Introduction


When the former FBI administrator-turned-bully had pinned my back against the wall with sneaky, nonstop financially-related attacks, leaving me with very limited options, either write or grumble, I chose to write my highly unusual story of oppression. Since the dreams I narrated are imaginary, I have classified my manuscript as fiction.




Disclaimer:  I Am Under Attack!



The bully is not fictional! He is a real person, a true Nazi on Steroids. If you stumble over "mistakes," bear in mind these are not genuine, but acts of corruption by the bully. I have found a number of "mistakes" during my revisions. Do you think I can honestly make silly mistakes such as putting two verbs together, or using the word "folks" instead of "forks," or the word "effect" instead of "affect," or not completing sentences after more than seven revisions?



Warning



Some details in King of the Bullies may shock and disturb you. If you could not handle the naked and ugly truth that no one else has the courage to tell, you may not want to read my story.


I'm Not Greedy!


I was wrestling with myself whether or not to charge a fee for my ebooks, and I decided not to do so. However, if you want to donate, you may send whatever you wish to my Paypal account at: jorgesalarcon@gmail.com or www.paypal.me/kingofthebullies


Sample Chapters

                                                              


Chapter 14 (Book 2)



Roger Stark spent the entire night in a continual state of irritable excitability. He paced the floors, motioned his arm in despair, and muttered ceaselessly, “God damn it!”  
   By seven in the morning, having not slept a wink, he contacted a real FBI agent. He was saying on his cellular phone:
   “Go now! Yes, before he gets up!”
   “Roger, what if she won’t cooperate?” asked the agent, who sat in a black SUV, parked across Vons.
   “She’ll cooperate!” Roger answered hotly and with such unyielding confidence in his voice, giving his face an expression of grim determination.
   “But what if she refuses?” the agent pursued, staring passively at a young couple strolling past his vehicle.
   “Tell her Uncle Sam won’t be sending her another god damn dime!” Roger replied menacingly.
   He was fully aware of everyone’s economic status in the Mendoza household. For instance, he knew Sonia received monthly financial assistance from the government on account of her mental disability, and, he knew exactly with surgical accuracy how to exploit her financial dependence to his advantage.
   The FBI agent parking five feet past the side gate, was a tall, dark-skinned, handsome man with short pomaded black hair combed with a clear division down the middle of his head. Unlike Roger, who would have flown like a crazed man to the porch in his exaggerated anxiety, the agent climbed the footpath with measured, calm steps, looking especially attractive in a navy-blue suit and black leather shoes that shone in the sunlight. Coming to a halt on the porch, he knocked on the door, and squared his shoulders unconsciously. A second knock roused Sonia to a start. She put aside her fuchsia blanket, hastened to the window in the dining-room, and opened the curtains.
   “Can I help you?” she inquired, gazing at the agent with a questioning look.
   “I am Jeff Zimmerman, a FBI agent,” he began, turning and resting his fine blue eyes on Sonia. “I have a serious matter I wish to discuss with you,” he added, nodding his head slightly, which signified the gravity of the subject.
   Sonia smiled subtly in spite of herself, and undeniably under the influence of the FBI agent’s handsomeness she hurried to the door and unlocked the doorknob with strange nervous energy.
   “Nice to meet you,” Jeff greeted her cordially on entering the house, and the touch of his strong, big, and brownish hand in a firm handshake set her on fire with a radiant smile.

   “May I sit down, miss?” said Jeff, disclosing immaculately white rows of teeth in a smile.

   “Of course,” Sonia answered emphatically, her radiant smile fading and dying away on her lips.

   Jeff unbuttoned two little navy-blue buttons of his suit-coat, and, sitting on one side of the short couch, with the open suit-coat exposing a white dress shirt and a black-striped yellow necktie, he drew out his Smartphone from his pants pocket.
   A hot blush of embarrassment suffused Sonia’s face when she noticed her bunched-up blanket still lying on the opposite end of the short couch. She snatched the blanket with the rapidity that could not have been expected from her, and hid it in the hallway closet; Jeff, smiling faintly at the cause of her embarrassment, put one leg over the other and affected perfect composure.
   “Do you want something to drink? Coffee, juice, or cold water?” Sonia offered formally and amicably.
   “No thanks,” answered Jeff, stealing a glance down at the Smartphone’s screen.
   “Is there anything wrong?” said Sonia, her tone and wrinkled forehead revealing traces of sincere concern.
   “Nothing yet,” Jeff responded ambiguously, but the solemn gleam in his eyes said something utterly different.
   His cryptic reply which elicited incertitude in Sonia, appeared as an expression of doubt and surprise on her countenance.
   “Your first name is Sonia?” he asked.
   “Yes,” she answered.
   “Sonia, the FBI needs your help with a sensitive matter.”
   “You need my help?”
   And her eyes gleamed with a strange light of puzzlement, as if puzzled at the FBI needing her help.
   “Yes, and this is regarding your brother Tito.”
   “Is he in any trouble?”
   “As I said before, nothing yet,” Jeff repeated, emphasizing the words “nothing yet” in a voice ringing almost ominously. “Roger Stark, my boss, wants you to contact him day or night whenever you think your brother is doing anything suspicious at home.”
   “Suspicious?” Sonia reiterated wonderingly, her eyes flashing with a grave light.
   “Anything that looks suspicious to you,” Jeff clarified with a significant glance.
   “So, you want me to call Roger Stark if—” she was saying.
   Jeff interrupted her.
   “Always call my boss if you suspect something. Do you have a cell phone?” he inquired.
   “No,” Sonia answered.
   Jeff drew a simple cellular phone and a black folded cord out from his suit-coat’s side pocket.
   “You can have this cell phone,” he continued, and handing her the cellular phone, he taught her how to connect the black cord to the cellular phone for recharging its internal battery.
   “Sonia, the cell phone is set on vibrate; don’t change the setting,” he added solemnly. “If your cell phone starts vibrating, that’s Roger Stark calling you. Always answer. Your cell phone is in working order. You never have to worry about running out of phone time: the FBI will add free phone time to your cell phone once a month, or whenever it’s running low. Any questions or concerns?”
   “What if I call and nobody answers?” Sonia queried soberly.
   “Trust me, Roger will always answer. This is Roger’s cell number,” said Jeff, giving her a beige business card with Roger Stark’s contact information, on which his cellular number was highlighted with bright yellow.
   “Sonia, I can stress this enough,” he resumed with such a somber, stern look on his smoothly shaven, handsome face that further convinced her in the magnitude of the subject under discussion. “The FBI would truly, truly hate to suspend your governmental financial aid,” he added meaningfully, dropping, as it were, the noose and displaying ostentatiously the incontestable powerful leverage the FBI commanded over her life, as though the agency now can control her and do whatever it want with her.
   “But, if you cooperate, call my boss whenever you suspect something, that, my friend, will never happen,” Jeff put in in a lighter tone. “Do you understand what I am saying?” he asked to verify that she had in fact understood completely the import of his words.
   “I understand,” Sonia affirmed coldly, her face rigid and lifeless as if turned to stone, as though Jeff’s threat of suspending her financial assistance, her sole and only livelihood, had crushed her life-force utterly.
   “It’s getting late,” Jeff observed after consulting his Smartphone’s screen.
   He rose with overlapping creases under the knees of his navy-blue slacks.
   “Sweetie,” he went on tenderly as though to smooth over the harshness of his implied threat, “I believe we’ll get along beautifully,” he completed his sentence, and shook her hand firmly with a feigned smile.
   Locking the front door after he had gone out, a spell of heaviness descended on her as though something terrible had transpired, as though she had to tread very carefully for now on with the horror of losing her only financial support hanging and swinging ominously over her in the shape of a blade.


Chapter 18 (Book 2)


A light-green 1970 Chevrolet station wagon finished parking six feet beyond the side gate, as the sun was sinking and the barely perceptible light yet waging a vain losing battle against darkness. Christina Reyes was squat, elderly with ringlets around her brown sunken eyes, wrinkles on her shrunken light-brownish face, thinning hair peppered with gray and white, sitting in the passenger seat in front. She wore a threadbare old gray blouse, a black skirt, white sandals, her lower green-veined right leg bandaged up. Her eldest son, Miguel Reyes, stood up and in all respects resembled a foreigner from a small Italian town with his ordinary, chubby face, black hair already revealing a bald-patch, taupe shirt concealing a pot-belly, purple slacks showing an outline of his thighs and strong, plump legs.
   Although mother and son climbed the footpath slowly and calmly, there was imperceptible tenseness in their gait and subtle evidence of unaccountable anxiousness inscribed in their faces. As Christina remarked on the cold breeze and shuddered like one easily affected by the element, Miguel knocked and noted the curtain at the window rising quickly and falling.
   Probably on account of Rosa opening the front door too hastily, the door got stuck halfway open; she pushed the door unsuccessfully, awkwardly, and impulsively, but not quitting yet, she jerked the door three additional times and succeeded in swinging the door much wider.
   “Please enter,” she invited her oldest sister and nephew in Spanish, beaming with pleasure.
   “Rosa, you look good,” Christina commented in Spanish after casting an open-mouthed glance on her sister, which said a great deal.
   “I take care of myself,” replied Rosa, smiling radiantly.
   She scarcely could cloak her raptures at catching the shade of bafflement fleeting over her sister’s face, which indicated her amazement at Rosa’s lack of wrinkles and lack of white and gray hair.
   “Please sit down. Want something to drink?” she added cordially.
   “No thanks,” Christina answered, seating herself by Miguel, who also declining refreshment, surveyed the room with fresh eyes, for the living room had undergone several changes with the removal and addition of furniture over the last ten years.
   “How is Pablo?” asked Christina.
   “He’s well. Sonia is washing him,” Rosa answered, sitting beside her sister on the short couch, with the sound of water running in the bathroom through the pipes floating to them. “How are our sisters?”
   A look of identical gloominess appeared on Christina’s and Miguel’s faces.
   “Our sisters are fine for now,” Christina responded somberly, “but their future isn’t looking so bright.”
   “Why do you say that?” said Rosa with quizzical, joyless eyes.
   “I see many unhappy changes coming,” Christina put in morosely.
   Rosa’s ears perked up and Miguel nodded his head gloomily.
   “Life in Mexico is worsening: everyday there are more crimes, more gangs, and more criminals wandering the streets, and the police, the useless and stupid police do nothing but take bribes!” Christina added in a loud, scornful voice, sighing in despair.
   “Is it really that bad where our sisters live?” Rosa inquired with wide-open, wondering eyes, in a tone of a na├»ve child.
   “Aunt, their situation is only going to worsen,” Miguel interjected solemnly as if throwing in his two cents to authenticate his mother’s utterance.
   “God help them!” Christina cried despairingly. “Their neighborhood soon, very soon will look like hell. Our poor sisters will be very lucky to be alive in five years!”
   “But what can be done for our sisters?” said Rosa, her eyes gleaming with a light of grave concern.
  Christina’s chapped lips pursed, suggestive of a smile, and with feelings of eagerness and anticipation flooding her heart, and aware that her objective was almost attained, almost an accomplished fact, her motivation and resolve doubled.
   “Rosa, think of your sisters’ safety, of their worsening dangerous situation,” she went on with more ardor and animation, and rising to the occasion, as if fate itself was calling her to prove her worth, she was pronouncing her words distinctly and her voice was ringing powerfully as if she were staking her whole soul. “I can’t imagine living in those horrible, absolutely horrible conditions! Rosa, imagine yourself worrying constantly about gang members breaking in and raping you! Worrying constantly about drug deals going bad around the street corner. No, Rosa, that’s no life; it’s no way to live, not knowing whether you’ll see another sunrise, another sunset!”—tossing up her thin, age-dotted arm to stress the seriousness of their sisters’ plight—“No, that’s a nightmare!” she dramatized, exaggerated, stretched, and twisted the truth the furthest her imagination allowed her to obtain the desired effect.
   “I agree but what can be done for our sisters?” Rosa repeated still more solemnly, her former expression of concern giving way to a look of trouble and worry.
   “Here it is!” rejoiced Christina’s smiling lips, which was a sort of triumphant, sly smile like one savoring the delicious moment, like one sensing victory at hand.
   She and Miguel were akin to two sleazy used automobile salesmen, who exhaust their cunning and wiles to sell a lemon car to a completely unsuspecting client.
   “Rosa, I see only one viable option,” Christina continued animatedly and urgently with a note of convincing sincerity in her voice. ”You must build a new home for our sisters in a safer community,” she proposed, her eyes shining so brightly as if on fire.
  “Aunt, that’s the solution!” Miguel interposed with the firmest conviction. “A new home in a safer community will solve the whole problem. God will bless you. It’s God’s will that you save my aging aunts from a catastrophe!” he added with emotion, staring intently at Rosa’s face, as if asking eagerly, “You will build a new home, right?”
   It was copiously obvious that mother and son would have spared no lie, and it was still more obvious that they were doing absolutely everything in their power to persuade Rosa in the pressing necessity of financing the construction of a new house in a safer district in Mexico for her sisters.
   On saying farewell to Christina and Miguel, Rosa, feeling worried about the welfare of her sisters, phoned her sister, Andrea Guzman, who lived in the house that she had paid for when her mother was still alive. This was the moment of truth when Roger Stark’s fraudulent scheme fell apart: Rosa learned there existed no crime waves sweeping through the community where the sisters lived; on the contrary, life there was peaceful and satisfactory. 
   What Christina and Miguel advocated passionately and lied obscenely for, struck Rosa as weird, and wondered why they were so driven to attain this end, and she would have never in a million years fancied the root-cause and the original planner and begetter of Christina’s proposal.
   Yesterday in the afternoon Roger Stark had paid Christina a visit with his interpreter, Francisco Lopez. Conscious of the powerful visual appeal of money, Roger, after greeting her and Miguel, cleverly laid five one-hundred-dollar bills in front of them on an old table, instantly winning them over and their complete cooperation, who agreed with their faces brimming over with the light of enthusiasm to do their best to convince Rosa in the urgency of financing the construction of a new house for her sisters in Mexico. Because Roger believed in the fantasy, in the unsubstantiated notion that Rosa was supporting Tito financially with some sort of underground project that ran counter to his interests, he had embraced this bizarre supposition thoroughly and unquestionably as fact, concocted that scheme, the dire necessity of building a home to counteract the imaginary threat.

  
Chapter 1 (Book 3)
  
When a Hilton clerk contacted Roger Stark to tip him off that Jonas Palmer had scheduled a second conference on March 6, he groaned and cursed Jonas barbarously for so long that he hardly knew what he was saying after a while, as if a division between intellect and emotions parted one from the other, and as it was occurring more and more with time and age.
   Once more his head was in a whirl as he ran over in his mind what course of action he ought to take to overcome the impending threat.
   “A sniper?” he proposed. “No!” he objected immediately and painfully, flaring up with an angry frown at Jake Friedman’s utter disaster, at all the hours he had spent prompting Jake Friedman that wasteful night returned to him with a feeling of loathing. “Burn down his house? Cause a horrific earthquake in his city? No, he might survive! Pay a gang to ambush him? A hit-and-run?” He could not pause anywhere, the satisfying answer he sought evading him.
   In all the thirty-six years of service in the FBI Roger Stark had never resembled a real gangster as these last few months, as though he were demonstrating his true colors as he transformed into a cold-hearted and blood-thirsty monster who would stop at nothing to attain his objective. One week prior to the bidding war he called all the automotive representatives at the oddest times, threatening the Honda representative: “Do you want to die in a freak car accident or see your house burn down to the ground? If you don’t, do not attend Jonas Palmer’s bidding war!” He resumed calling others, and as exhaustion and mental weariness exacerbated his fragile state of mind, he was screaming more and more his threats.
   Jonas Palmer who never paid attention to details, who never wondered why one day was cloudier than yesterday, or the day before yesterday, lately had been noticing specific car models often parking around him; everyday-looking people assuming the firm stance of guards before the entrance of locations he frequented; certain customers in grocery stores passing him frequently and staring warily at him; his neighbors’ unexplainable obstinate persistence in parking their cars needlessly and brazenly in front of his house not only one day but all the days of the week; a black or white limousine driving by nine or ten times daily and parking close by for hours; fire trucks and ambulances beginning to shriek whenever he broached the bidding war, his prototype, or his excitement in casual conversations; the ceaseless hum of small planes and a dark-gray helicopter hovering annoyingly too close with its sonorous rotors drowning the television; his minor street continuing strangely to become busier and busier in the evenings; the same set of neighbors walking their dogs and hardly failing to smile to him; his Smartphone misfunctioning increasingly more and more: starting with texting that ceased to work one day; then, he could not receive calls from acquaintances and friends; then, he could not hear the phone ringing when someone was calling him; then and finally, he could not call anyone. His laptop’s inexplicable connecting issues, the screen turning black suddenly, and then, unable to check his emails and something strange interfering constantly with his ability to order anything at websites; his cable acting up, whether not in service, the volume not increasing nor decreasing, the menu displaying the wrong channels for several listed movie titles, or the television screen blurring often for seconds during movies; all the rates from Verizon, AT&T, to cable rising weirdly at the same time. Anyone else not in Jonas Palmer’s shoes may have dismissed these happenings as coincidental, but for him there were far too many “coincidences” occurring regularly to be considered as such, and what was more significant, he had begun feeling the unmistakable expanding presence of something strange and irrational, something opposing him fiercely, and something bent on his unconditional surrender to defeat. In fact, this soaring pressure manifesting from many channels were clamoring, as it were, with one unified voice for him to give up his ambitious plans, dominated the air so thoroughly that for five consecutive days he waked bathed in a cold sweat in the middle of the night, from dreaming of dying from a gunshot, in a fire the second night, and for the last three nights dying as his convertible explodes in the freeway.
   Despite communicating the cruelest threats with absolute earnestness to all the automotive representatives in one night, Roger Stark was still unusually tense, agitated, and fearful, and only growing worse as the bidding war drew ever nearer.
   It was eight in the morning and it was Jonas’ turn to fetch donuts to accompany everyone’s cup of coffee. Hideous vandalism spray-painted over the house’s gray walls stopped him dead in his tracks, after shutting the front door and proceeding eight paces. The messages promising rape, disfigurement, death, and destruction were yet more appalling that one would have fancied that no human but demons possessed enough evil to have written them. Overcome by the thought of how the vandalism would affect Sara, worried the vandalism would hurt her deeply, he ran five red traffic lights, purchased a gallon of paint and brushes, and barely remembered to buy two dozen donuts at Purple Donuts, before racing home and almost running over two dog-walkers crossing his street.
   Nearly crashing into the garage’s rear wall and upsetting a medium-sized aluminum ladder, he entered the house feigning high spirits and a cheerful smile, and, hurrying unnaturally around the table with the pink box’s lid hanging open and bouncing in the air, he did not just offer but urged Sara and the body guards to partake.
   “What’s come over him?” Sara thought as she sat at the table with a white-powdered donut in one hand, noting his unaccountable strange excitement, bright ringing voice, and undying exaggerated gleeful smiles.
   “David, Greg, help me move the trash cans,” he called, affecting a carefree tone.
   On luring the two body guards to the front yard through the garage, Jonas pointed solemnly to the ugly vandalism.
   “Christ! They killed Mike and now this!” David blurted out angrily, lowering his heated voice at Jonas’ whispered entreaty and hasty hand gestures.
   “I know how you feel…Why are you always parking your damn jeep here?” Jonas broke off in an outburst of angry incomprehension at a neighbor’s stubborn refusal to quit parking in front of his house.
   “He thinks he lives here!” jested Greg Barnes with a huge, goofy smile.
   Greg was thirty-five, built like an ox, and a former marine, who had replaced Mike Garfield.
   “Nuts! Don’t read this garbage. Help me paint over this trash before Sara comes out,” said Jonas.
   He was quickly ripping open thin carton packaging, distributing paint brushes, opening a can of paint, and dipping in his paint brush.
   Left alone by herself it was not long till Sara grew bored. Stealing a peek out of the window and not seeing her husband nor the body guards, she came out and paused in the driveway.
   “Sara…” Jonas uttered suddenly and unguardedly, turning around partly with a wet paint brush that started to drip with drops of grey paint landing on the concrete.
   “What’s going on? Painting the house?” she asked smilingly, but upon reading curiously the awful messages spray-painted in black and red on the grey wall, her pretty face froze with traces of bewilderment, pain, and horror.
   “Don’t read…” Jonas faltered, moving impulsively toward her.
   She stared at him with an odd expression as though about to begin crying, but turning away rashly she started at a breakneck, unstoppable pace back to the house.
   “You better calm her down,” advised David, who painted with long sweeping strokes of his paint brush over the hideous and offensive markings. “Woman do all kinds of crazy things when their homes get vandalized,” he added, still painting.
   “I remember my uncle Larry’s wife,” Greg began, turning around to address Jonas, “discovering her house vandalized and loading a shotgun and shooting a dozen times up into the air!”
   “Women!” said Jonas, laying the paint brush on the open paint can.
   He entered the house and quickened his steps.
   “Sara, where are you?” he called her, looking round the dining-room. “I want to talk to you.”
   She halted suddenly before the staircase and turned around sharply with a determined, cross expression.
   “Look at you!” Sara lashed at him with particularly cold eyes, as Jonas had never seen in all his days of marriage.
   “What?” he replied impotently and confusedly with a dumbfounded look.
   “You are so perfectly calm!” she went on sorely with a note of anger in her voice.
   “Does my calmness offend you?” asked Jonas, speaking unwillingly but irresistibly in an ironical tone.
   “Yes, it does!” Sara retorted in a rush of vexation. “Our lovely home got vandalized and you just pretend as if nothing happened! As if someone vandalizing our home is normal! Five attempts on your life is not normal!” she shouted, emphasizing shrilly the words “not normal” with repugnance.
   “Darling, try to calm yourself. I know it’s not normal,” said Jonas, sighing and feeling the cruel, irrational force that was demanding his surrender, was now straining his relations with his wife and laughing wickedly at him in celebration in the background. “What would you have me do?”
   “I am afraid for you and for myself,” she continued in a constrained, mirthless voice, fear marking her pale face with an expression of pain and distress. “We can’t go on living like this. Each time I leave the house and go anywhere, I feel someone is always following me.”
   “Following you?” Jonas queried with a stunned face.
   “Yes!” added Sara. “A black Hummer was following me everywhere I went last Tuesday! Yes, everywhere! Don’t laugh!”
   “Sweetie, you are imagining someone is following you.”
   “I’m not imagining! Just yesterday a yellow Mini Cooper parked beside me in Gelsons’ parking lot, and when I came home, there it was, across our house! It took off when the driver saw me.”
   “Sweetie, I am afraid you are exaggerating,” Jonas opined without conviction, his somber eyes were saying something wholly different, as though concealing the consciousness of an unspeakable awful truth, which he would not even acknowledge to himself.
   “I am not exaggerating!” Sara cried. “Are you listening to me?” she added loudly and irritably, running a swift, searching glance over his face.
   “Of course,” he answered, suppressing an inappropriate smile.
   He wanted to smile because of the irony of the reverse roles, of him now accusing her of exaggerating.
   “Complete strangers everywhere I go, at the mall, at restaurants, at Purple Donuts, at the post office, stare at me as if I were a freak show!” Sara disclosed warmly and crossly.
   “They stare because I married the loveliest woman on earth,” Jonas responded affectionately with a smile.
   Although his compliment was sincere, that is, straight from the heart, Sara scarcely smiled, for his sweet words cannot extinguish all the accumulated anguish festering in her soul.
   “How can we live normal lives with some lunatic out there spray-painting threats on our home? Tell me!” Sara demanded piercingly in anger, feeling what had been bothering her for weeks was spilling out from her involuntarily, as though the floodgates of her soul had been released.  
   “Sara, try to control yourself…don’t get hysterical!” Jonas implored.
   “I am not hysterical!” Sara uttered hotly in a tone of one being insulted grievously. “Jonas, do I have a valid reason to be completely calm? I am a nervous wreck. Feel my hands…feel them!” she screamed, laying stress on the words “feel them” and extending her trembling hands to Jonas. “See how they tremble? I can’t help it!” she cried, her lip twitching and her voice cracking, all from fear which seized her violently.
   Like Jonas she was feeling the unspoken extraordinary pressure from all sides, resulting in elevated nervousness and irritableness.
   “Darling, sweetie, I am very sorry; it’s my fault. I brought home something unholy,” Jonas went on sadly, endeavoring to console her with a strain on his gloomy face.
   The strained, gloomy expression denoted the fierce and unflagging opposition he was contending against on a daily basis, for everything from his cellular phone misfunctioning grossly to the brand-new boombox dying mysteriously and unexpectedly, were constant biting reminders of that monstrous, irrational force that wanted see him utterly defeated.
   “It’s my fault,” he repeated remorsefully. “I vow to do my best to spare you any more suffering.”
   As a pause ensued, as Sara glanced mournfully at Jonas, with her eyes gleaming with a disturbed light, a plane could be heard humming over their house, a car racing by eccentrically, and sirens going off.
   “Jonas, I can’t help thinking you are living in a fantasy,” she pursued with a touch of exasperation. “You don’t really appreciate how lucky you are to be alive!”
   “I know I am very fortunate and—” said Jonas.
   “I don’t know why I am still here,” Sara interrupted him with a drastically new expression of malignancy in her eyes. “What for? To protect the fort? I must be crazy! Yes, crazy waiting to get shot at! And all for what? Tell me, what for?”
   “Sara, don’t say that! We have Greg and David to protect us,” Jonas broke in gloomily with a terrible look on his face. “You hurt me horribly when you talk like that.”
   “Let’s be honest: we are sitting in the middle of a battlefield!” she exclaimed hatefully. “What can I expect tomorrow, the next day, and a week from now? How many more guns will be pointed to you? There’s a lunatic out there”—turning with a frown to face the window—“who’s anxious—no—desperate to blow your head off!”
   “Darling, I know. That’s why—” Jonas put in weakly.
   “What do you know? What? Tell me, damn it!” she cut in, crying in a high-pitched, stern voice, her eyes shining venomously.
   “Sara…” Jonas added vainly.
   “What can you possibly know when you are always, always away from home slaving in that stupid garage! Always working and perfecting that miserable dream car! The car that’s going to save us all from our pollution!” Sara said sarcastically, smiling a cold, mocking smile. “Hurrah, the car that’s going to revolutionize transportation!”
   “Sweetie…” began Jonas gently.
   But Sara would not allow him to interrupt her in her heated gust, as though she had to free herself thoroughly of the toxicity poisoning her.
   “I swear you care more about that car than you do about me!” she continued angrily.
   The silly idea that his wife was simply jealous of his car occurred to Jonas and he repressed a smile at the thought.
   “I can never, never become pregnant since you are always too fucking tired!” she shouted her deepest disappointment which by now had amounted to intense frustration, which was further increased markedly and based largely on her instinctive consciousness that her biological clock for child-bearing was expiring, that she was drying up inside.
   “That’s not fair,” Jonas countered feebly, feeling contradictory emotions chipping away at his composure.
   “Not fair?” she laughed coldly. “I’ll tell you what’s not fair: to risk my life and gamble everything dear to you for the sake of that damn, stupid dream car!” she cried in steaming exasperation.
   Such mingled dark emotions were boiling inside him, wished to shout them out, shout out all the insane events that were happening and burning him alive with their many, never-ceasing flames, but he restrained himself.
   “Darling, you are exhausted,” he murmured instead. “You haven’t slept well for three nights; that’s why you are not looking at the situation in the proper light.”
   Sara sighed and shook her head and would have spoken but he forestalled her.
   “Listen, sweetie,” he went on in a voice softening with a trace of tenderness. “The nightmare will end very soon. I need you to be strong a little longer.”
   “Jonas, do you know what I have been dreaming the last few nights?” Sara asked calmly with the awareness of something dreadful distorting her face suddenly with the combined expression of horror and vulnerability.
   “What?” said Jonas softly, his heart aching with sorrow for her evident pain.
   “I have been dreaming that…that lunatic murders you with a time bomb!” she described her dream with a shaky voice, and breaking down sobbing, all the muscles of her beautiful face twitched nervously and uncontrollably.
   Jonas embraced her warmly and stroked her shoulder gently to soothe her.
  “I always dream the same nightmare,” Sara resumed, her subdued voice quivering with fear. “I feel I am about to snap from all the nervous tension.”
   “Darling, baby, believe me, I understand. I only ask you for one more week.”
   Not a single person had yet begun to suspect that every room in Jonas Palmer’s house was so thoroughly bugged, a pin could almost be heard dropping anywhere, and Roger Stark, eavesdropping twenty-four hours of each day with a competent support of a team of subordinates filling in in periodic cycles of four, six, and eight-hour shifts, learned exactly how to push Sara over the edge with the goal to derail Jonas from his ambitions.
   The declining sun was giving a picturesque display of the crimson sky bordered with a dark shade, when Sara, noticing something rotating out in the porch, on her passage to the kitchen as she rolled up her pink sleeves to prepare pizza from scratch, advanced to the window and saw a sort of a figure hanging and in constant motion, spinning in the breeze clockwise for a few seconds and then counterclockwise. Switching on the porch light and stepping onto the porch with a face expressive of abundant curiosity, she stopped the figure’s spinning movement with her lovely hands, the big white diamond of her gold wedding ring sparkling in the porch light. Overwhelmed at the sight of the human-sized doll in a black business suit bearing the picture of her husband’s face, and with her recent nightmare coming back to her mind with irrepressible violent force, she shrieked and fainted on the floor.
   On account of the steady progression from tense to tenser, Roger Stark laughed not happily, not victoriously, as anyone would expect, but strangely nervously at Sara’s misfortune.