No Greater Love Excerpt
What would you do for $300million dollars? Would you commit murder? That’s what Leah Dalton is asking of five of her closest friends. The co-founder and CEO of Dalton Software Inc., has spent the last six months searching desperately for a cure to the cancer that is eating away at her brain. Finally realizing she is fighting a losing battle, she devises a plan that will give her back some control of her life. Deciding if she’s going to die, she is going to be the one who chooses how and when.
Inviting five of her closest friends, and a local attorney to her estate to spend a week, she shares the news of her impending death and asks for their help. Afraid of the painful death she knows is just around the corner, she offers them the chance of a lifetime. She wants one of them to kill her. She doesn’t care how as long as it’s painless and appears to be accidental or natural. In return for their good deed, the person will receive $300million dollars. Will one of her friends take her up on the offer? What would you do?
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Leah shook the attorney’s hand. She didn’t recognize the fragrance she wore and suspected it to be a knock off of a more expensive brand. It was characteristic of the cheaply made black and gray pin-striped pantsuit she wore. The photograph that accompanied Kirby Shelton’s file didn’t do her justice. She was even more beautiful in person. Her light auburn hair, slightly longer than in the photograph, fell across narrow shoulders and cascaded down her back just past her shoulder blades, and brought out the green tint in her blue eyes.
“Please, have a seat,” Kirby offered, before closing the door.
Leah didn’t hesitate and sank into one of the two oversized, plaid cushioned chairs facing her desk. She glanced around the cramped office; the cream colored walls were bare except for the attorney’s college and law school diploma’s and two lithographs by a local artist she quickly recognized. One was a particular favorite, a landscape with Pike’s Peak in the background. She had the original in her own office. The three bookshelves lining two walls were filled with mostly law books, and the plate glass window behind her desk offered a beautiful view of the downtown area of Colorado Springs. It wasn’t nearly as elaborate as the offices in the law firm she kept on retainer, but it was tasteful.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Miss. Dalton. My secretary loves your new office software. She says it’s much simpler and less time consuming.”
“Thank you.” Dalton Software’s latest brainchild had been another great success.
Kirby took a seat behind the large oak desk. “So what can I do for you?”
Good, let’s get right to the point. Leah already liked the woman. “I’d like you to help find someone to kill me.”
Kirby’s eyes widened. “Excuse me?”
Leah smiled. “You heard correctly. I want you to help find someone to end my life.”
“You must be joking. I’m an attorney. I…”
“I’m well aware of who you are. I’ve spent the last two months and a considerable amount of money to find the right person to help me, and you are that person.”
“I’m afraid you’ve wasted both your time and money then, because whatever you have on your mind I don’t want any part of it.”
Leah watched her get up and walk past her toward the door. This consultation was well on its way to being the shortest she ever had. “When your father was eaten up with cancer and you took him into your home to care for him, didn’t you ever wish there was something, anything you could do to end his suffering?”
“How do you know about my father?”
Leah turned in the chair to face the young attorney. “I know just about all there is to know about you, Kirby. You don’t mind if I call you, Kirby, do you?” When she didn’t answer, Leah continued. “You would have graduated in the top ten percent of your class at the University of Washington School of Law had you not taken off a year to care for your father, Bill. You moved here two years ago, leaving behind a husband of six years named Darrel. During the divorce settlement he got the law firm you were partners in, and you got squat. You’ve no children, and not much of a social life aside from some intriguing outdoor activities. Shall I continue?”
“No. I’m sure your private detectives were very thorough.” Kirby folded her arms across her body, her eyes leveling on Leah. “I take it you’ve been diagnosed with terminal cancer.”
“Six months ago. And unlike your father, I’m not a brave person. Not only do I have a low threshold for pain, I can’t stand the sight of needles.”
“I’m sorry for your situation, but there’s nothing I can do to help. Even if I did know where to find the type of person who would kill you, I wouldn’t for a number of reasons.”
Leah’s eyes steadied on the woman who now sat beside her. She was somewhat taken back by the compassion in her eyes. “I’m having five old friends join me for a week at my estate. All you have to do is help me choose the right one to complete the task. You will be generously compensated for your part.”
Kirby laughed. “You’re nuts, lady. If these are really your friends, what makes you think one of them would be willing to kill you?”
“Because I intend to make them an offer they can’t refuse. One of them, whom ever we choose, will walk away with three hundred million dollars.”
“That money won’t be of much use to them behind bars.”
“I may be desperate, Kirby, but I’m not stupid. One of the stipulations is they have to make my death appear natural or like an accident.”
“Unless all of them are criminals, or doctors, that may be a problem.”
“That’s where you come in. With your knowledge of the law, part of your job will be to choose the way I die from the scenarios they present.”
Leah sat quietly, giving Kirby time to ponder the idea. She knew she had chosen the right person, although it hadn’t been easy. There were a lot of attorneys she knew, if the price were right, would sell their mother’s soul. Kirby wasn’t in it for the money, though, that’s why she chose her. Kirby Shelton would lay her life on the line for the right cause.
“I see you have given this considerable thought.”
“I haven’t thought of much else.” The thought of not reaching her next birthday only four months away was scary enough. But the lingering pain-filled days terrified her.
“You know they’re coming out with new medications every day to help with the pain and nausea from the chemo and radiation.”
Leah was impressed with the fact that the woman didn’t try and pretend there was hope of a cure. “I’m well aware of that and believe me, I’ve tried them. I’m running out of options though…and time.”
“I’m sorry, really I am.”
Leah rubbed her sweaty palms together. It wasn’t going as well as she’d hoped. “I know you’ve worked hard to get your practice going. Just imagine how much easier it will be. With enough money, you would never have to worry where the next month’s rent came from. You could afford new offices, more advertising.”
“I’m not interested.”
Leah graciously accepted defeat for now, stood, and offered her hand. “I’m sorry I’ve wasted your time.”
* * * * *Kirby stared at the door, still stunned. She had met some real wackos in her life, but this one took the prize. What seemed so scary was that someone might actually take her up on the offer.