At the time it was a splurge for us—thirty dollars—but how could we resist? Turns out the shop owner had just polished its brass base that very morning before putting it in the shop window. "I knew it would go quickly," he said, chuckling. The shop is gone now. Still, I'm sure he'd be happy to know it's given us many years of joy. Every time I hear its version of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," I have to smile.
Gorgeous, wouldn't you say? It was painted by the 19th Century famous portraitist, John Singer Sargent. His abstracts were always of friends– usually other artists, such as himself. I wonder if that was because he felt his clients demanded something more meticulous, whereas perhaps these were painted on the fly? His version of toting a camera was to relax with easel, canvas and paints, be it oils or watercolors.
This one is entitled "Zuleika," was completed in 1907, and hangs in the Brooklyn Museum. The name is a genus of moth. It is also Persian in origin, meaning "fair, brilliant, lovely."
She certainly looks that way, here.
Who was she? The wife of a friend, perhaps? There are a series of poems based on a character by that name. Turns out Sargent was friends with humorist Max Beerbohm, who was working on a contemporary novel by that title, about a woman by that name whose beauty was so great that her merely stepping off a train to visit her grandfather in Oxford caused men to obsess over her — to the point of committing mass suicide.
This Sargent painting and Beerbohm's novel might have been the very first product cross-promotion — multi-platforming in its earliest form.
More than likely, it was Sargent's way of jibing Beerbohm — payback for the latter's caricutures of the revered painter.
Notice the subject's eyebrows are just one wave of black paint. Sargent's downward point-of-view is filled with realistic shadowing. The grass is a riot of green, blue and yellow hues which play tricks on the mind: we envision individual blades of grass, and dappled sunlight.
I love that he caught her reading. Is Proust? Dickens? Baudliere? Possibly The Works of Max Beerbohm.
Art is fun, and can be funny, too,
My latest novel is
The Housewife Assassin's
Vacation to Die For
Now out, in
The renowned burlesque dancer, Dixie Evans, died this weekend. She was known as burlesque's "Marilyn Monroe." Yes, the resemblance was uncanny! See for yourself. Here's how she built her act.
Take it off, take it all off,
August 10, 2013
Dixie Evans, Who Brought ‘Monroe’ to Burlesque Houses, Dies at 86
By MARGALIT FOX / New York Times
Dixie Evans, a popular stage performer billed as the “Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque” — the first two words in very large letters and the last two in very small ones — died on Aug. 3 in Las Vegas. She was 86.
Her death was announced on the Web site of the Burlesque Hall of Fame in Las Vegas, of which she was a former curator and director.
Ms. Evans was a marquee name at midcentury, mentioned in the same avid breath as Gypsy Rose Lee, Sally Rand and Lili St. Cyr. In later years, she was featured in newspaper articles and television programs about burlesque and appeared in the 2010 documentary “Behind the Burly Q.”
She was profiled in the 1996 book “Holding On: Dreamers, Visionaries, Eccentrics, and Other American Heroes,” by David Isay, with photographs by Harvey Wang.
Reflecting on her unlikely stardom in a 1992 interview with CNN, Ms. Evans said, “I was not that talented and I wasn’t that pretty.”
But her close-enough resemblance to Monroe — enhanced by a peroxide blond coiffure and the uncanny ability of Ms. Evans, who never met her subject, to mimic her speech and shimmy — ensured her success as a locus of transference.
“If you couldn’t meet the real Marilyn,” Ms. Evans told The New York Times in 1998, “you could come to the burlesque and meet me.”
Night after night from the early ’50s onward, at burlesque houses around the country, Ms. Evans took the stage in Monrovian garb and swung into musical numbers that recalled those in Monroe’s films. Unlike Monroe, she ended the numbers far more lightly attired than when she began.
She kept the act going for more than a decade, modifying it enough to mollify Monroe, who at once point threatened to sue. Wherever she played, she drew a devoted, even rarefied, following.
“Walter Cronkite used to come every year to see my act,” Ms. Evans told The Los Angeles Times in 1993.
Frank Sinatra was said to be a fan. So, too, was Joe DiMaggio, who was reported to have visited the show for consolation after his divorce from Monroe in 1954.
Then, in 1962, Monroe’s suicide rendered the act obsolete overnight. As Ms. Evans told The San Francisco Chronicle in 2002, “When she died, I died.”
She held a string of jobs, doing public relations for a hotel in the Bahamas and working as a nurse’s aide in California, before an abandoned goat ranch in a dusty Western town afforded her an improbable return to burlesque’s glittering glory.
Mary Lee Evans was born on Aug. 28, 1926, in Long Beach, Calif., to a well-to-do family. Her father, an oilman, died when she was a girl, and the family fortunes declined precipitously. Young Mary worked in the celery fields and during World War II was an airplane mechanic.
Dreaming of stardom, she began her stage career as a chorus girl in touring musicals. One night, in her late teens or early 20s, she found herself stranded in San Francisco between jobs with 50 cents in her pocket. She discovered that the local burlesque theater paid four times what she had been earning.
A few years later, when Ms. Evans was performing at a Minsky’s burlesque house in Newark, Harold Minsky, the son of the impresario Abraham Minsky, transformed her into Marilyn.
In the late 1980s, Ms. Evans learned that her friend Jennie Lee, a retired burlesque star, was terminally ill with cancer. Ms. Lee, who was living on a former goat ranch in the desert in Helendale, Calif., had created a de facto museum there from her old memorabilia.
Ms. Evans moved in to help care for her, assuming responsibility for the collection after Ms. Lee’s death in 1990. She expanded it into the Exotic World Burlesque Museum and Striptease Hall of Fame, whose holdings included Jennie Lee’s silver-sequined pasties, Gypsy Rose Lee’s wardrobe trunk, the cremated remains of the burlesque queen Sheri Champagne and — perhaps the collection’s most curious artifact — a photograph of Lili St. Cyr with Eleanor Roosevelt.
In 1991, Ms. Evans founded the Miss Exotic World pageant, an annual competition she liked to call the Olympics of burlesque.
In 2006 Ms. Evans moved the competition and the museum, now known as the Burlesque Hall of Fame, to Las Vegas, where she made her home from then on.
Ms. Evans’s marriage to Harry Braelow, a prizefighter, ended in divorce. Survivors include a sister, Betty, and many nieces and nephews.
For years in the 1950s, Ms. Evans was a fixture at the Place Pigalle, a burlesque house in Miami Beach. One night, she was arrested.
“Whenever it was election time in Miami, they’d raid the strip joints,” she told The Los Angeles Times in 2009. “I told the judge, ‘Your Honor, this is the same act you saw at the policemen’s show.’ ”
His Honor dropped the charges.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: August 11, 2013
An earlier version of this obituary omitted a survivor, Ms. Evans’s sister, Betty.
(c) 2013 New York Times
My cell in the Santa Monica hoosegow could do
with a little sprucing up, but my roomies, Big Bitch Bitsy and Shitfaced Leona,
would get in my face and threaten me with some smackdown should I even consider
rearranging their fine collection of Chippendales trading cards, which has been
stuck onto the concrete wall with Bubblicious.
I’ve been in this hellhole for the past seven
hours. I don’t plan on staying here another night. Still, Bitsy (whereas she
uses this as a surname, I don’t want to disrespect her by calling her by the
much less bestie-friendly Big or Bitch) is no fool. She sees me eyeing the
bottom bunk near the window, and wants to set me straight up front that it’s
hers. Bitsy’s fist goes for my nose. To her surprise, I’m able to stop it with
my stiffened palm, and twist her arm out behind her, which is all it takes to
warn her that not only sticks and stones, but pressure in the right spot, is
all it takes to break her bones. Being raised by gentlefolk, I release her with
a warning that doesn’t mar the reputation of the woman who bore her, or
reference some embarrassing part of her anatomy.
You’d think she’d take the hint that I’m not
someone she should be messing with, but no.
The long shadows cast by our cell’s fugly
fluorescent overhead light tip me off that she’s about to stab me with a shiv
made from a metal spring from Leona’s bunk. A roundhouse kick to Bitsy’s gut
sends her reeling backward into the wall. I cram her head against it with my
version of a Vulcan Mind Meld, where pressure points in three key spots on her
cranium has Bitsy repeating every word I say. “I will act like a lady at all
times. I will share with my bunkmates. I will talk in a lady-like voice. I
won’t use my nasty pottymouth.”
Works every time. Thank you, Mr. Spock.
“Tsk, tsk. Is that any way to make friends and
I turn around to find Jack smiling at me from
just beyond the bars. So, that was the reason for the salacious whistles and
catcalls coming from the other cells. Usually, it’s for a new prisoner, or as
they call them here, “fresh meat.” This time it’s for six-feet-two-inches of
prime beefcake in an Armani suit.
I wave gaily at him. Okay, it’s more like a
middle-finger salute. “’Bout damn time you got here. If it’s going to take you
seven hours to drive a whole two miles, why do you own a Lamborghini?”
“Because the girls love it.” Noting my raised
brow and Bitsy’s shiv in my hand has him rethinking his answer. “In all
seriousness, Ryan and I are having a hell of a time convincing the local
authorities that you didn’t kill Edwina. It doesn’t help that your prints are
the only ones on the murder weapon.”
“But I explained that to the SWAT guys! It was
in my hand when Breck and I wrestled for it, and he twisted my arm so that it
was pointing at her when he squeezed the trigger.”
“Likely story,” mutters Leona, through her
I peel her favorite Chippendale off the wall and
tear it in half. She whimpers, but takes the hint that she better keep mum in
front of my gentleman caller.
Jack shakes his head at my cruelty. “It doesn’t
help that the security video shows you as coming out of the House of Mirrors
right after Breck got shot in there.”
Suddenly, it looks like I’ll have the time to
complete a full makeover of my jail cell.
I smack the bars between us with my fist. “Oh my
God! If I end up in jail for Edwina’s murder, Carl will be given custody of the
kids! I’ve got to get out of this mess!”
“Don’t worry about Carl. The files Edwina left
behind have put him back on the Watch List, and Breck, too for that matter.
Unfortunately, Carl left with Asimov’s contingent before we could stop him.”
“Well, that’s some relief.” I feel tears forming
in my eyes. “What have you told the children about my absence?”
“Just that you were in the wrong place at the
wrong time. Unfortunately, your arrest made the news in a big way. The police
leaked Breck’s version of it. Needless to say, all of Hilldale is buzzing about
it. Penelope and her posse actually believe that you’re jealous of Babette.
Mrs. Breck’s silence on the topic isn’t helping matters.”
“Figures she’d be towing his party line.” I
shake my head in disgust. “Breck is a member of the Quorum. For that alone,
we’ve got to bring him back. Seriously, Jack, what are we going to do?”
“We just have to wait it out, for however long
it takes.” He looks down at his watch “Which should be about… now.”
For just a few seconds, all the lights in the
Jack looks down the hall. Seeing that the two
guards have been distracted by the shouts of the cellmates over this disruption
of their routine, he slips me a small bag through the bars.
“That was Arnie,” he mutters, just barely loud
enough for me to hear. “He’s just put their security feed on a loop. It’ll run
for a couple of hours. In the meantime, this spray turns these two into
sleeping beauties. If need be, you can use the spray on the guards, too, but I
think the diversion Arnie is causing in Cell Block C will keep them busy for
awhile. We guessed at the uniform size. The smart card gets you through every
door in this joint. Abu and I will be waiting down the block in his ice cream
I give him a thumbs up. I wish I could kiss him,
but I don’t want to make my roomies jealous.
I’m just glad he’s kept his shirt on, and he’s
kept his a bowtie and French cuffs at home.
(c) 2012 Josie Brown. All rights reserved. This excerpt may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission from Josie Brown or Signal Press Books (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Signal Press / In bookstores now!
Book 1, THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK
Book 2, THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S
GUIDE TO GRACIOUS KILLING
older looking than your online dating photo, Nadia,” General Melmud Massoud
Shammam says as he scrutinizes me from top to bottom.
In fact, it’s
my bottom that fascinates him the most. To my chagrin, he holds up one of my
dating profile pictures in order to compare it to the real thing. “Did you
Photoshop your buttocks to look like Pippa Middleton’s? Yes, of course! I see
that now! Shame on you, sister, for coveting an infidel’s likeness!” He shakes
his index finger at me.
busted. It wasn’t my ass. That was Arnie’s idea. I’ll never listen to him again, that’s for sure.
“I should be
disappointed, but I am a practical man and prefer hips large enough to bear
many, many children. So perhaps you will make me happy after all.”
Ha! Says you, I think, but I stifle the urge to
stick my stiletto into his heart.
breasts are bigger than mine, so I’m not sure I’d find his heart underneath all
I’d sure have
fun trying, though. Like playing a real-life version of that old game,
bow my head to the man once renowned as the top torture expert in Gaddafi’s
army and murmur, “It is true, sir. Allah has given me many wonderful years. But
the life of a fertile virgin is empty if it is not spent at the side of an
ID’ed by Interpol’s Universal Face Workstation as the thug standing with Carl
in the munitions exchange video. His payoff in arranging the fatal meeting was
a new identity and a one-way ticket to the United States.
Ladies, big FYI:
because this coward left his three wives and nine children to face Libya’s mob
rule, he’s back on the market. His online dating profile in Anastasia Date (the leading website for
men seeking Russian brides looking to move overseas) reads like this:
Join me in America!
Strong, virile and handsome man seeks slim and perfect woman with whom to
share his life. Let’s hit the links, and take long walks on the beach at
Must be Muslim, and a virgin. Natural blonde preferred. Must like golf
and also hiking, since sometimes we may spend time camping out in the desert
for long periods of time. But I am well-endowed, so it will be worth your
charmer, ain’t he?
into Melmud’s account and zapped the responses from the few Slavic singletons
desperate enough to answer the ad so that I’d be his default choice.
response was fine-tuned in the hope of making me sound meek, pious and
submissive. My profile photos were shot by a photographer who freelances for Playboy, and all that implies. With the
help of a sheer, form-hugging shift and some soft backlighting, the
photographer knew exactly how to accentuate the positive.
So did Arnie,
who’s a wiz at Photoshop. Pippa has set a very high bar for the rest of us. I
may have been wearing a headscarf, but now it’s obvious that Melmud’s eyes
weren’t drawn to the shape of my head.
“Nadia” would have flown from Moscow to LAX, but thanks to some Arnie’s hacking,
the best Melmud could pull off on such short notice was a flight to San
Francisco, where he was to her up, then fly her into Santa Barbara on his
female Acme operative with my height, weight measurements (perky breasts and
all) and an identical head scarf boarded the flight. When she got off, she went
into the fifth stall the closest ladies’ lavatory, where I was already waiting
for her. We’re dressed as twins down to our matching headscarves, so anyone
following her would presume we’re one and the same. She handed me her ticket to
put with my fake passport, changed her clothes and wig, and then there was one.
bodyguard met me at baggage claim and hustled me into another terminal, where
Melmud’s private customized Gulfstream G650 was ready to whisk us down to Santa
Barbara. The plane is tricked out with a private living room, bedroom, dining
room and kitchen galley.
words, all the comforts of home for a fugitive on the run.
Now that I’m
in mid-flight with my supposed betrothed, I’ll slip him the ultimate mickey—SP-117, a concoction invented by the
Russia’s external foreign intelligence arm, the SVR. It’s tasteless, colorless,
and leaves the victim clueless as to anything he may have said.
under the influence, I’ll ask him the whereabouts of the missing munitions
cache. But it’s only a fifty-minute flight, so I’ve got to work fast. My problem: being Muslim, neither Melmud
nor his thug drinks liquor or caffeine. A glass of water will have to do.
I begin with flattery, in my best Moose-and-Squirrel accent.
“Sir, my innate shyness forces me to request that our time together be
By the way he raises an eyebrow at this unexpected modesty it
looks like he believes that perhaps he really did find the only virgin on a
website loaded with Slavic vixens. I guess he’s giving me the benefit of the
doubt because he snaps his fingers at his bodyguard, who disappears into the
cockpit with the pilot, closing the door behind him.
I reward Melmud by loosening the top button of my already
low-cut, floor-length tunic, revealing the lacy camisole beneath it.
The plane hops over a cloud, giving me the opportunity to
tumble against him. Oops! My hand falls in his lap in the hope of bracing my
fall. I cover my mouth, as if shocked by this seemingly innocent action.
But when our eyes meet, I lick my lips in anticipation.
His response is Pavlovian in one regard. He’s panting for a
country, we toast the holy union between a groom and his bride.” I lower my
head. “Will you allow me to serve you, my honorable fiancé? Just a glass of water,
He smiles and
nods toward the kitchen galley. I bow slightly before gliding to a cabinet and
pulling out two glasses.
He is too
busy loosening his tie and planning the tests that will prove my virginity to
see me slide the medallion on my ring and release the drug into his drink.
As I hand him
his glass, he shouts, “Prost!”
He passes out
just as he had begun to slobber all over me. Yuck! I shove him off to the far end of the couch. I go over my
mental checklist of everything on my list—
Oh, fudge! I forgot to check the SFO duty-free
shop for any Furbys!
Note to self:
get better at multi-tasking.
things first. Buy time.
Melmud’s cell phone from his pocket and yank the subject’s SIM card from his
phone. Then I dial Jack with the satellite connection on the wireless SIM card
reader I’ve concealed in my valise.
little mail order bride?” he asks.
crap. I’ve just pulled out the SIM card. What now?”
Arnie’s on the line, too. All you have to do is slip it into that little
doohickey he gave you. When it’s done, uplink it, and voila! He’ll have access to a week, maybe two, of previous text
messages and traceable cell numbers.”
By the time
the upload is finished, Melmud’s Kickapoo Joy Juice has kicked in.
“Who is the
Quorum?” My voice is gentle but authoritative.
But they pay well for arms. Enough for me to buy the mansion next door to Oprah
in Montecito. But Oprah’s dogs crap in my yard all the time. Still, I don’t
mind. They are Oprah’s dogs! Some are Laboradors, but there are also a couple
of Springer spaniels. Not to mention the golf club in Montecito is top notch. I
have a two handicap. Soon they will soon make me a member. I am sure of it.”
should have warned me SP-117 leads to diarrhea of the mouth. If this were just
another extraordinary rendition, I’d have already given this dude a Cheney spa
treatment and tossed him out the door.
I start over.
“Melmud, try to stay focused. What is the Quorum doing with heat-seeking
Like, duh. At thirty-three thousand feet in
the air, this guy better tell me something I don’t already know, or one of us
is going to jump ship. I don’t want it to be me. “Where will it occur? On what
day, and at what time?”
“What I know
A sharp rap
at the door stops him cold. That damn bodyguard!
the bodyguard is telling his boss that we will be landing in five minutes. He
wants to know if there is anything we need.
about to say something when I hiss, “Don’t answer!” I reach for my satellite
phone. This time I dial Arnie direct.
When he picks
up, I whisper frantically, “I need you to dial Melmud’s bodyguard as if it’s
coming from Melmud, and give him a message.”
“Why would I do that?”
in the middle of interrogating this creep, and the guard is standing right
outside the door! I can’t have Melmud answer him out loud. He’s in a trance! No
telling what he might say! I need the guard to get a text message telling him
to scram! But to be authentic, it’ll have to be in Arabic, and my bandwidth
doesn’t stretch that far.”
piece of cake. And I’ll make sure the caller ID will show Melmud’s phone. Just
text me what you want it to say.”
I think for a
moment before sending him this:
While she is smart and beautiful and surely would make a fine and pious
mother, I still have my doubts that this woman is a natural blonde. I am
testing my theory now. If the door is still closed when we land, no one is to
disturb us! When I am done, I will meet you by the limo. Allah willing, my
bride is flaxen and therefore worthy to accompany us to Montecito. Oh, by the
way, the next time Oprah’s dogs take a dump in the yard, shoot them.
outside the door tells me the bodyguard has gotten Arnie’s message. A moment
later I hear Melmud’s thug murmur, “Yes, General,” in Arabic, before trudging
back to the cockpit.
I breathe a
sigh of relief. “Thanks, Arnie.”
“Glad it did
the trick. But, Donna, what the heck was that stuff about Oprah’s dogs?”
“I needed to
add a tinge of authenticity to the message. Trust me, it did the trick.”
I click off
and shake Melmud back into interrogation mode. “Tell me, quick. Where is the
shipment from Libya right now?”
infidels would not tell me. To hide this knowledge from me, they spoke in
French. But they did not realize I speak it, too. All I know is that it is
coming in by ship. From a toymaker.” A sly smile rises on his lips. “And by the
way, the female infidel really did have a butt like Pippa. But by her amorous
moves with her partner, I am guessing she is no virgin.”
slut, and Carl enjoys it? No surprise there. And for the record, this dude has
no idea what he’s talking about. No way does her bum look better than mine!
cackle puts me back on task. “Why should I care, anyway, when the cargo
arrives? The less I know about it, the better. I’ve worked too hard establishing
my excellent new identity as a successful self-help guru from Dubai. I’m
working on my book now. It is called Don’t
Worry, Be Happy: Six Must-Do Moves to Being a Better You. I have no doubt
it will be a sure-fire bestseller! I will leave it in Oprah’s mailbox, and she
will love it and build a whole television network around its teachings.”
Obviously, the truth drug has made him delusional. “I love Oprah. And I love
Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Did you know she lives nearby? I love Seinfeld, too. I
wonder if he ever visits Elaine…”
I hear the
vibration of the plane’s wheels dropping. Time to wrap up our little
tête-a-tête, and it couldn’t come a second sooner. Hanging out with this guy is
driving me nuts.
I force him
to sip again from his glass. A moment
later, he drifts off to sleep. By the time Melmud’s bodyguard shakes him awake,
I’ll be just a pleasant memory.
I’ll also be
brunette again, and long gone.
landing is smooth as silk. As planned, Jack is there waiting on the tarmac. The
credentials he presents to the flight crew and the bodyguard identify him as
the field office director of the Santa Barbara County branch of the Immigration
and Naturalization Services.
turns white under his swarthy tan. The last thing he wants is for the INS to
question him about his passport, or Melmud’s, for that matter.
On the other
hand, he’ll gladly step aside so that Jack can take me off the plane in
handcuffs. Here’s a shocker. Turns out, I’m not a virgin after all. Apparently,
“Nadia” has run away from her husband, a Muslim jeweler based in Moscow.
“Your boss is
bereft,” Jack tells the bodyguard. “He asks that you not disturb him. He said
something about five salads.”
eyes open wide. “No, he means ‘salats.’
He wants to pray.”
only one thing. The Self Help Guru Formerly Known as the Mommar’s Mutilator is
very upset that his life-size Barbie wasn’t the fantasy bride he’d hoped for.
anything?” Jack asks, as we roar off in his Lamborghini.
coming in by ship.” Talk about a needle in a haystack. “Also, I now know why
Gaddafi’s regime was so dysfunctional.”
“Do you think
it might’ve had something to do with the fact he was a nut?”
that’s a big part of it. But it turns out we Americans were the real cause of
were. We played an important if somewhat covert role in aiding and abetting the
“Nope, I mean
even before the Arab Spring. You see, Mommar’s generals watched too much
American television. To them, life is a series of self-help aphorisms culled
from daytime talk shows. They also think sitcom characters are real.”
“So do most
Americans. So I guess we truly are a global village.” Jack shakes his head
sadly. Then his eyes light up. “Oh, wow, that reminds me. The Big Bang Theory is on tonight!”
to catch it on demand. Have you forgotten the Oprah special airs tonight? She’s
interviewing Pippa Middleton! I’m sure as heck not going to miss that.”
appreciatively. “Speaking of Pippa, did anyone ever tell you your butt looks a
lot like hers?”
When I punch
his arm, he almost drives off the Pacific Coast Highway.
(c) 2012 Josie Brown. All rights reserved. This excerpt may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission from Josie Brown or Signal Press Books (email@example.com).
The Housewife Assassin's Killer Christmas Tips is on sale now!
To top it off, I can't really swim.
Thank God for the dog paddle.
The lake was deep, but small enough that I could make it to the side–with the help of my boyfriend. Thank God he was smart enough to jump in the back seat and kick out a door before the water pressure made it impossible. I was an idiot. I thought the damn car would float, like the ones in the Volkswagen ads.
He had a Chevy Impala.
I guess I channeled that experience in this excerpt. It's one of my favorites from The Housewife Assassin's Killer Christmas Tips. 'Tis not the season. Then again, Death never takes a holiday.
Zoran is a chatterbox. He hasn’t quit talking
since we pulled out of the garage. Having dropped his fake British accent, his
sentences slip and slide over Slavic pronouns and badass claims.
I make it easy for him. I can’t talk, let alone
move. In other words, I’m a captive audience, both literally and figuratively.
“I would have liked to have given you a truth
serum first, to find out who sent you. The Muslims? The Croats? Surely it
wasn’t my old friends, the Serbs? And it can’t be the Mexican government. They
have bigger worries than the disappearance of a few grape pickers. If only the
injection I gave you allowed you to nod at my questions, but it won’t wear off
for a couple of hours.”
Nod? I wish I could reach up and pull the tongue
out of his head. We’ve been in the car for at least an hour now, and he’s been
giving me a science lesson on what to expect while on his operating table.
He describes his favorite instrument: a Blue Max
eighteen-inch 45 cc Heavy Duty gas chainsaw. He uses it to chop up the bodies
after cutting open his victims and removing vital organs, while they’re still
alive of course. He explains that, like me, they were first given a
neuromuscular block to paralyze them. But he’s such a sicko that he skips the
anesthesia that would block their pain.
“We should be at my ranch in another hour.” As
if reading my mind, he adds, “The drug won’t wear off before we get there. And
by the way, any friends who may come looking for you will be disappointed. You
see, the cabin is not in my name. It belonged to a now-deceased fellow whom I
met while fishing on Big Bear Lake. The lonely old hermit died of a sudden
heart attack while feeding his hogs! They ate him too. Can you imagine that?
You see, to those animals, human flesh is a delicacy, compared to the garbage
they ate before I came along. As you can imagine, I keep them well fed. Tonight
they will be feasting, ecstatically I might add, on your leftovers.”
Not if I can help it.
Seems I’ll have some help with Los Angeles’
typical late Friday afternoon traffic. As the I-10 crawls east toward San
Bernardino Valley, every now and again Zoran looks back at me in the rear-view
mirror. I keep my face totally still. The whole drive I’ve been memorizing
turns, and looking out the window for glimpses of expressway signs.
I vow to get back to my children. My
twelve-year-old daughter, Mary, and my ten-year-old son, Jeff, need to be picked
up from basketball practice. And before after-school pickup, I was going to
stop at a toy store in East South Central, which, I’ve been told, still has a
few Furbys on the shelf. I have every intention on watching five-year-old
Trisha squeal with delight when she opens one on Christmas morning.
And of course, Jack knows Ratko was on my to-do
list today. If I don’t show up, he’ll be frantic. From the day of Trisha’s
birth and until before Jack came into their lives, I’d lied to my children and
told them their father had gone away, “on business.”
Did it stop them from feeling deserted? No.
If Ratko has his way and I disappear into the
gullets of some hogs in the middle of nowhere, once again they’ll be
This resolve drives my desire to move any
appendage. By the time we turn onto State Road 330 going north, I’m able to
bend a random finger, to curl a single toe. Twenty minutes later, by the time
he has veered left onto State Road 18, I can finally flex my ankle, and then my
wrist. Now, if only I could move my arms…
I can, just barely.
“Almost there,” he chortles gaily. “By the way,
the hogs love the sound of the saw. To them, it’s the dinner bell. When I turn
it on, you’ll hear them squealing with delight. Then again, maybe not, since
you’ll be screaming even louder.” He pauses, as if a new thought has just
struck him. Too bad it isn’t a hammer instead. “Tell me, Mrs. Pitt or whatever
your name is, are you a drinker? No problem if you can’t nod. I guess I’ll know
soon enough. The telltale sign is any swelling of the liver. If so, I won’t be
able to sell it. That’s okay. I’ll enjoy it myself, with grilled onions, and a
hint of dill—”
The thought of being the main course in Ratko
Zoran’s dinner propels me upward.
Between the crux of my elbow and the driver-side
headrest, Ratko is in a headlock from which he cannot move. He chokes and
flails, but I refuse to let go. Although the car swerves all over the road at
sixty-miles an hour, I hold tight. Then, on the count of three I wrench his
head fast, to the right, until I hear the snap that tells me I’ve broken his
Only after he chortles his last gasp do I look
up. Before my death grip, Zoran had steered the car onto the Stanfield Cutoff,
a sliver of a road that unites both sides of Bear Lake at its narrowest
juncture. The car sidles off the unprotected shoulder and into the lake.
There is no time to jump out before it nose-dives
into the lake.
The BMW sinks below the lake’s cold, choppy
waves. The water pressure against the doors keep it sealed, like a tomb. With
the electrical system dead, I can’t open a window, either. Soon the oxygen will
be exhausted. I can hold my breath for three minutes, tops.
Still, I’ll be damned if I’m going to be found
in the bottom of this lake with this war criminal. Not with Christmas just
around the corner.
I’m pounding on the window when it hits me. My diamond.
Immediately, I etch around the back window with
my ring. Then I brace myself on the back of the front seat before kicking it
out with both feet.
The force of the kick pushes out the glass, and
me with it. As the water flows into the vacuum of dead air I leave behind, I
feel myself being sucked into the dark, frigid abyss. I force myself to open my
eyes, to look for light, anywhere.
Finally, over my head, I see something. My lungs
burn as I kick with all my strength, toward the brightness.
I burst up out of the water like a buoy submerged
too deep, for too long. I cough out water and fear while bobbing in the gentle
waves of the lake.
My teeth chatter as I swim to shore. I don’t
care that I look like a drowned rat. I’m still alive.
When I reach the road, I head west, the way we
came. I’ll keep running until I come across a store, or someone with a cell
phone, so that I can let Jack and the kids know I may be late, but that I’ll be
They must be worried sick about me.
“Mom! Where have you been? We’ve been waiting
here since basketball practice ended two hours ago!”
Jeff’s way of saying Thanks, Mom for picking me up, and boy do I miss you and love you and
can’t live without you leaves a lot to be desired.
Yes, admittedly, I’m late for my turn at
carpooling Jeff and his two pals, Morton Smith and Cheever Bing, from
Hey, that’s what happens when a hit doesn’t go
according to plan.
I would have been much later, too, if a trucker
hauling artichokes and Roma tomatoes from the Central Valley hadn’t been kind
enough to give me a lift off the side of a lonely two-lane blacktop.
But just my luck, I hitched a ride with the only
trucker in the world who sees no need to have a cell phone when he's got his
trusty old Cobra CB radio, so I had no way to call Jack and let him know the
mission was accomplished, sort of.
When I hopped in the trucker’s cab, he warned me
he could take me only as far as downtown Los Angeles. But he changed his mind
and dropped me across the street from Ratko’s office in Beverly Hills when he
realized I knew every song on his Best of
Bonnie Raitt CD.
He sighed and wiped away a tear as I finished
the last mournful stanza of “Not the Only One.”
“It’s as if Bonnie is sitting right here beside
“Thanks for the compliment,” I said, nodding
shyly. I may not be a redhead (at least, not today) but the raspy voice was
natural enough after that frigid dip in Big Bear Lake.
Little did the trucker know how much that
particular song means to me. Only recently I found out about Jack’s unresolved
feelings for Valentina.
To put it bluntly, I’m not his “only one.”
No doubt he’d claim the same about me. Not only
did my ex, Carl, let me in on Jack’s little secret in the hope of breaking us
up, he’s also made it clear that he plans on staying in my life, despite my
telling him to get lost.
Even his position as number three on every
terrorist watch list hasn’t kept him from wooing me, threatening me, and
I know he’s a crack shot, so it must be true
that love is blind.
Considering how many of my bullets have just
grazed him, I guess I have a few unresolved issues as well.
Now that I’m on dry land and within arms reach,
does my son even notice that I’m sopping wet from head to toe?
Nah. That would mean he’d have to look up from
the video game he’s playing on his cell phone.
Okay, I can play a game as well. “So sorry! I
was out Christmas shopping.”
His anger dissipates when he hears this. I can
tell by the silent shrug that accompanies his quick glance into the back of my Honda
To dodge the fact that there are no store bags
anywhere in sight, I ask, “Why didn’t you call you father?”
“I did! But when I told him you weren’t picking
up your phone, he sounded sort of worried and hung up fast."
"Call him back and tell him I'm here."
The last thing I need is for Jack to worry about me, now that I'm safe and sound.
As he hits Jack's digits, Cheever pipes up. “And
my mom should be here any minute." Then he adds with a smirk, “But she
sounded pissed. You know, she schedules her mani-pedi when it’s your turn to
drive, so she can gossip with Mrs. Swift and Mrs. Cockhead… um, I mean Mrs. Coxhead.”
Cheever’s deliberate faux pas gets the desired effect. Morton snorts the last of his Red
Bull through his nose and almost chokes on it.
I wince when I hear this. Not because Morton
might suffocate on my watch (frankly, a loss of oxygen to his brain may calm
down the kid’s libidinous fantasies), but because it means I’ll get yet another
tongue lashing from Penelope Bing for showing up late to carpool.
There’s still time to beat her fair and square.
If he’s already at our house, and I fill his belly with a nourishing bowl of
Campbell’s tomato soup and Kraft grilled cheese sandwiches, she’ll have nothing
to bitch about.
I drill the boys with my best do as I say look. “Jump in! Now! I’ve
got a pot of hot soup and sandwiches waiting—”
“What about Mary?”
“Oh!” How could I forget my eldest daughter?
Thank goodness Trisha, my youngest, had an after-school play date with her pal
Janie Breck, whose mother owns the largest McMansion in Hilldale. “Well, where
is Mary? I asked her to wait here, with you.”
Cheever chortles like a hyena. “Making out under
the bleachers with Trevor Smith—”
Both Jeff and Morton slap their hands over his
mouth. “Shut your piehole, Cheever! They paid us a buck each to keep quiet,
His bites to their palms have them yelping.
“Yeah, well, I warned them. Anything under a fiver, I have a selective memory.”
Mary’s crush on Trevor Smith, Morton’s brother
and the lead forward on Hilldale Middle School’s Varsity Wildcats basketball
team, grows exponentially with every three-pointer he makes. The last thing I
need to hear is that Mary and Trevor’s ongoing attraction for each other has
gone from shyly flirtatious wordplay to outright foreplay.
I jump out of the car and run into the gym. It’s
empty, but I hear moaning, and pain has nothing to do with it. I move quickly
but silently under the bleachers until I spot them huddled together on the
floor, eyes closed and lips pressed together.
By her fierce concentration, my guess is that
it’s not the first time she’s been kissed.
This realization is both sweet and bitter for
me. While your first kiss is a rite of passage that every girl dreams of, every
parent contemplates it with both angst and pride. Yes, we are proud that
someone sees the beauty in our child. But we dread the thought of her
experiencing heartbreak, or that she may grow up much too fast, and much too
When Mary fell for this guy, where was I? Doing
laundry? Watching Trisha attempt pirouettes in ballet class? Saving the world
Wherever I was, it certainly doesn’t matter now.
Neither do my feelings about it. She has a right to grow up, fall in love, and
make her own mistakes.
Within reason! My goodness, she’s still twelve
And in time, she’ll understand she has nothing
to hide from me, that she can always share her celebrations with the one who
loves her as no one else can. She will realize I welcome every rite of passage
on her life journey.
Had my mother felt the same way about me? I’ll
never know. She died of cancer when I was only eleven. I guess that’s why I see
no reason for chastising Mary for keeping this very special memory a secret.
But I’ll break every finger on Trevor’s hand if
it reaches its final destination, her breast.
“Ouch!” Trevor cries, as I yank his pinky finger
as far back as it will go. “Mrs. Stone?
What are you doing here?”
At the sound of my name, Mary’s eyes pop open.
When she sees me, she practically leaps straight up in the air.
“Mom! I didn’t expect you—”
“Obviously not.” I give Trevor’s hand one more
hard twist, behind his back, and point him toward the exit. “Get in the car,
now. Both of you. Trevor, I’m dropping you and Morton at your house.”
“No, Mom! Trevor was going to help me with my
“I think Trevor has taught you enough for one
day. Let’s get moving.”
Mary glowers, but she follows Trevor out the
We’re too late. By the time we’re back outside,
Penelope Bing is already there. With her is her usual momtourage, Tiffy Swift
and the unfortunately named Hayley Coxhead.
“So you finally remembered you’d left the
children out here in the cold to fend for themselves.” Penelope’s glare could
Tiffy’s laser-sharp gaze sweeps over me. “My
God, Donna, you’re a mess! You look as if you took a swim in some lake!”
I’m envisioning what it would have been like,
had she been down in the icy depths of Big Bear, as opposed to me.
Or worse yet for her, with me.
The thought puts a smile on my face. “Sorry I’m
so late. I got caught in a flash flood, east of the city. Christmas shopping.
But now that I’m here, you ladies are welcomed to go back to your spa
“As if,” Hayley mutters. “Our pedicures are
ruined! See?” She arches a foot in my direction.
Her paint job looks fine to me. It’s even got
some jewel inlays. A whiff of Hayley’s breath confirms my suspicions. Not only
were they done with their mani-pedi’s, they had time to hit a happy hour as
They’re lucky I’m in a holiday mood. “Yeah, your
foot is quite a mess. Let me make it up to you. Why don’t you ladies finish up
with your appointment? Penelope, I don’t mind Cheever hanging with us for
another hour or so. He can stay for dinner, too.”
Penelope purses her lips as she considers my
generous offer. The tilt of her head brings the others into a huddle with her.
If it were a full moon, I’d be convinced that I was watching the first scene in
Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Granted, I
don’t hear any chanting of Double,
double, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble. Instead, they’re
debating the cons of leaving Penelope’s precious cargo in my obviously
not-so-capable hands with the pros of downing yet another pitcher of mojitos,
possibly delivered by a bow-tied but bare-chested waiter at their favorite
watering hole, the Hilldale Chippendales Club.
The waiter has nothing on Jack. This is
blatantly obvious when his Lamborghini comes roaring into the parking lot.
His deep green eyes scan every face, but his
boyish grin breaks out only when, finally, he catches sight of me behind the
In a flash, he’s out of the car. His long,
muscular legs moves like pistons as he runs to me. Tall and broad-shouldered,
he arches down over me as he takes me into his large, strong arms. His deep, hot
kiss leaves me limp with the longing that comes with the realization that life
is too fleeting, and passion is its most precious reward.
Our love spell is broken by Morton’s hiccup.
When I open my eyes, I find Jeff and his friends
staring at me, as if I’m some sort of exotic creature. My son is still
fascinated that there is actually someone in this world who sees his mother as
an object of desire.
Mary’s look doesn’t waver either. It’s not the
wide-eyed grin of her brother’s, but a scowl. “Maybe you two should get a room,”
she mutters under her breath.
I know what she’s thinking. At least her display
of affection wasn’t quite so public.
She’s right. The sooner we get a hold of
ourselves, the better. Reluctantly, Jack and I resume the sort of practiced
nonchalance that comes as second nature to parents of tweens who are
embarrassed by every move we make.
It takes a moment for Penelope, Tiffy and Hayley
to pick their jaws up off the pavement. They still find it hard to believe the
neighborhood wet dream is married to me, the one woman who refuses to
acknowledge their superiority, let alone kowtow to the petty demands they make
through their fiefdom, the Hilldale Women’s Club.
“Well… I guess it’s okay, now that Jack’s home,
too.” Penelope’s shrug is her way of showing me she’s doing me a favor. “Just
remember my rules, Donna. Only vegan! And it’s got to be all natural. No
preservatives and nothing genetically engineered or modified! And I presume
you’ve already forgotten that Cheever is allergic to thin-skinned fruit, dairy,
peanuts, and gluten. It’s okay, since I’ve got it all written down, somewhere.”
She rummages through her purse until she finds what she’s looking for. One of
the laminated cards she carries with her at all times and thrusts into the
hands of teachers and play date parents, per her attorney’s instructions.
With threats of a lawsuit hanging over one’s
head, is it any wonder the only thing Cheever’s hosts will offer him is a glass
of filtered water?
“That’s okay, Penelope. Cheever plays at our
home a lot. I’ve got several of those cards, remember?”
What I really mean is had. After the fifth one, I’ve gotten into the habit of tossing
them in the trash. Besides, if Penelope saw what Cheever gobbled down when he’s
out of her sight, she’d faint. But hey, she’s a mom, so short of tackling her
husky little guy, I’ll gladly follow her rules.
Besides, stating the menu up front covers my
ass. “I was planning on serving tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.”
“No to the sandwiches, since they contain dairy
and gluten. But he can have the soup. Feel free to double his portion.”
As portly as Cheever is, I’m guessing he’ll ask
for seconds, no problem.
Despite recent Collagen injections, Tiffy
attempts a frown. “Can he, really? Aren’t tomatoes a fruit? And if so, aren’t they
“Oh my God! Great point, Tiff!” Penelope tears
up at the thought that she may have colluded in the demise of her own son, in
front of witnesses no less. “Do you have vegetable broth, with no noodles?”
I nod solemnly.
All three of the women give sighs of relief.
Tiffy’s empathy certainly wins her Brownie points with Queen Bee Bing, whereas
no one doubts Hayley’s loud heave has more to do with her desire to quench her
thirst and flirt with the waiter.
As they peel out of the parking lot, I glance
over at Jack. “I’m so glad you showed up! I’ve got one more stop to make before
the store closes. Would you mind taking the kids home?”
Even as he chastely kisses my forehead, his
smile twists into a grimace. “No can do, Now that you’re back on the radar
with, I presume, mission accomplished.”
I toss out a thumbs-up.
“There’s another major fire to put out, Donna.
Ryan wants everyone in Acme’s offices as soon as we can get there.”
“But what about the kids? And Trisha needs a
“Tell you what, I’ll get Ryan and the others to
meet us at our place in, say, half an hour. In the meantime, go run your errand
with this bunch, and I’ll grab Trisha from Janie’s house.”
“That works for me. The store with the only
Furby left in all of Los Angeles closes in twenty minutes. If we leave now, we
still have time to make it.” I turn to the kids. “Okay, gang, climb onboard.
We’ve got to make one stop before we go home.”
As they scurry into the car, I grab Mary’s arm
before she has a chance to climb into the back row of the SUV, next to Trevor.
“You’re riding shotgun. The Smith brothers can sit all the way in the back.
Jeff and Cheever, take the middle row.”
“Not fair!” Jeffrey protests. “Cheever farts all
the time, and it smells like tofu!”
Mary also opens her mouth to argue, but closes
it just as quickly when she sees the look on my face and realizes I mean
I wonder if the store sells gas masks and
chastity belts, too.
(c) 2012 Josie Brown. All rights reserved. This excerpt may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission from Josie Brown or Signal Press Books (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Housewife Assassin's
Killer Christmas Tips
(In online bookstores now!)
’Tis the season for murder, mayhem and mistletoe! There will be no peace on Earth if Donna and Jack don’t find a shipping container filled with heat-seeking missiles.
Yep, The Housewife Assassin's Handbook just went free on Amazon, and already it's #18 in the Amazon Kindle eBook Store under "Women Sleuths," and #39 under "Romantic Suspense."
You can read an excerpt, here below.
THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK
Murder. Suspense. Sex.
And some handy household tips.
Signal Press – Digital eBook
Buy it from
CHAPTER 1: Please Read and Follow Directions Carefully….
Any woman can be both the perfect housewife and an accomplished assassin, because both functions require the same qualities: creativity; a never-say-die attitude; and an attention to details, no matter how small . . .
All I really needed to know about being a freelance assassin I learned before my youngest daughter, Trisha, started kindergarten.
I’ve come to that realization as I lay naked and handcuffed to the bed of my target du jour, a sleazebag by the name of Yuri Petrovich.
Yuri has just downed a couple of Viagra with the last of his Starbucks venti-sized non-fat decaf caramel macchiato. This is to ensure us both that his attempt to mount me will have all the gusto of a broncobuster breaking in the wildest filly in the corral before heading on into the sunset. (In truth, we are in a hillside suite at the Chateau Marmont. But considering Yuri’s attitude toward women, the cowboyspeak sums things up quite nicely.)
Believe it or not, everything is going just as I planned, and right on schedule.
At least, that is what I tell myself as I watch him unzip his rock star-tight leather pants and squeeze out of them as quickly as he can because his erection, which seems to be growing by the nanosecond, has him wincing in pain. (And in Yuri’s fantasy if anyone is going to get hurt, it’s going to be me. The handcuffs are proof of that.)
Like, say, eighty-eight percent of all my targets, this Russian mafia boss, who came here to unload a cache of AK-103s on some Idaho Neo-Nazis, has an obsessive-compulsive personality. In Yuri’s case that means staying in the same suite at the Marmont every time he hits Los Angeles (although his Slavic accent and pockmarked greaser looks has hardly earned him an iota of the ass-kissing accorded aging rock stars, budding celebutantes, or out-of-town British actors); doing the down-and-dirty with some rent-a-whore, both before and after the arms sale; and drinking macchiatos nonstop, even during his favorite sex act, that Kama Sutra position euphemistically called “the ostrich’s tail.” (Don’t ask, because you really don’t want to know.)
Acme Industries, one of the many new post-9/11 CIA-sanctioned subcontractors that handles any and all dirty tricks that won’t pass a Congressional panel sniff test, contracted me to be the honeypot who takes Yuri down. My assignment is as follows: First, I was to stall on the sex until the skinheads showed up. Next, I was to plant a GPS system on one of them, so that ATF can track and apprehend them during the pick-up. And finally, as a show of tit-for-tat diplomacy with Uncle Sam’s publicly acknowledged new best friend Russia, I was to see to it that Yuri never left his hotel room alive.
Oh yeah, and one more very important point: All of this is supposed to be accomplished before three o’clock, the time in which I have to pick up my ten-year-old, Jeff, and a carload of his teammates for an after-school baseball game. Otherwise I’d have to face the wrath of two other mothers for having blown the team’s shot at taking the state title without a play-off game—
This is why I pray that the 405 isn’t a nightmarish backup by the time I head home.
From the moment he landed stateside, Yuri’s cell phone calls were monitored. The one to his favorite LA escort service was rerouted to an Acme phone operative, who scheduled Yuri a date with “Precious” (a suitable alias, seeing how I’m trussed up in a push-up bra, a low-cut tank top, and the tight denim micro miniskirt I’d raided from my twelve-year-old daughter Mary’s closet. My gut told me that Yuri would not have appreciated my own Lily Pulitzer twill.)
The fact that I showed up an hour after the appointed time put me just a few minutes ahead of the Neo-Nazis: perfect timing in my book, since it foiled his plan for a little pre-sale foreplay.
Needless to say, Yuri was miffed at me for ruining his timetable. To make that point, he pushed me up against the wall, kicked my legs apart, and frisked me roughly. Really, it was more of a test-the-merchandise fondle. Anticipating that maneuver, I’d left my trusty 9mm at home. That’s okay. In my hooker get-up there was no place to hide it anyway, which is why these kinds of close range hits are always tricky. But then again, that’s why I get paid the big bucks. For this job, my weapon of choice was a tiny, serrated dagger that is appropriately called the “street assassin.” However, I was willing to bet that Yuri and I wouldn’t be anywhere near asphalt when I struck, but between some very expensive 700-count Egyptian cotton sheets.
What a waste. I wonder if the hotel knows that little trick about using meat tenderizer on bloodstains . . .
Not that I planned on sticking around to find out.
I shrugged off his grope with a giggle. “Yeah, the service warned me how much youlove a little foreplay, so I brought these along.” Still spread-eagled, I unhooked pair of handcuffs from the metal belt slung low over my skirt, and jangled them tantalizingly in front of him, in case he needed additional proof that I was his fantasy fuck. That shut him up. It also kept him from noticing my dagger, which hangs as innocuously as any of the buckles on my belt: a great way to fool metal detectors, which, believe it or not, are sometimes used by the bad guys, too.
Then to make sure I had his undivided attention, I rubbed the all too obvious bulge in his jeans with one hand and nodded approvingly, while relieving him of his Starbucks cup with the other. As I took a swig from it, one of his two goons snickered out loud. Yuri’s eyes blazed at my impudence. He lifted his hand to slap me, but was stopped by a sharp knock on the door.
The skinheads. Perfect timing. “Jeez, nobody said it was going to be a party! But hey, I’m open to anything – as long as you cleared it with the service.” I handed the cup back to him, sauntered over to the couch and flopped down as if I owned the place. While Yuri’s goons frisked the two Neo-Nazis, I crossed my legs seductively and leaned over so that my cleavage runneth over in plain view for all to enjoy. No doubt about it, the skinheads were appreciative. The fatter, uglier one even had the balls to ask me if my boobs were real.
“Wanna come over here and find out?” I crooked a finger at Ugly. As he slid me onto his lap, I copped my own feel: under the collar of his military fatigue jacket, where I planted a tiny GPS bug.
Seeing me all over Ugly made Yuri even hotter to be done with the business portion of his trip. He yanked me off his guest and shoved me in the direction of the bedroom. “No party. You wait in there,” he growled.
I pulled him in close for a deep kiss. Then, as a reminder of all the fun and games I had in store for us, I handed him the key to the handcuffs. That was all the incentive he needed to get rid of the skinheads tout sweet. He closed the door fast, which was fine with me. The tranquilizer I’d slipped into his macchiato before giving it back to him – a time-release version of Rohypnol – was to kick in sometime within fifteen minutes. I was estimating that he’d need about ten to get rid of the boys, which would leave me five to stall before he fell on his face, making it easy to slit his throat before hightailing it out of there.
The minute he shut the door, I set up for the kill. First I snapped on a pair of gloves – black lace from fingertips to the elbows. Sexy, for sure (in fact, they match my G-string) but because they are lined in a micro-thin flesh-toned latex, I won’t be leaving any telltale prints. As I expected, the sliding door to the terrace outside the bungalow was locked and the curtains were pulled, which allowed for complete privacy from the outside. After disabling the alarm with the tiny decoder I keep on my key ring, I went ahead and unlocked the sliding door so that when the time was right I could make a quick getaway.
I wasn’t worried about the handcuffs, since they were the kind used by magicians and I’d only need a strategic jerk of the wrist to break free. Even if the Roofie didn’t kick in before Yuri snapped them onto my wrists, I’d be able to get out of them in only a few seconds.
And finally, I slipped the knife under the mattress, near the right side of the headboard. I’d retrieve it when the time was right.
As minute eight slipped by, I heard a door close on the other side and guessed rightly that Yuri had said bye-bye to his new skinhead pals. During Minute Nine, Yuri instructed his homeboys not to disturb us no matter how much moaning I was doing – and he planned for me to be doing a lot of it.
Then, as predicted, Yuri opened the door ten minutes after he’d left me. Locking it behind him, he smilingly approvingly at my state of total undress: my only attire was my G-string, stilettos, and the lace gloves.
I was somewhat surprised that he wasn’t at least yawning by now. Apparently he has the constitution of a rhino. I was hoping that I wouldn’t find out if he had the staying power of one as well. It was then that I noticed that the Starbucks cup was still in his hand….
Damn! Hadn’t he finished that thing yet? Okay, no big deal. So I’d have to stall for another minute or two…
To put that thought out of my mind, I envisioned the kill instead: watching his eyes grow drowsy from the drug – or if necessary, closed in the ecstatic throes of passion; yanking my hands free, then reaching under the mattress for the knife….
Yuri wrongly assumed that my sigh was in anticipation of what he pulled from his leather jacket’s pocket: my handcuffs. “Okay, bitch. On the bed.”
Obediently I dropped onto it and grasped the middle finials on the vine-patterned headboard. As he slapped on the cuffs, he stifled a yawn. (Yes! Yes! Finally!) To keep alert, he took a long sip of his macchiato. Then, as if remembering something, Yuri pulled something out of an inner pocket of his jacket…
Ah, yes: the perfect pre-sex appetizer: Viagra.
Humph. I wondered what effect that might have on the Roofie . . .
And now that Yuri’s striptease is over, it seems I have my answer: not only does the Rohypnol appear to have been neutralized by his little blue devil, it seems to have accelerated his hard-on –
And from the look of things, acted as a growth hormone to boot.
Not good. At least, not while I’m in my current position – by that I mean naked, chained to his bed, and about to be mounted like a prize rodeo steer.
Not that Yuri seems in any hurry. Nonchalantly he ambles over to the built-in armoire and takes a two-foot-long velvet box from the top drawer, which he lays down beside me with a smirk. Then, opening it slowly, he pulls out –
– A riding crop.
Ouch. Seems that the cowboy metaphor is becoming more appropriate by the moment.
Damn it! Acme had implied that Yuri was into bondage, not sadism. There had better be a bonus in this for me . . .
He runs the whip up my left leg until it catches on the thin silky thread that is my G-string. With one quick twitch of his wrist, it snaps right off.
Dammit, that hurt!
Very slowly he slaps precise little welts onto my belly as he works the whip over to my other thigh, but pauses when it reaches what is left of the G-string, so that I might agonize over the pain yet to come. My wince brings a sick smile to his face. Now I’m feeling a bit queasy, even if he isn’t.
Stall! Say anything . . . Do anything . . .
“What, you want the dessert before the main course?’ I taunt him. “Naughty boy…”
That only provokes him into slapping me all the harder. What is left of the G-string shreds into thin air. With a guffaw, he takes its little lace patch and holds it up like a trophy before flinging it across the room. It lands near the door with a skip.
Suddenly I notice that his eyes are crossing. He sits down on the bed – falls down, really –
– Onto me. All 174 pounds of him.
And I don’t think he’s breathing. So, the combination of Rohypnol and Viagra was a toxic Trail Mix after all.
More like fatal. Still, a hit is a hit is a hit…
I jerk at the trick cuffs, but they won’t open. With Yuri on top of me, I’m angled all wrong to break their hold. With my chest, I shove him as hard as I can, but for some strange reason, he’s not budging. Then I realize why:
The only thing left standing is his erection, and it has him staked between my legs.
Great. Just great.
As I struggle under his limp-but-where-it-counts-most carcass, I hear muffled noises from the other side of the door. It sounds like a skirmish.
The two faint thumps I hear next tell me that something is terribly wrong.
Someone is trying to break down the door. It gives way, and I see Ugly the Skinhead standing there. As Ugly whips out a 9mm, I realize that the thumps were Yuri’s posse being taken out . . .
And now it is our turn.
Even from the doorway, Ugly’s aim is dead on. As the bullet enters the back of Yuri’s skull, the Russian jerks forward and we butt heads. As much as that hurts, it has also saves my life: as my head snaps back, the bullet that just left his frontal lobe whizzes by mine by mere millimeters. Still, that doesn’t stop a geyser of Yuri’s blood and gray matter from spurting onto my face. I freeze in horror.
“Fuckin’ Commie. And fuckin’ Commie fucker.”
Between my temporary paralysis and my Yuri-spattered countenance, Ugly assumes that I’m dead, too, and turns to leave –
He lumbers over to where it’s fallen and squats down to pick it up. After sniffing it, he stuffs it into his pocket. Obviously he feels that is a fitting trophy for his kill – or, in his mind, two kills.
He stalks out, slamming the door behind him.
Shit, I have to get out of here. Now.
But that’s almost impossible to do, what with Yuri still on top.
Granted, the Marmont is used to strange noises from behind its many closed doors. Still, it’s been a while since a dead body was found in one of its suites, let alone three. Of course, I imagine the worst:
That someone heard something, or maybe even saw Ugly the Skinhead leaving Yuri’s bungalow, and has called the hotel’s staff, which will soon come to investigate;
That, after tapping on the door and getting no response, they will burst in, see Yuri’s dead bodyguards and find Yuri on top of me, then call the police;
That, to my children’s horror, I get arrested for prostitution;
That, to Acme’s dismay, I will be called as a witness at Yuri’s murder trial, which will force them to contract with another assassin to finish the job Ugly started on me.
Worse yet, I imagine my son Jeff’s face when he realizes that he’ll miss his chance to pitch in today’s County title game, which will move his baseball team, the Hilldale Wildcats, one step closer to being the Major League state champs –
And that once again it’s all my fault.
It’s that last vision that does the trick for me.
It has been documented that mothers involuntarily demonstrate incredible feats of strength when their children’s safety is threatened. I am living proof that this phenomenon also occurs when their kids’ championship games are at stake. Defying Yuri’s gravitational pull, I heave myself to a forty-five-degree angle, which finally gives me the leverage I need in order to jerk my wrists free from the cuffs. With my hands now free, I can shove Yuri to one side.
At least, what is left of him.
I stumble to the bathroom. Leaving on my gloves, I shove my face under the faucet and wash Yuri’s brains and skull off my face and out of my hair before staggering back out into the bedroom, where I retrieve my handcuffs and my dagger from under the mattress. Then I jump back into my hooker attire, which I had dropped onto the plush chair by the bed. As planned, I leave from the terrace door, grabbing Yuri’s cuppa joe with me as I go.
In my now ruined spiked heels, I totter up Monteel, the road that meanders high above the hotel, sprinkling what’s left in Yuri’s coffee onto a thirsty bougainvillea and burying the cup deep inside a garbage can of a neighbor who has left it curbside for pickup. Besides the fact that a mommy mobile like my Toyota Highlander Hybrid minivan would surely stand out in that sea of Jags, Rolls, and Lamborghinis in the Marmont’s lot, in my line of work I can’t allow the hotel’s valet the opportunity to ID me.
Just my luck: my van is sporting a ticket that is not even ten minutes old. I do that math: that means that the job took a half-hour longer than I anticipated. Ah, hell, I’m going to be late picking up the boys for the ball game. The Highlander would have to be the only car on the road (a fantasy in mid-day, mid-week Los Angeles), run every traffic light, and break every speed record known to man in order for me to get to the boys the game in time . . .
I do have another option: call my carpool partner, Penelope Bing, and ask her to cover for me –
Hell no. That would hurt even more than Yuri’s whip. She’s bailed me out twice in less than a month: the time I was late getting back after taking out some hothead set on assassinating the Pope while he was here in LA.; then there was that hit I had in Seattle, when I’d booked United on the return flight. (On that one, I should have known better and flown Southwest.)
If I have to hear Penelope’s smug barbs again, I’ll cry. “Really, Donna, what is it this time? Another tennis lesson? My God, you’d think, after all that time on the court, you’dfinally find your backhand. Maybe you’re using from the wrong pro. It’s Fernando, right? . . .”
The inference being that I’m lying. Again.
And for the wrong reason: that reason perhaps being that I’m two-timing my husband, Carl, with the local country club’s tennis pro. Fernando, with his bulging biceps and swarthy grin, leaves many of the club’s female members panting, both on the court and in the bedroom.
Considering the number of times I’ve disappeared in the middle of the day, the assumption has merit to Penelope and her gossip-mongering clique. As if I would! As if I even could be unfaithful to Carl . . .
To hell with her. I hit the road, tossing on a sweatshirt as I drive. At the longest turn-light on Sunset – the one at Beverly – I wrangle on my jeans under Mary’s miniskirt before yanking it off. The trucker to my left hoots his horn loudly to show his sincere appreciation.
Miracle of miracles, I pull up only four minutes late! Relief floods Jeff’s face. The Terrible Two – his buddies Morton Smith and Cheever Bing, Penelope’s little angel – have already had been giving him a rough time. My tardiness is infamous. But now it’s my turn to be smug.
Mary is standing there with them. Usually you would not catch her anywhere near her little brother and his friends, but Morton’s older brother, Scotty, is also hitching a ride to the game, and he’s a hottie, what with all that blond curly hair and those soulful eyes. To keep them peeled on her, Mary tosses her long flowing main whenever he glances in her direction. Watching her, my heart leaps into my throat. At twelve, she’s already a first-class flirt.
Just like her mother.
The kids clamor into the back of the van and we’re off. Mary, who, on any given day would have taken the passenger seat up front, chooses the two-seat row in the middle instead, with Scotty.
I maneuver around a Porsche going too slow for my taste, and in the process get honked by a bus. The driver is miffed because we’ve killed any chance he has of making the light. “Cool driving, Mrs. Stone,” Scotty’s approval wins me a temporary reprieve.
Then he smiles shyly at Mary. “So, you and your dad will be at the Parent-Student dance this Friday, right?” This eighth grade rite of passage is one of the highlights of the school year. Two years from now, it will be my turn to go with Jeff. Although it’s Mary’s turn, without Carl there to take her, she will miss out.
But Jeff and Mary’s father is never there for them, no matter what the occasion.
“No way! I wouldn’t be caught dead there! It’s for dorks! ” And certainly not for a girl who hasn’t seen her father in years.
But Scotty doesn’t know this. Seeing his crestfallen face, Mary falls silent. She is angry at herself.
No really, at Carl.
I run the last light between the baseball field and us. Yes! Yes! We’re only nine minutes late! I’ve won Jeff’s approval. I know this because he stops to give me a quick kiss on the cheek. Then he asks: “So Mom, you brought my athletic cup, like I asked, right?”
“What? But I – I don’t remember–” I rummage through the athletic bag that was packed this morning: uniform, hat, glove, cleats . . . but no athletic cup.
“I – I called and asked you to get it from my underwear drawer! Like, four times!” The caller ID on my cell confirms this.
League rules: no one plays without a cup. Not even if you’re the team’s star pitcher.Because of me, Jeff will be benched for this very important game which will decide the champions of the Orange County Major League division title.
And there is no way I can make it to the house and back in time. We both know that.
Cheever pumps his fist in the air. He is the team’s back-up pitcher.
A tear rolls down Jeff cheek as he staggers to the back of the van.
“Jeff, I’m so sorry—” I yell after him. But I know he can’t stand to hear my lame excuse.
Why should he? He’s heard them all before.
“Hey, Mom, what’s my denim skirt doing back here?” Mary holds it up to me, accusingly, before shrieking “Ewwwyuck!” I glance over and notice that it is sprayed with some sort of white goo. One of the larger chunks is covered in hair follicles.
But that doesn’t seem to bother the Terrible Two. Otherwise they wouldn’t be mimicking Mary’s high-pitched squeal as they toss her skirt back and forth like a hot potato.
Once again, I’m back in the doghouse with my kids.
At least, until I outrun a Ferrari or something.
Copyright © 2011 by Josie Brown. Published in May 2011 by Signal Press. All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Author.
THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK
Murder. Suspense. Sex. And some handy household tips.
Signal Press – Digital eBook
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This side of the pond may know Daniel Craig as 007, but our British cousins have had the good fortune of seeing him in a variety of great roles that show a softer/more vulnerable/much more ironic side of the actor.
I'd read some fairly great reviews of his 2004 movie Layer Cake, so I decided to check it out. It did not disappoint. Craig plays a bean-counting cocaine middleman who wants to retire from the dirty biz, but gets suckered into doing one last "favor" for the drug kingpin running him.
Lots of plot twists: not everyone is whom they portend to be. Great cinematography, too, and a superlative sound track. The bad guys are complex characters. If it reminds one of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, that's because the movies share the same producers.
'Flix it. You won't be disappointed. Daniel Craig is more than eye candy. He's just desserts, too.
THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK
Murder. Suspense. Sex.
And some handy household tips.
Signal Press – Digital eBook
ORDER NOW, from
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