Relentless book title

Relentless
Nov. 1, 2014

- Redeemed Series
- Book #1

Synopsis

Chapter Excerpts

Reading Guide

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Chapter Excerpts

Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three


Chapter 1

Adrenaline surged. There wasn't any greater satisfaction than hearing the jury foreman belting out the verdict, "We find in favor of the plaintiff." The sum of the judgment didn't quench Attorney Maxwell's legal thirst; although $12 million wasn't bad for a day's work in court. Best news was that there were plenty more cases to come. So long as corruption continued slithering into the church, he'd be a man on a mission. Anticipating the battles he'd get to fight sent exhilaration surfing through his body that he could ride indefinitely.

Maxwell saw the wave of reporters waiting on the courthouse steps as the bright spring sunlight refused to be hidden. He jiggled the knot on his tie and straightened his Armani suit coat, which didn't need much help. It always fit perfectly, as expected, consistent with the rest of the life he'd carefully and purposefully crafted. "Are you ready to face the crowd?" Maxwell asked his client.

She grabbed his arm, shaking. "Do we have to go out there? Now that we've won, I just want to get out of here."

Absolutely not was what he should have told her, but there was no need for further convincing. He'd proven that his plan worked best. She was walking out with a civil case victory against the almighty Reverend Morgan, the so-called anointed leader of one of the largest ministries in the tri-state area. Whatever he was supposed to be, reverend, minister, doctor, or bishop, the well-deserved label of being a bona fide predator could also be added to his bio. No way was Maxwell going to pass up a prime opportunity to shout their victory over the airwaves. He'd send a message to the other perpetrators. There would be no rest as long as Maxwell Montgomery was alive and breathing. Churches were on notice and they'd better take him serious.

He expeditiously ushered his client toward the door. She gave some resistance, which didn't deter his movement. Six months ago she was deemed a fired disgruntled employee who was raising false allegations against one of the most prestigious ministers in Philadelphia. He kept pulling her toward the door, with the media closing in. Thanks to him her inappropriate interaction with Reverend Morgan had been legitimized. It was no longer her fault, and on top of it, she was going to get $12 million, less his 40 percent cut. Far as he was concerned, she didn't get a say in how the rest of the day was going to play out. He forcefully pushed the door open leading from the courthouse and braced against the gust of wind.

The clicking sound of cameras, microphones shoved near his face, onlookers lining the steps, and incoherent chants equaled mayhem for most. But, the controlled chaos was a work of beauty to Maxwell. His client was squeezing his arm so tightly that he had to peel a few of her fingers back to loosen the grip.

"Do you feel vindicated?" one reporter blurted out.
As his client stammered, Maxwell jumped in. Microphones homed in. "Justice was rendered today. The past six months have been a pure nightmare for my client. Her reputation has been maligned. She's been hounded by church members simply because she was willing to come forward and expose the truth. She should be praised for her courage, not demonized, and today is the first step toward her getting back to a normal life."

"Were you really expecting to win such a substantial settlement from a church?"

"It's the only fair outcome; doesn't matter if it's the church or the Vatican, wrong is wrong, and we have the court of law to right those wrongs," Maxwell echoed, fueled with satisfaction.

"Do you see this as an indictment against religion?"

"No one is above the law." Maxwell broke the grip his client had and raised his arm. He knew which network had the largest viewing audience and intentionally pointed his finger directly into their camera and said, "I'm serving notice to the corrupt leaders out there. If you think the church is going to save you, you're sadly mistaken. I'm coming for you and you and you." Maxwell was charged, ready to sail out of the crowd and whisk back to his office to start the next case. He reclaimed his client and began maneuvering through the crowd.

"Attorney Maxwell, is that a threat to all local clergymen?" a reporter asked.

Maxwell screeched to a stop. "I don't make threats, only promises."

"How many more lives are you going to ruin?" a voice shouted from the crowd. The mob was thick and Maxwell couldn't see who was speaking. "You have ruined my family and our church." As the woman got louder, it was like a pebble rippling in a pond. The crowd backed up and the media swarmed to her. "Who do you think you are, God?"

She was a distance away, at the bottom of the steps, but Maxwell could see her clearly. It was Minister Morgan's wife, the one he'd just beaten in court. He couldn't understand why she was making a scene. She should have crawled out the courthouse's back door in humiliation like her husband, glad that this had only been a civil case and not a criminal trial. Instead of accepting the jury's decision, she wanted to go another round with Maxwell in front of the media. Even if he wanted to cut her a break, she wasn't leaving him much choice coming at him in front crowd. He had to be swift and set precedence. Otherwise others might make the same mistake in the future of trying to undermine his mission of exposing bad church leaders.

"I'm not the guilty one here," he said burning his gaze into hers. He laid his palm onto his chest. "I can appreciate the outrage. We should all be outraged at the behavior we heard about earlier in the courtroom. If more citizens would turn their outrage into action, perhaps we wouldn't have to rely on the court to solve church matters. Until that day comes, here we stand." His blood was pumping, faster and faster. This was his platform and he was poised to capitalize, using the very words that his religious mockers glibly uttered from their pulpits every Sunday. It was a language they understood. "As a society, we can't let leaders of any kind abuse their power and take advantage of people. The Bible says to expel the wicked man from among you." He let his gaze slide back from the Reverend's wife to the camera all along maintaining intense control while letting each word resonate. "I did my job. I sought justice for a victim." Maxwell interlocked his arm with his client's. The message had more oomph with the victim standing nearby. "Your husband isn't above the law as we've seen in this courtroom today."

"You went after him for no reason. You're working for the devil, and God is going to punish you."

Maxwell grinned and straightened his tie once again, reveling in the label. He'd grown accustomed to the routine. The church leader did something inappropriate, his wife and congregation stood by him to the bitter end like cows being herded off the cliff. That's the way it had been for his family twenty-six years ago when they were driven off the cliff and not much had changed.

"Maybe God will." He chuckled. "But today your husband was the only one punished for his actions." Maxwell stepped firmly down the stairs, satisfied until he heard another voice.

"You hurt my father. You're a bad man," the little boy said clinging to his crying mother and burying his face into her side.

Insults fueled Maxwell's resolve. It confirmed that he was disrupting his opponent's peace of mind, the first step in bringing them down. He was fully prepared to attack the reverend's wife if for no other reason than being ignorant to her husband's dealing. His mother and father had been ignorant to the fraudulent tactics of their pastor and no one gave them a break when it came to their sentencing. No mercy had been granted to them back then and none would come now for these people. But the boy was an unexpected factor. Who brings a child to court he wondered?

For a split second, Maxwell was emotionally dragged back to the tiny town outside of Philadelphia where his security had been snatched away at age twelve, probably a few years older than the pastor's son standing in front of him. At least Reverend Morgan wasn't headed to prison; at least, not yet, not like Maxwell's father had. Maxwell shook off the nostalgia and hunched his shoulders as he pierced through the crowd, refusing to let anyone or anything curb his zeal, not even a little boy sobbing for his father. The little boy didn't realize it now, but he'd be all right. Maxwell was proof of it. He'd survived while his father served time for fraudulent activity in the church. If his father had done the crime, maybe Maxwell would have been at peace with the outcome. The truth was that his father was only guilty of stupidity resulting from staying loyal to a crooked preacher and naively taking the rap for his transgressions. Maxwell rebelled. Those memories weren't going to suck him into a funk. He pushed ahead having regained full control of his surroundings, eager to get to his office.

Suddenly there was a thumping sensation smothered by oohs and aahs. The air felt light and the sky hypnotic. He seemed to be floating to the ground. Screams and a bunch of chatter faded out. Maxwell could see the people crowding around him. Every action was in slow motion. He wasn't sure but guessed that this must be what peace felt like, being oblivious to pain, shielded from the chatter, naysayers, and circumstances. Maxwell's thoughts crashed back to reality wielding a powerful headache with it, as he was instantly jerked out of the clouds of euphoria. He placed the palm of his hand against his forehead, pressing in and feeling the coolness right above his eyebrow. He didn't need to see the blood to know it was there.

"Attorney Maxwell, are you okay?" his client asked, bending down to pick up the rock lying on the ground. "Did anyone see who threw the rock?" No one responded.

A flurry of cameras clicking, tapes rolling, and microphones poking into his face wasn't as well received this time. Maxwell tried standing, refusing to be caught on TV in a weakened state. He would regain composure and show the assailant and everybody else how indestructible he was. Not even a boulder, let alone a rock the size of a ball of yarn, could shut him up. He placed his bloody palm on the ground and pushed up to stand. Halfway up, his legs buckled, sending him crashing to the ground. Aahs radiated in the crowd.

"Call 911," his client screamed out, staying by her attorney's side.

"No, I'm good, just give me a minute. I'm fine," Maxwell protested, wishing it were true.

A reporter crammed a microphone within inches of his mouth. "Are you going to press charges?"

"Are you going to wage a civil suit against the person who assaulted you?" another reporter asked drawing a few pockets of laughter from the crowd.

Unwilling to accept defeat, Maxwell was determined to stand. He made repeated attempts with each ending in failure and landing him smack on the ground. It was a position he'd spent his entire adult life avoiding.

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Chapter 2

A constant throbbing felt as if someone was banging a hammer against his head. The ringing sensation was an alarming reminder of the cowardly attack. Maxwell massaged his temples hoping to eliminate any feeling, a feat he'd become the master at doing.

"I see you're finally awake," a nurse said entering the room holding a chart. "Quite a bump on the head you have there." Maxwell mumbled in response but apparently not loud enough to interrupt the chatterbox as she kept talking. "Let's see how you're doing here," she said, shoving a thermometer into his mouth and wrapping the blood pressure cuff around his forearm. She paused with her incessant gibberish until the blood pressure cuff loosened, indicating the test was complete. There was a small chance the nurse wasn't a nuisance, but the pain surging inside his skull magnified light and noise, converting both to sources of extreme irritation.

"It's a little bump." Maxwell touched the spot and quickly withdrew his hand while wincing. "Trust me, I've been through worse than this," he stated trying to overshadow the effects of his intermittent whacks of pain.

"Maybe so, but any type of trauma to the head can be serious for someone your age. I'm guessing that you're, what, about fifty-five or fifty-six, right?" she asked studying his face and jotting on the chart.

"What?" he blurted. Thoughts swirled. His sight was fuzzy but he wasn't the blind one in the room if she guessed him to be fifty-five. "I'm only thirty-nine," he demanded not sure if the tone was a result of anger, embarrassment, or simple shock. He was a pit bull in the courtroom, bowing to no one in defeat or fear. Yet, he felt vulnerable lying in the bed listening to this nurse, not even five feet tall, summing up his existence. He felt naked and tugged at the sheet slightly.

"Oh, I'm sorry. After working in the hospital for twenty-five years, I'm usually pretty good at guessing a person's age."

The nurse was unaware of the current she'd sent raging through Maxwell.

Initially shaken, his confidence kicked in allowing him to erase the low-grade vulnerability. He was invincible, had to be. He wasn't going to toss aside years of hard work, literally thousands of legal hours because a blind old nurse made him temporarily question his mortality. Thirty-nine or fifty-five didn't make a difference. Whatever number of days he had left would be spent doing what he did best.

"Any blurriness or nausea?"

"None of that. When can I get out of here?"

The nurse looked over the chart. "I'm not sure what your doctor wants to do. I know we're keeping you overnight, and we'll know more when the doctor checks on you in the morning."

"I don't need to stay overnight. Like I said, it's just a little bump." He couldn't let some coward blindside him with a rock and believe it had made an impact other than driving him harder.

"You have a concussion. So, we'd better keep you for observation. Better safe than sorry is what I always say."

As far as Maxwell was concerned, she'd already said plenty. He rolled over, no longer facing the nurse. "I'll wait until the morning, but that's it. I'm going home regardless of what the doctor says."

"You'll be glad you stayed, Mr. Montgomery."

He heard her exiting the room, leaving him with his pride and a mound of memories. Hush swept across the room. Maxwell reflected on the mob of reporters at the courthouse earlier, angry church members, and other people who had no interest in the case beyond curiosity. Not everybody was going to appreciate his efforts, a fact he could live with as long as restitution was being served. He could say that his determination to seek justice was based on a deep-seated humanitarian desire to rescue victims, ones who didn't have the ability to stand up against the slew of religious giants, but that would be a lie.

He let his eyes roam around the hospital room before rolling over onto his back and staring toward the ceiling. Emptiness filled the space, a stark contrast to the scene surrounding him earlier. Even his great legal mind wasn't able to explain away the obvious. There was no one at his side, no one doting on him. He was alone. He rubbed the bandage above his eye and shook off the slightest bit of despair. There was no time for pity, no tolerance for weakness. His convicted father had taught him that much. Shake it off. Get healthy. More work was the cure.

The phone rang, startling Maxwell into consciousness. Scanning the small room, it took a second to figure out where he was. He searched around the bed for his cell phone with no success. He suspected it must be in his suit jacket, which was out of arm's reach. He rolled over ready to ignore the noise until it stopped temporarily and then began again. Finally he realized the ringing was coming from the phone resting on the nightstand situated off to the side. The volume seemed to get louder, with each ring intensifying the throbbing in his head. Irritated he snatched the receiver determined to keep the conversation short. "This is Maxwell," he said without softening the edge in his tone. The person on the other end should get the message quickly.

"Paul, it's Christine."

He didn't respond. His sister was the last person he expected to be on the call. It had been at least a year since they'd last spoken.

"Are you okay?" she asked.

"I'm good," he said, intentionally not elaborating.

"I was watching the news and saw you drop to the ground. They played it over and over. I've been frantic trying to find out what happened to you," she said speaking very rapidly. "Mom is worried to death too. You should call and let her know you're okay." There was no reason to reply. She knew that wasn't an option for him. "You are okay, aren't you? I mean really okay?"

"I'm fine."

"So, why are you in the hospital?"

"Ah, don't worry about that. I'll be out of here tomorrow morning, no big deal. Getting hit by a rock isn't going to put me out of commission. I have a pretty thick skull."

"That's true." Her tone was lighter.

"How did you know I was here?"

"Oh my goodness, that's a long story. I called the news station. They told me the name of the ambulance company who took you to the hospital, and I called them to find out where they'd taken you. I've been on the phone all afternoon making at least thirty calls."

"I'm surprised the ambulance company gave you the name of this hospital. That's violating a patient's privacy."

"Don't worry; I'm not going to stalk you; although if it were left up to our mother, she'd have me rush over there to check on you."

"No need to do that." Maxwell gently rubbed his forehead.

"Don't worry, I'm only joking, at least partially. I'm not going to bother you unless it's an emergency." Exactly what Maxwell wanted to hear. "But, Paul, I am concerned about you and what you're doing with the churches. It seems really dangerous, and we're worried about you."

The edge which had softened in his tone was sharpening again. Twenty-two years and she was still calling him Paul. The day he received the letter confirming his full scholarship to college, he'd walked out of the tiny apartment in Chester, PA, leaving behind respect for his parents, any support that they might be willing to give, and his name. Spending the last three months of high school in a shelter was one of the best decisions he'd ever made, except the part about having to leave his little sister. Christine was as much of a victim during their childhood as he'd been, but she was grown now and too connected to their parents to have a meaningful relationship with him. Distance had to be maintained. "Can you please call me Maxwell, please?" he requested firmly, refusing to mask his agitation.

"I'm so sorry. I know you've told me over and over but I just forget sometimes. I'm sorry."

Maxwell gained no satisfaction in berating his sister. The stabbing edge of his words penetrated his hard interior, softening his tone again. "Don't waste your time worrying about me."

"Well, you can't stop us from worrying. You might not talk to us, and you might not want to see us, but you can't stop us from caring about you. You're the only brother I have, and like it or not, I love you."

Maxwell's head began hurting again. He didn't want to get into an emotional back and forth with his sister. The call was civil and ready for closure; best to leave something to talk about next year. "Like I said, don't worry about me. I can take care of myself. I always have," Maxwell insisted, knowing she understood every bit of what he was saying and not saying. "I'm getting tired. I better let you go."

"Sure, sure, I'm glad to know you're going to be all right. I'll let Mom know." He figured the call was over until Christine called out, "Maxwell, there's something else I need to tell you."

"What; is there something wrong with Tyree?" He sat up in the bed, pushing past his headache. "What's wrong? Tell me," he asked, anxious, almost demanding an answer.

"No, no, there's nothing wrong with Tyree. Your nephew is perfectly fine for a six-year-old. I would let you speak to him, but he's at school."

Maxwell drew in a deep breath and sighed with relief. "If he ever needs anything, I hope you'll let me know."

"You know I will, but honestly this isn't about Tyree. It's Dad."

Maxwell's headache intensified, seeming to come at full force. He wanted to get off the phone. "Christine, my head is killing me. I better go."

"But, he's not doing well. We think it's cancer."

Maxwell didn't hesitate. "My head really is killing me. I have to go."

"Wait, do you want me to give Mom or Dad a message from you?"

"Tell my nephew hello for me, and I won't forget his birthday in a few months."

"But you sent him plenty last Christmas. He doesn't need anything else."

"Who's talking about need? Every now and then it's all about what we want." He'd wanted his old room back, the one he had before his parents lost their house and crammed them into a two-bedroom apartment. Being forced to share a room with his little sister was a sobering reminder of how gullible his parents had been and how they'd let the church ruin their family.

"Thanks for the call and take care of yourself."

"You too, and remember that I'm praying for you," she said ending the conversation.

Maxwell adjusted his head on the pillow. Chester was only twenty miles from Philadelphia, but it might as well have been 20,000 miles away. As long as the crushing memories of his past lived in that town, he didn't plan on returning. He closed his eyes and rested. Tomorrow would come quickly and so too would his burning desire to get cracking on the next case, perhaps the largest of his career--Greater Metropolitan. Years in the making, he was finally ready to take a stab at the great Bishop Ellis Jones, the man responsible for destroying his family. Vindication was the way and Maxwell was excited. The anticipation ushered him to sleep.

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Chapter 3

His release couldn't come fast enough. Spending another night stuck in the hospital was absurd. Waiting until the morning wasn't an option. As soon as the doctor told him he was free to go and the nurse handed him a filled prescription for pain, Maxwell had dashed from the hospital glad to catch the last remaining hour of daylight. A short cab ride and he was driving from the courthouse parking garage. He should probably go home he thought, gently massaging his temple. The notion was fleeting. Maxwell was barreling down the street before the notion could fully form into a slight possibility, let alone action. Instead, Maxwell whipped his Porsche 911 into the reserved parking space, stopping inches from the m. m. sign. Late Saturday afternoon, the parking lot was practically empty. Perfect; he could go inside and regroup. Space and privacy was what he yearned and his office was the ideal oasis.

Maxwell was out of sorts having found his cell phone with a dead battery. He couldn't get any calls or messages, causing him to be agitated. He'd poke around his receptionist's desk to see if there were any messages left for him. There was bound to be a stack from Nicole. If his sister had tracked him down in the hospital, he figured Nicole would make the same effort in reaching him. He didn't want anyone swooning over him. Keeping love at least an arm's length away from his heart worked and Nicole understood. She'd allowed him the space he required for going on two years. Fear had a way of skewing perspectives though. His mishap at the courthouse was bound to get her all worked up and worried about him. He figured that's what companions did. Fourteen- and fifteen-hour days didn't leave much time for dating. So, he based her reaction purely on what seemed logical. He was poised to tell her he was okay and not to worry. He ruffled a few papers on his receptionist's desk and didn't find any messages, not from Nicole, not from other clients offering concern, from no one.

He lingered at the desk for a moment. His eyes moved around the room noting its emptiness and the solitude that mocked him. Refusing to play the victim, Maxwell toughened up and went into his office. It was the room where dreams came true for the weak and retribution was realized for him. Entering his sanctuary was the boost he needed. A few sharp pains here and there and a little blurriness was the only lingering reminder of his recent attack. Couple of days and that would be gone but the troubles strapped to Reverend Morgan weren't going away as quickly, not after the reverend lost his case yesterday. Neither would those of Bishop Jones once Maxwell orchestrated his due justice.

He plopped into his chair and extracted the files from his lower right side drawer. They were waiting on his arrival. He opened the folder feeling revived, alive. The absence of Nicole's call was hurled out of his mind. His heart was entangled in only one love affair and that was his commitment to making hypocritical leaders accountable. Dusk would soon be rolling in and night would quickly follow. Maxwell didn't mind. Working most of the night in total submersion was the best medication for his low-grade headache..

Hustling through the airport was commonplace. Shuttle service, freezing hotel rooms, lavish dinners eaten alone night after night was the reality Nicole knew, one she acknowledged without resistance. Becoming senior consulting manager was the reward, an achievement she'd sacrificed her personal life to earn and graciously accept. She flipped the magazine pages, hastily without recalling a single image or story title. She checked her watch repeatedly, each time with only two or three minutes having elapsed.

Maxwell continued crashing her sanity. On any other occasion his memory would be shoved into her bag, surfacing when her plane landed at Philadelphia International. Today images of him couldn't be suppressed. Hearing the news about his attack yesterday stirred her in a way she hadn't felt before. She pulled out her phone, wanting to call him again, but how could she? The two calls she placed earlier today and the one last evening were sufficient. That's what she'd have to keep telling herself. She knew he'd return the call if and when he was ready. That's how they worked: no stressful relationship business, no commitment, and no issues. It was the way Maxwell wanted it. Nicole began flipping the pages again checking her watch. It was what she wanted too, she guessed.

"Flight number 467 for Philadelphia now boarding at Gate 41," the departure gate attendant announced.

Nicole gathered her belongings, trying to shake off her uneasiness. Restlessness in the pit of her abdomen would not go away. She stuffed the magazine into the front pocket of her shoulder bag and snatched up her Starbucks cup. "Our Executive Platinum guests are welcomed to board." Nicole walked briskly toward the door, ready to hop on board and sleep away her jitters, hoping to land refreshed after the red-eye flight.

"Mommy, can we go now?" the little girl asked the lady standing near Nicole.

"No, dear, that's for people who fly all the time and don't get to go home very much."

Nicole shortened her strides. Someone from behind asked if she was in line. "Uh, no, go ahead," Nicole said, pretending to search for something in her bag as she stepped aside to let the other passengers go ahead, those with the distinction of having racked up 100,000 air miles in a year, the equivalent of about twenty round trips from one coast to the other. She fumbled in the bag until all platinum and even gold members had boarded. Families were next, a category she didn't plan on joining too soon. At least that's how she'd felt, particularly with a shot at making partner in the firm being squarely within her grasp.

"Excuse me, miss, are you in line?" another mother asked who had been standing nearby holding a baby.

"No, you can go ahead," Nicole said taking a few steps back. Her first-class seat wasn't going anywhere. She'd wait and board with the final group. Standing slightly off to the side gave her a view she hadn't seen before. She was always in the front of a line, never having to wait near or sit by families. For those few minutes, she watched the mother in line with her children. From a distance, the view was more endearing than she'd imagined. But it was from a distance, the place she'd always preferred. Suddenly, making partner didn't seem as electrifying but it was all she had. She stepped in line with boarding pass in hand. There was no need to fret. She was only thirty and had plenty of time to obtain it all: another promotion or two and a family. Nicole glanced at her phone again hoping for a call; none came. She strolled down the Jetway, certain Maxwell was okay. He had to be.

 

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