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May 29, 2113
Los Angeles, California
Berringer and Son Law Firm
Saulter enters the law firm with his two CIA operatives, Foster Lancaster and Miguel Perez, close behind him. His stiff posture and masculine march brings everyone in the firm to a sudden silence as though waiting for one of their own to be sentenced to death. He pulls his badge from his pocket and reveals it with a swift snap of his wrist to the receptionist. The woman behind the desk cowers in her seat as she watches him return it to his belt. Saulter reaches for the desk tag and reads the name. A devilish smile appears on his cracked lips.
“Mrs. Rose,” he says underneath the raspy and barbaric undertones of his voice.
“Miss,” she replies.
“Really, now? For an attractive red head like you, I would’ve expected you to have a significant other waiting for you at home.”
“No,” she shivers. “Recently widowed.” She squints at his tag. “General Saulter Williams. Oh my, is there something wrong?”
Saulter removes his green hat. “Every day, Rose, something is always wrong. That is why I am always getting the tough assignments. It’s because I am the kind of man that gets the job done.” He smiles. “And you may ask, at what cost? And I will answer in a heartbeat—at any cost to keep the lives of this nation safe.” He leans back from the desk and returns the hat to his head. “Now, you can make my job easier by pointing me in the direction to a Mr. Nathan Berringer’s office.”
“I would, sir, but he is in the middle of a—”
“Tell him it would be in his best interest to speak with me at once. I am a very busy man, and I am extremely impatient.”
“I understand, sir, but he did give me very specific instructions not to interrupt him today,” she says, looking up at Saulter with her hazel eyes.
“Cute,” he answers, looking up towards the hallway behind her. “I’ll invite myself in then. On behalf of the President of the United States, I am authorized to go into that office.” He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a folded document. “Here is a warrant.” He tosses the papers on the desk and marches towards the door that has N. Berringer written across the glass.
“But wait, I can’t let you go…” Rose trails behind the men, still begging them to stop.
Saulter pushes the door open with both men close behind him. He discovers Nathan Berringer flipping through a mess of files on his desk. The stout man wrinkles his forehead as the three men enter without warning.
“Rose, I told you I can’t be distracted today!” Nathan exclaims as his glasses slide to the end of his nose.
“I tried…” she answers as Saulter slams the door behind him, locking it. Both of his men flank either side of the desk.
“Gentlemen, you can’t just barge into my office without an appointment. I’m a very busy man,” Nathan says in heavy breaths.
“No need for an appointment, Mr. Berringer. I have a warrant that comes straight from the Commander-in-Chief. So, in my professional advice, I would suggest you sit your ass down and listen up,” Saulter says, slamming his fists on the desk.
“I will not tolerate—“
“Oh, you will tolerate anything and everything I throw at you, Mr. Berringer.” Saulter turns to the bookshelves, taking notice of all the pictures of the lawyer’s family. “Not to mention the impeccable danger your family will be in if you don’t cooperate with us.”
“My family?” Nathan’s eyes widen in shock. “What do they have to do with any of this?”
“Nothing at all. It’s just in my nature to use people’s prized possessions as bargaining chips,” Saulter grins. “Let’s just see how much information I can squeeze out of you before I explain what my men will do to your wife and children if I don’t get the answers I want, okay?”
Nathan sits back in his chair and looks up at all three men. Saulter pulls out his badge and rests it on the desk. He sits across from Nathan in an empty chair. He stares at the lawyer’s frizzled brown head of hair and dirt cheap suit. The prime example of a compulsive liar and cheat in American society. He watches Nathan reach for the badge and bring it close to his face.
“Director of the CIA, huh?” Nathan chuckles. “Had nothing better to do today, I presume.”
“Nathan, you have something the president wants immediately, and he is going to get it whether you want him to or not,” Saulter answers, snapping his fingers to Foster.
Foster pulls out a manila envelope from his black jacket and hands it to the general. Saulter flips through the contents and pulls out a letter addressed to Nathan that reads: From the desk of the Commander-in-Chief of the United States.
“I just wanted to make this more formal. President Rashaad has requested that the inheritance and/or inheritances of Captain Weston Lambright be confiscated and not recorded to the decease’s immediate family members,” Saulter says, watching Nathan skim through the letter.
“As much as I would love to cooperate with this request, I cannot, General,” Nathan replies, setting the letter back onto the desk.
“And why can’t you do this simple task?”
Nathan looks down at Saulter’s badge again. “General, due to the moral code of ethics and attorney-client confidentiality clauses, I can’t release that information. In addition, my client specifically instructed me not to release anything to the government, only to his sons.”
“But there are no legal issues that you are obligated to. You would risk the lives of your family and yourself for this man?” Saulter taps his fingers on his lap. His light-hearted spirits turn to a ruthless darkness within seconds as his eyes narrow like a hungry predator.
“I think it would be best if you and your two pets leave now,” Nathan says, leaning back in his chair.
“Oh, you have some large balls, Nathan, but, unfortunately, mine outweigh your ignorance.” Saulter cracks his neck and looks at both of the stone cold faces of Miguel and Foster. He leans closer to the desk. “You know, I’ve dealt with many persistent lawyers who have, like you, used the constitution and law to keep the government’s hands off of important documents. Although I commend you for your bravery to stand up to us, I also recommend you beg for mercy from my pets? Isn’t that what you called them?”
Saulter stands to his feet, looking outside the blinds of the window and slowly shutting them. Thin lines of sunlight stripe the walls of the small office.
“My pets were instructed not to do anything too drastic to you, considering you have delicate information, but I am afraid they have not learned the meaning of obedience just yet.”
Foster walks behind Nathan’s chair. He clenches the brown hairs between his fingers and spastically bashes Nathan’s head onto the glass cover on the desk. Foster pulls Nathan’s head back to the headrest of the chair. Blood seeps into the crevices of the cracked glass. Nathan tastes iron on his lips and feels blood drip from his chin. His eyes are beet red and deep gashes line his forehead.
“Are you ready to hand over those documents?” Saulter shrugs and leans close to Nathan’s face. “You can make this easy for me, or messy for you. Honestly, it’s really your choice.”
“Don’t you have his records in your damn database? What more could you need from the inheritance he left for his boys, you sick son-of-a-bitch?” he cries. “You’re the fucking government for god’s sake!”
“Do you not realize technology has created firewalls to keep the government’s hands off of certain individual’s files? Weston has figured out a way to slip through the cracks of our system and now we are at the verge of world destruction as we speak!” Saulter growls, while tossing files and papers off the desk. “Stop feeding me bullshit, Nathan, and give us what we want!”
Nathan keeps his mouth sealed tight. Saulter’s anger overwhelms him as his brain feels as though it could split at any moment. He nods at Miguel and walks away from the desk.
“Fine. I guess we’ll be here for a while then,” he says, reaching for the file on the floor. “Hmm… Becky Berringer. You have a file for your wife?” Saulter flips through the contents. He hears Miguel reeling back his fist and thrusting it into Nathan’s ribcage. He looks back to see Nathan heaving from the blow to his stomach. “Who keeps a file of their own wife, Foster? Isn’t a picture enough to satisfy a husband?” Foster laughs in the corner as Saulter tosses the file behind his head.
“You… can’t… do this. It’s against the law,” Nathan coughs.
“That is where you are very wrong, my friend. We actually can do whatever we want to suspected terrorists now. We can even do some pretty fucked up things to the family, as well. You should know this already though, you’re a lawyer.” Saulter sits in the chair across from Nathan again.
“You don’t understand. You have the wrong guy. I’m not a terrorist and neither is Weston. You guys are trying to frame us!” Nathan exclaims as blood spatters across the desk from his torn lip.
“No, you don’t understand, Mr. Berringer, the government decides who is a terrorist, whether it’s an innocent stay-at-home mom, or a corrupted lawyer.” Saulter walks over to the window again and watches everyone in the street. “We have passed laws only to satisfy the safety of our leaders, and we have desecrated the ones that our forefathers created to protect the people. This nation is no longer a perfect union for the people, it is now a country run by tyranny.”
“That’s bull!” Nathan interrupts as his head meets the surface of the sheet of broken glass on the desk.
“I didn’t want to jump to this scenario.” Saulter looks down at the photo of Becky. Nathan hocks a wad of bloody saliva towards Saulter. He dodges the red slime and looks up at both of his men with rage boiling in his eyes. “Please, do something about his mouth!”
Foster grabs the stapler on the desk and presses the metallic beam against Nathan’s forehead. He slams his fist against the top of the stapler as multiple staples puncture the lawyer’s forehead. He continues to press until he makes his way to the mangled lips. Miguel presses Nathan’s lips together as Foster staples his mouth shut. Droplets of blood rise from the wounds. Nathan moans as tears well up in his eyes and staples bend in and out of his head.
“Is the brave lawyer crying? Please, help him wipe away those tears,” Saulter laughs in amusement at the torture of an innocent man. He watches Foster seal his eyelids shut and press the stapler firmly against the rim of his eyelids.
Nathan’s shriek in his throat makes Saulter stop the two men.
“Do you have something to say now, before we permanently blind you, Mr. Berringer?”
“Mm…mmm…mmm,” Nathan mumbled behind his sealed lips.
“C’mon, let the guy at least have a chance to speak.”
Foster grabs the small staple remover from the desk drawer and wedges the sharp edges underneath each staple, ripping each one out with a slight tug. Saulter watches and listens to Nathan moan in pain until he can finally speak.
“Now, you were saying?” Saulter asks, leaning on the desk.
“Oh, god,” he exhales.
“Sorry, Nathan, but the big guy upstairs had to take a leak. It’s just you and me now.” Saulter grabs Nathan’s chin and turns the lawyer’s head towards him. “Could you stay coherent long enough to hand over those documents I so desperately need, or should I tell my men to torture your family ever so slowly?”
Nathan lazily tosses his head back. His eyes bulge as staples hang from his eyebrows like tiny meat hooks. His lip dangles from his mouth.
“Fuck… you…” he says under his breath.
“Wow! That’s a first from a lawyer, isn’t it, boys?” He looks up at his men with a devilish grin. “Usually your occupation requires you to squeal under pressure, but you, my friend, are the toughest bastard of them all,” he chuckles. “You should’ve joined the military instead. What a waste of talent.”
“Why are you doing this to me?” he asks.
Saulter clenches Berringer’s cheeks together. “This is what happens when you are a hero. It turns you into a person you never thought you could be. Almost superhuman.” Saulter tosses Nathan’s head back and sits back into the chair across from him. “It also turns you into a monster. Yes, you may get some nice feedback and decorate yourself with awards, but, in the long run, all people see is a scorched piece of shit.” He waves both men off of Nathan. “I don’t value the lives of anyone anymore. I only value the death of insubordinate citizens.” He looks out the window at the people in the streets with no sympathy behind his eyes.