Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Excerpt from The Secret Diary of Alice in Wonderland, Age 42 and Three-Quarters

It was almost seven when I made my way back to the parking garage holding my keys splayed between the fingers of my right hand in case I needed a weapon. My bag of research weighed heavy on my left shoulder. Just as I climbed into my Jeep, the cell phone rang. It wasn't a number I recognized. I hit the door lock and opened the phone.
“Alice? You know who this is.”
It was Sunglasses.
“I’m gonna give you directions to my house.” 
“Why?”  Why voluntarily go to a thug’s house?
“Cause I owe you.”
“You don’t.” My heart went thump.
“You helped me big time. Now I’m gonna help you. You need money for a lawyer.”
“It’s too late. I’m due in court the day after tomorrow.”
“A new lawyer can ask for a delay so he can get up to speed. Be at my house in an hour and I’ll set you up.” Sunglasses gave me the address and directions. Alice Harte, thugette.
Let me count the ways this could go bad – Sunglasses wants to eliminate me as a witness before he murders Leslie, the police are watching Sunglasses and I’ll get caught up in his arrest, I could be an accessory to Leslie’s murder, or maybe it wasn’t Sunglasses on the phone at all… maybe it was Leslie, disguising his voice. I pinched my right thigh to distract me; my leg was trembling so hard it bounced off the gas pedal. Chills ran through me like a bad flu.
Think positive. Deep breath. I followed his directions as best I could. The house was waterfront in one of those old Miami neighborhoods that are more like mazes where you follow the openings until you find yourself at a dead end. The old brick streets meandered, never straight, forking around two hundred year old banyan trees and round crumbling walls, each overgrown driveway hiding what was at its end.
He had instructed me to look for a post with a sea turtle on it, fake I hoped. There it was, a stone figure of the Mock Turtle looking just like he did in Alice in Wonderland. He was posted at the entrance to a drive heavy with tropical trees forming an eerie canopy. If I was setting me up, it would be in a place just like this. 
At the next split in the road, I parked the Jeep and walked back to the turtle sign post. I was not about to drive right up to whatever lay just out of my sight. Everything’s going to be okay. Deep breath. You need the money for a lawyer.
I walked quietly up the drive, stopping every few steps to listen. I didn’t hear axes being sharpened. No gun fire. It was all good.
The sound of feet walking on gravel. A car door opened and slammed. An engine started. I threw myself on the ground just off the driveway. I looked up in time to see Leslie’s Lamborghini. The car came within inches of my head as it sped away.
Decision time. Run like hell or march into it.
Sunglasses’ fortress was an old Spanish-style estate made of stone and iron. The grounds were lit with an orange glow like a smoggy day in L.A. I pressed the bell and waited. No response. This big house should have some kind of butler or maid or machine-gun-toting giant. I pounded on the rustic wooden door. No answer. 
Drawn to sounds of opera music from a glass-enclosed wing to the right of the house, I made my way to French doors. I stood on my toes ready for flight and pressed my nose to the glass, careful not to leave any fingerprints or pick up any germs from the door handle. The room was a study in gilt and gaudy. It looked like it had been furnished by Godfather-To-Go by way of the British Museum.
 I knocked on the glass. No response. The door swung open and I stepped in to the last few notes of Madame Butterfly. “Mr. Hare?” 
Sunglasses sat with his back to me in a high-topped leather chair. He wore a red shirt and what looked like black slacks. “Mr. Hare?”
  I got that shaky feeling you get when something isn’t right. It wasn’t like my arms were growing or my legs were shrinking. It was more like the taste of metal in my mouth.
Stepping to his left side, I touched the gangster’s shoulder. It was sticky. I looked at my hand. Blood. And germs. God knows what this man has. And then reality kicked in and for one horrifying moment his head lulled on his neck, rolled onto his right arm, and hit the floor with a crunch-splat. My mind spun. I was pretty sure he was dead; and Leslie did it. Sunglasses must have told him he had the tape recording of his confession of Jug Hare’s murder. That meant Leslie was wise to Maris and probably me.
Eeewww… blood on my hand. I looked around for wipes. There was a small door across the room and to the right. A bathroom?  But to get there I had to walk around dropping more of my DNA all over the floor. I focused on the little door and ignored the head on the floor behind the desk. If I touched the knob I’d leave finger prints. I could open it with my mouth… ick. What was I thinking?
I could grab the knob through my sweater, but I’d have to throw it away. My black turtle neck was one of my favorites. I worked my hand under the fabric and created a mitten. The knob stuck. I pulled more of my sweater into the twist and it released. It was a bathroom. I elbowed the light switch and grabbed a handful of tissues from a red and gold box on the counter. Using the paper I turned on the faucet.
Sunglasses’ blood was on my hands, both lit and fig. It flowed in pink and crimson streams into the sink and down the drain. I kept the water running and threw the tissue in the toilet; I grabbed a second paper to flush the handle. My stomach was about to contribute to the drain – I talked myself out of it. 
I glanced over my shoulder at the crime scene, trying to ignore the fact that there was a large bloody head on the floor next to the desk. What had I touched? The French door handles? Sunglasses shoulder? I was not about to re-touch the body. If my finger prints were there, they would stay there. I clicked off the light switch. The sound of a car door slamming sent me to the floor. I peeked around the bathroom door jamb.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Secret Santa

We had just begun dating. G and I were enjoying our first Christmas together.  Why is everything so much more vivid when a relationship is new? It was Florida and the sun was shining but it might as well have been a Norman Rockwell setting complete with snow and jingle bells.
I was Christmas shopping for my daughter. As a single mom with no child support, I was on a tight budget. G tagged along as I walked the department store aisles. With his GPS system on full alert, we found ourselves in the leather goods/luggage/expensive games section. Backgammon was G’s second greatest passion.  He gently caressed a $300 leather cased backgammon set.  I was happy he was happy holding it, because it was NOT going to happen. He looked at me with big brown puppy dog eyes. I admired a lesser game set. $125 and nothing to sneeze at. I patted it, committing it to memory.
The following week we placed all the gifts under the tree. The $125 backgammon set was wrapped, bowed, and tagged for G.  I didn’t think he would be disappointed. He knew I struggled to keep my daughter in the style to which she had come to expect.  I had weighed the possibility of the $300 set but couldn’t justify it. It was only a game. It was a new relationship. I would have had to charge it. No. I ruled it out as I stood at the counter two days after he had fondly fondled it.
My daughter opened her Santa gifts, shrieking with delight. I opened the noodle necklace she had made for me. I praised the balsa wood picture frame decorated with sea shells. I thanked G  for the silky nightwear, and tucked it discreetly back into the box.
And then G opened the backgammon box. I had wrapped it with care, double knotting the bows and gluing stars and snowmen on the corners.  I wish at that point in time someone had taken a picture of my face. I would have loved to have seen what I looked like.  G opened the package. There sat the $300 backgammon set. I thought for a moment that I had had a stroke. Did I space out at the register and buy the more expensive set?  G thanked me with a big hug and kiss. I couldn’t read him. Did he switch the games or had I lost my mind?
Two months later he confessed to being his own Secret Santa. It was a sign of things to come.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Nice New Review on Book'd Out

Please take a peek at the lovely review of The Secret Diary of Alice in Wonderland, Age 42 and Three-Quarters. It was just posted on Book'd Out. We're holding a Secret Santa contest - sign up now and win a copy of Alice's Secret Diary for yourself plus 3 copies for friends.

Tomorrow - Dec.18th  - you'll be able to read my article on how fairy tales affect our real lives.
What is your favorite fairy tale?  Think about it and then read Book'd Out tomorrow.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Author Bumping - Cleveland Amory

Let’s see… at this point I’ve shared my Stephen King, James Michener, and Robert B. Parker Author Bumpings.  One of the quirkiest bumpings I ever had has to be that of Cleveland Amory and …
I’ll first explain who Cleveland was – for those too young to remember him. He was a social commentator on the Today Show, the youngest ever editor at the Saturday Evening Post, chief critic for TV Guide, wrote a weekly column for the Saturday Review and credited himself with originating the word “curmudgeon.”  He was senior contributing editor of Parade Magazine, and he wrote three books about his cat, Polar Bear including The Cat Who Came for Christmas.
In 1967, he founded The Fund for Animals, an organization dedicated to the protection and care of wildlife.  The Fund established Black Beauty Ranch, a 1,620 –acre refuge which is home to many abused and abandoned animals from chimpanzees to burros to elephants.  When he passed away at the age of 81, he was buried next to his beloved Polar Bear, at Black Beauty Ranch in Texas.
His most famous works are The Proper Bostonians, The Last Resorts, Who Killed Society? Man Kind? Our Incredible War on Wildlife.  He had been the president of the Harvard Crimson and  was a product of Boston high society. He hung with the Kennedys, Katherine Hepburn, and the like. His tales of misadventure kept me in stitches.
Our initial bumping occurred in an elevator during a writer’s conference in St. Petersburg, Florida. Cleveland began chatting me up, and the next thing I knew I had invited him to a home-cooked meal at my house on the bay just north of St. Pete. I shared a lovely house with my young daughter. She did not know what to make of this big bear of a man (Cleveland was 6’ 4” and portly.) He strutted back and forth as I prepared beef stroganoff.  He was reading the writers’ guidelines I had just received from a nameless publisher. I had briefly entertained the thought of writing romances.
“What?” he boomed. “The heroine must be a virgin? The hero cannot be older than 35?” My daughter cringed as he continued his funny tirade. “Who forces a writer to write this drivel?” He asked. Cleveland had the most unruly hair. It has been described as having been combed by an egg beater. That’s an under-description.  As he stomped about, he looked like a demented lion. The evening was a laugh-fest.
We soon adopted Cleveland as our honorary grandfather. A few nights later, I found myself responding to an urgent call from his room at a local hotel. “I need a ride to the TV station in Tampa, right now! They want my opinion on this baboon heart transplant scandal!”  I wondered – once again – at the surreal turns my life could take as I sat off-camera and watched Cleveland pontificate at the immortality of sacrificing a baboon for the sake of an experiment. Thanks to those early pioneers, so many lives have been saved, but at the time, I bit my lip and returned him - all blustery - to his hotel.
Cleveland invited my daughter and me to Manhattan for a visit. I booked us into the Parklane Hotel on Central Park South… near his apartment.  Our newly adopted grandfather greeted us at the door of his place, cautioning that Polar Bear didn’t like strangers and was a one-man cat. My daughter scooted down on the floor and Polar Bear – a beautiful pure white cat - climbed into her lap and didn’t leave the entire morning.  Polar Bear’s daddy had constructed the most interesting cage that enclosed his balcony and allowed “Bear” to sit out over Central Park South and safely watch the crowds below.
Later that day, we went to watch Cleveland play chess against ten different opponents, simultaneously. I love playing chess, but could never imagine playing against more than one person at a time. It boggled my mind. That evening Cleveland wanted to take us to a special restaurant… one of his favorites.  He would pick us up at our hotel.
Picture this… he drove an old Checker cab as his personal car. It was one of those huge old taxis. He sat high in the driver’s seat looking like the cab was built around him.  His wild hair screwed up even more than usual from brushing the roof of the cab.  It was late by the time we had dinner, and everyone he ever knew stopped by our table for introductions and quips. The main streets in Manhattan were pretty quiet. I sat in the middle, next to Cleveland and my daughter leaned against me.  We were on Madison Avenue when I noticed a woman in short shorts leaning into a Cadillac talking to the driver.  
I whispered to our host, “Is that a –”
 “A hooker,” he said, matter-of-factly.
“I’ve never seen one before,” I whispered.
Just then the lady of the night got into the Cadillac.
“Let’s follow them!” Cleveland said.
“Yikes… no!”
But it was too late. The big bear of a man was tailing the Cadillac in a very obvious way.
“Please don’t” I whispered. “My daughter… this could be dangerous.”
The Cadillac made an illegal u-turn. Cleveland swung the big old cab in the same “u”.
“This isn’t funny,” I mumbled.
The Caddy slipped down a dead end alley. We were hot on his tail. I put my arm around my daughter and pleaded with our host to stop being silly. Just then the Caddy kicked into reverse and came at us as if to smash into us.
“Oh, Oh!” Cleveland said as he slammed the cab into reverse. He backed out of the alley at lightning speed, spun around and headed back to the Parklane.  As the doorman came to our assistance, Cleveland said to me… “If you ever tell anyone Cleveland Amory was following a hooker for fun… ”
I never answered. I never promised. So now you have the story of Cleveland Amory and the great hooker chase.

More Author Bumpings to follow.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Adventures of a Love Investigator - On Daily Cheap Reads Dec.6th

The Adventures of a Love Investigator, 527 Naked Men & One Woman will be featured on Daily Cheap Reads http://dailycheapreads.com/ at 2:00 pm - Monday Dec. 6th.

Daily Cheap Reads is an excellent source of great cheap reads at the Kindle Store. Books are $5 or less.
Cheap Reads posts seven times a day!

The Adventures of a Love Investigator - is the recounting of my odyssey into the hearts and minds of 527 men from all walks of life - ages 18 to 80. It's a good thing I have an excellent sense of humor!
And it's only 99 cents.