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From the book
CHAPTER ONEHe gripped the steering wheel loosely as the car, its lights out, drifted slowly to a stop. A few last scraps of gravel kicked out of the tire treads and then silence enveloped him. He took a moment to adjust to the surroundings and then pulled out a pair of worn but still effective night-vision binoculars. The house slowly came into focus. He shifted easily, confidently in his seat. A duffel bag lay on the front seat beside him. The car's interior was faded but clean.
The car was also stolen. And from a very unlikely source.
A pair of miniature palm trees hung from the rearview mirror. He smiled grimly as he looked at them. Soon he might be going to the land of palms. Quiet, blue, see-through water, powdery salmon-colored sunsets and late mornings. He had to get out. It was time. For all the occasions he had said that to himself, this time he felt sure.
Sixty-six years old, Luther Whitney was eligible to collect Social Security, and was a card-carrying member of AARP. At that age most men had settled down into second careers as grandfathers, part-time raisers of their children's children, when weary joints were eased down into familiar recliners and arteries finished closing up with the clutter of a lifetime.
Luther had had only one career his entire life. It involved breaking and entering into other people's homes and places of business, usually in the nighttime, as now, and taking away as much of their property as he could feasibly carry.
Though clearly on the wrong side of the law, Luther had never fired a gun or hurled a knife in anger or fear, except for his part in a largely confusing war fought where South and North Korea were joined at the hip. And the only punches he had ever thrown were in bars, and those only in self-defense as the suds made men braver than they should have been.
Luther only had one criterion in choosing his targets: he took only from those who could well afford to lose it. He considered himself no different from the armies of people who routinely coddled the wealthy, constantly persuading them to buy things they did not need.
A good many of his sixty-odd years had been spent in assorted medium-and then maximum-security correctional facilities along the East Coast. Like blocks of granite around his neck, three prior felony convictions stood to his credit in three different states. Years had been carved out of his life. Important years. But he could do nothing to change that now.
He had refined his skills to where he had high hopes that a fourth conviction would never materialize. There was absolutely nothing mysterious about the ramifications of another bust: he would be looking at the full twenty years. And at his age, twenty years was a death penalty. They might as well fry him, which was the way the Commonwealth of Virginia used to handle its particularly bad people. The citizens of this vastly historic state were by and large a God-fearing people, and religion premised upon the notion of equal retribution consistently demanded the ultimate payback. The commonwealth succeeded in disposing of more death row criminals than all but two states, and the leaders, Texas and Florida, shared the moral sentiments of their Southern sister. But not for simple burglary; even the good Virginians had their limits.
Yet with all that at risk he couldn't take his eyes off the home -- mansion, of course, one would be compelled to call it. It had engrossed him for several months now.
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PublisherGrand Central Publishing
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