you wanted to do your books? You really should know who you're doing business with, Mario,” Max said.


What?” Mario asked. “What are you talking about?”


I'm the guy Jake and Shannon told you about,” Max said.


Oh, so you're the accountant who double crossed me,” Mario said. “Do you know who you're dealing with? Do you realize I can have you taken out with a single call?” Max chuckled.


The real question is, do you know who you're dealing with?” Max said. Mario took a step back. He wasn't used to people standing up to him. He considered his options before speaking.


Alright,” Mario said. “You've got my attention. Now, tell me what I need to do to make things right with you. You do know that even if the feds come after me, I'll never spend a minute behind bars. My lawyers will keep the courts tied up in knots for years. So, tell me what it is you want. Money? I got lots of it. Women? I've got more than I can shake a stick at. You can have some of it – as much as you want. Just name your price.”


Max felt his face turn red with anger. Deep down, he knew that Mario was right. Even though he deserved to spend the rest of his life in prison, he knew Mario's attorneys would fight tooth and nail to keep him out. And he would be free – free to ruin more lives and free to prosper off the ruin he left behind. There was nothing remotely redeeming about this creature, and Max knew he had to be eliminated.


There's only one thing you can do that would satisfy me,” Max said.


Name it,” Mario said. “Anything.” Max smiled, but there was no warmth in his smile.


DROP DEAD,” Max commanded. Mario began to smile, but the smile faded and he brought a hand to his chest. He gasped for air, but was unable to breathe. He looked at Max one last time before his eyes rolled up. He fell to the concrete, his eyes glazed over in death. The lawyer looked at Max, shocked.


Who are you?” he asked.


Max Burnage,” Max told him. “And as far as you're concerned, I don't exist. I was never here. Understand?”


Y...Yes, I understand,” the lawyer stammered.


Good,” Max said. “Now, go to sleep. And when you wake up, you won't remember a thing.” The lawyer dropped to the concrete, his eyes closed in a deep slumber. Max felt a warm hand in his and found himself standing in his front room, Adrestia next to him, a wide smile on her face.


Did I do okay?” he asked nervously. She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him deeply.


Yes,” she said when she broke the kiss. “More than okay, my avenging angel.”


So, I take it our services are no longer required here tonight,” Eli said.


No, Eli, I have it under control,” Adrestia said. “But remember your promise.”


I remember,” he said. He turned to Amos. “We'd better get going.” He looked back at Adrestia. “Go easy on him, okay?” She laughed.


He's in very good hands, I promise,” she said with a smile. Eli nodded his head and left the house with Amos in tow. She looked back at Max and kissed him deeply. “Come with me, my love,” she whispered, taking his hand in hers.


The next thing he knew, they were in his bed, naked. So mush for preliminaries, he thought to himself. She straddled him and kissed his face as she stroked his manhood.


Now, Max,” she said. “Relax and let me love you like you've never been loved before.” He nodded his head as she positioned his hard cock at her center. He gasped as she impaled herself on him. He had never felt anything so wonderful before. He moaned as she rode him. He never wanted this to end.


Oh... My... Goddess,” he exclaimed as his first orgasm hit. He filled her with his semen as she kept riding him.


Yes, my love,” she whispered. “Fill me up with your love. Make me your woman.” She kept riding him and he was surprised to find that he was still just as hard as before. After he ejaculated the second time, he rolled them over and looked at her lovely body spread out before him. Taking his cock in his hand, he guided it one more time inside her.


Oh, yes,” she cried as he made gentle love to her. “Don't ever stop.” They continued making love to each other until the sun began to shine in the windows. He lost count of how many times they had climaxed together and was amazed that he could last as long as he did. He stopped and held her in his arms. Ordinarily, he would have been fast asleep by now, but he found that making love to her actually energized him.


I love you, Adrestia,” he whispered in her ear as he held her tight.


And I love you as well, Max,” she said.


Does this mean,” Max began.


It means that we are mated,” she said. “For all time, if that pleases you.”


It does,” he said. “And I promise to be faithful to you.” She smiled.


I know, my love,” she said. “I would not have chosen you if I thought you would not be true to me. Don't misunderstand. I know you're a mortal man with all the desires that come with it. And I know you may be tempted from time to time. But I'll always be here, in your heart, and I'll help see you through those temptations.”


I can't believe all this is happening to me,” he said.


Your life will definitely be different from here on out, Max,” she said. “It will take some getting used to. But Eli and I will help you as much as you need. And all you have to do is ask. I may not always be here with you, physically. But I will always be in your heart, and in your mind.”


I love you so much,” he said, holding her tight to him.


And you have no idea the depth of my love for you,” she said. “But for now, your body needs rest. And you need your sleep. Sleep now, my love. Tomorrow is a new day and there is much work to be done.” She kissed his face and he found himself falling asleep.





Max slept for nearly 24 hours and woke more refreshed and invigorated than he could remember. Adrestia was gone, but he could feel her presence in his heart and in his mind. He felt something on his hand and looked to find a ring on his finger. He didn't remember seeing it before, but he knew it was from her.


He got up and did his morning routine. After he showered and shaved he got dressed and went into his front room. He turned on the news after getting his morning cup of tea. He was pleased to see that Adrestia had left an entire box of tea bags for him. His attention was drawn to a report about Mario.


This just in to Eyewitness News,” the anchor said. “Reputed mob boss Mario Alvarez was found dead in his New York home. According to the coroner, he suffered an aneurysm and bled out internally. Authorities say his attorney was found in a deep sleep near Alvarez' pool, and had no recollection of the incident. Alvarez and his organization came under intense scrutiny after federal authorities received files regarding his alleged activities from an anonymous source.


In related news, a local attorney with ties to Alvarez was found dead in his cell. Prison authorities say the man, who has yet to be identified, appears to have committed suicide. A woman who was arrested with the attorney also appears to have suffered a panic attack and is currently being held for observation. Stay tuned to Eyewitness News for more updates.”


Max chuckled as he turned the television off. A few minutes later, he heard a knock on his door. Looking through the peephole, he saw Detective Hanson and opened the door.


Good morning, detective,” he said. “What can I do for you?”


You have a minute?” Hanson asked.


Sure, come on in,” Max said.


I was just curious to know if you can tell us anything about what happened with your wife and her attorney friend,” Hanson said. Max shook his head.


No, I can't tell you anything,” Max said. “I haven't spoken to her since she was taken into custody. Maybe you can tell me what happened.” Hanson shrugged his shoulders.


I really don't know how to describe it,” he said. “Your wife said something about seeing creatures in her cell overnight. She was pretty hysterical. They had to sedate her and put her in the psych ward of the jail.”


Did she confess to what she had done?” Max asked.


She did more than that,” he said. “All of the perps we picked up sang like canaries. It's going to take us weeks to get through everything they confessed. You don't know anything about that, do you?”


I advised them to confess everything they could,” Max said. “Nothing wrong with that, is there?”


No, I guess not,” he said. “By the way, you're looking much better than you did the last time I saw you.”


Thanks, detective,” Max said. “It's amazing what three months in the country can do for you.”


I guess,” Hanson said. “So you have nothing else to offer?” Max shook his head.


Not a thing, detective,” he said. Hanson nodded his head.


Okay,” he said, preparing to leave. “Call me if you can think of anything.”


Of course,” Max said. He escorted the detective to the door, shook his hand and closed the door after he left. After he watched the detective drive off, he went into his home office and sat at his computer.


He pulled up Word and Excel and began typing, making entries in the spreadsheet as he went. He worked for hours, stopping only to grab something to eat. When he finished, he sat back and looked over his work. Smiling to himself, he stepped on his back deck with a cup of tea and one of Eli's cigarettes.


Burnage Agency,” he thought to himself. He liked the sound of that. He repeated it to himself a few times, liking the name even more. He took a long drag of his cigarette and heard a quiet female voice in his mind.


Cheaters beware,” he heard Adrestia say in his mind as clear as if she was right next to him. He thought about it for a bit with a smile on his face. He nodded his head in agreement and repeated to no one in particular: “Cheaters beware.”





The camp mentioned in this story is Camp Rollins, the camp central to my “” series and featured in other stories. Eli Jones is better known as “Justice O. Peace,” from my series, “Justice.” You can also read about him in my ebook, “Justice Rides.”

































Submitted: May 24, 2023

© Copyright 2023 Saddletramp1956. All rights reserved.

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