Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sample Sunday - Thugs Bunny

My heartfelt thanks to Lewis Carroll for the quotes I pulled out of the Rabbit Hole.

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

Chapter One

Curious how our lives can take on the shadings of a fairy tale, the line between reality and fantasy becoming fuzzy.
New Year’s Eve morning, fourteen hours to a fresh start. I parked my Jeep at the far end of the mall lot and speed walked toward Macy's for a quick stop at the Lancôme counter to get my favorite wrinkle-poofer. The gentle Miami winter sun kissed my face.
A striped cat crossed in front of me, stopped and grinned. A full set of human teeth. I closed my eyes and shook my head. When I opened them, he was gone.
I heard the low idle of a car driving slowly behind me and looked over my shoulder. A dark limo with a tinted windshield was following me. Instinct kicked in and I broke into a trot. The limo moved forward. I had reason for concern. Two women had been murdered in separate incidents in that very parking lot the past year.
Halfway to Macy’s and still not sure if I was being followed; I zipped through the line of cars, stepped over the grass median, into the next lane, and ran.
The limo looped around. I fumbled in the side pocket of my bag and freed my cell phone, punching in 9 and 1. The phone slipped from my sweaty hand, hit my shoe and slid under an SUV. Screw it. Leaping over the bushy islands that stood between me and safety, I fell flat on my face, hitting my cheek against the turf. I pulled a clump of my red-blond hair away from my eyes.
“Ms. Harte.”
I looked up at a man’s face in the window of the limo. He had a droopy, walrus-like mustache.
“Ms. Harte, we'd like to talk to you.”
“Call my office.” I threw him a pissy look as I scrambled to stand.
“It's about Leslie Archer.”
“Who?” I played dumb.
Before I could run again, two men stepped out of the car and grabbed me. Twins, Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee dressed in dark clothes; both had noses that twisted to the right beneath scarred brows. They lifted me into the car by my elbows.
So this is how it ends. I flashed on the headlines – Alice Harte, Miami Real Estate Broker, 42 and Three-Quarters, Found Murdered at Biscayne Mall.
A stocky guy sat shotgun. He had slicked back hair, a hard-set jaw, bull-neck and sunglasses perched on large ears. One Tweedle took the driver’s seat and the other sat directly across from me in the rear-facing back seat. Next to me was the man with the walrus mustache, a portly guy with prominent front teeth, a derby and pince-nez glasses. He said, “Ms. Harte, I’m an attorney. My name is Walter Lewis. I represent Marc Hare.”
My heart rolled over. I knew the Hare name.
“We’re going after your employer, Leslie Archer, for fraud and racketeering, civil RICO. You’ll be testifying against him.”
 “Look, whoever you are, I know nothing about Leslie Archer’s business. I just work for him. I've been trying to quit. He won't let me go. I'm no good to you.”
“Exactly why you are good to us – you're part of his inner circle. We want everything you can dig up on him. You will take the stand against Archer.” He poked his fat finger in my face.
I reached up and smacked his hand, hard. The backseat Tweedle grabbed my wrist and bent it. I yelped in pain.
The thick-necked man in the front passenger seat looked at me through his sunglasses. “Enough bullshit. You know the name Jug Hare?”
Jug Hare had been a small time contractor with a wife and five kids. He was found beheaded days after he filed suit against Leslie Archer.
“Jug was my baby brother. I’m Marc Hare. I’m sure you’re afraid of Archer, but he’s the least of your worries.”
Leslie Archer scared me in many ways. But who was Sunglasses? Why should I be afraid of him? He talked lawsuit, but he looked and acted like a thug. I’d met his kind before. I narrowed my eyes and said, I’m not going into court again, not for you, not for anyone.
I felt like I had stepped into a gangster film. All I wanted was face cream, now I'm some sort of witness against Leslie for a guy who acts like he might be even more dangerous.
My gut churned. “Leslie has won every lawsuit thrown at him. What happens when you run out of money and can’t keep your suit? Where does that leave me? He’ll kill me.”
Sunglasses answered not trying to conceal his venom, “I’m taking the bastard down, one way or the other. And if you had a hand in my brother's death, you’re going with him.”
My gut churned harder. For months I'd feared being accused of participating in Leslie's slimy and possibly illegal shenanigans. I looked at Marc Hare. Leslie was dead meat and I might be the side dish.
“You’re testifying,” Sunglasses said in a bone-chilling hiss.
I wanted out of that car. “When is this going to happen? I need to get away from him before it does.”
“You don't get it,” Walrus Mustache said. “You're going to continue working for Archer and keep your eyes open until your deposition.”
My stomach was like a washer on spin cycle. “Deposition?”
“It’s a proceeding where my partner and I and Archer’s attorneys question you about your testimony.
I wanted to barf on his shoes. Suddenly wrinkle-poofer was the least important thing on my list of things to do.
Sunglasses said, “You won't be hearing from us but we’ll be hearing from you. And find out everything you can about a company called Red Queen, Ltd.”
A thorn lodged in my throat. “You want me to spy for you?”
Sunglasses’ mouth curled up in the corners, but it was far from a smile. “It would be to your advantage to play ball with us. If you don't...” he slid his finger across his throat. “Get out.”
I stepped from the black car onto the surface of a marshmallow. My legs buckled. I leaned on the nearest vehicle and set off its alarm.
 “You’ll need this.” One of the Tweedles handed me my cell phone. I took it with shaky hands.

Going to the office was out of the question. No one would miss me on New Year’s Eve day. I drove back to my house in Westminster Lakes, a gated community just outside Miami.
My garage door came down with a reassuring thud. It would be easier to think clearly within my own walls. And I had a lot to think about - Sunglasses, Leslie… and what the hell was RICO?
I walked into the kitchen, threw my bag on the counter and grabbed a bottled water from the fridge. My cat Gem and I share a large contemporary Florida house on a tiny pristine lake. It’s an island of security in a crazy world.
What did I know about RICO? In the back of my mind sat the slippery eel of a thought I had heard that word attached to Leslie before today. I work for Leslie Archer, the worst human being on the face of the earth. He develops upscale resorts; I brokered the luxury apartment buildings that sit on the land he owns, mostly to pension funds and investment groups. In his fifty-three years, Leslie has managed to insinuate himself into the top slot on some impressive enemy lists.
At my computer, I typed RICO in the search bar and like a slot machine, the tumblers spun. Up came a definition that fit Leslie like his spray-on tan: Racketeering. If Hare won under civil RICO, he would be able to get all Leslie's money, homes, and jets. Leslie was all about possessions. This was going to get ugly.
I was mouse-trapped. Leslie wouldn't let me out of my employment agreement with Archer Resorts. And now I was supposed to be an undercover snoop for some thug. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sample Sunday - Alice's Day in Court

~ Thursday May 13

Alice had never been in a court of justice before, but she had read about them in books,  and she was quite pleased to find that she knew the name of nearly everything there. That’s the judge,” she said to herself...

7:00 a.m.  “The condemned ate a big breakfast,” I told myself while I prepared a mushroom omelet. It tasted of England and made me think of Nigel and the fun times. A tear found its way into my left eye.
I washed down the last of the egg with strong coffee. “Here I come, Leslie.” I was wearing my black suit with pencil straight skirt, the collar of my gold satin blouse just showing at the neckline. My hair was pulled back in a serious black barrette and I kept my makeup to a minimum. I looked very lawyerly. I kissed a sleeping Lily and whispered “later” to Dana. I left to face Leslie and his goons knowing what had happened to Sunglasses could be my fate as well.

8:30 a.m.  A power surge went through me when I entered the courtroom. Maybe it was the Xanax kicking in or was it the mushrooms in the omelet? I looked over my right shoulder at Leslie’s lawyers; they were edgy waiting for their boss to arrive.
The courtroom was larger than I expected. It was all polished wood and money-green carpet – a theater of theatrics. My table was on the left side of the room. Leslie’s gang had the table on the right.
Ron looked hunky as he carried my set of exhibit books and laid them down on our table. There were four evidence books from opposing counsel. Each book weighed at least fifteen pounds and was full of stuff and nonsense designed to overwhelm me with useless paper work. I was thankful for his moral support and grateful for his physical strength. I could never have carried the books from my car into the courtroom in one trip.
I smiled at Ron using the eye contact for an excuse to sneak another look at Leslie’s team. Opposing counsel's table was every bit as large as ours and crowded with disheveled lawyers. Yuck. Surely Leslie could have done better. His lead gun, Dallas Little, was the only one of the pack who dressed with any style.
George Glick was hired by Leslie to represent Algy Green. Glick weighed in at over three hundred pounds. His coat failed to button by at least a foot, and it was too short to cover his rump. Whenever he bent over, which was frequently, his trousers wedged into his butt cheeks.
“Glick is clueless. They call him Bubba,” Ron whispered to me.
Bubba? Marisol-of-the-gold-teeth dated a married lawyer called Bubba.

8:55 a.m.  Leslie arrived, wearing a suit that must have cost ten-thousand dollars. He still looked awful. The jacket hung on his bony frame. Crime or Metamucil, something was draining him. He walked over to me. “I hear you’re without a lawyer,” he smirked.
I forced a confident smile. “I know what you did.”
Leslie blanched and turned away.

“What are they writing?” said Alice.
“Why they’re putting down their own names,
in case they forget them before the trial is over.”

9:00 a.m.  A bell rang and Leslie moved to his seat. The bailiff called the Court to order and the judge entered. We all stood.
The judge was female, about fifty-five, with a stubby body. She wore a long white wig like the judge in Alice in Wonderland. Bum luck pulling a lady-judge. I’ve learned that women are usually less compassionate with other women. She wasn’t going to be sympathetic to my flights of fancy. The worst part was she was probably in Leslie’s pocket.
As I slipped into position at our table my straight skirt rose up my legs. I tugged at the hem catching my bracelet on my pantyhose at mid-thigh. I struggled to free the gold links from the tougher than steel fibers of my run-resistant hose. My every movement succeeded in tangling me with myself. My right wrist felt permanently attached to my right thigh eight inches short of being obscene. 
As the true horror of my situation sank into my brain, I watched the lawyers take turns going up to the podium to announce their names and whom they represented. Dallas Little was attorney for Leslie Archer. Glick waddled up to the stand, “George Blackstone Glick for the plaintiff, Algernon Green” he said in a big, booming voice.
“And for the Defense?” the judge asked.
I was sweating. I couldn’t stay in my seat. You had to walk up and announce yourself. I edged out of the chair bent over, hobbling, wrist on thigh, and skirt way up where it shouldn’t have been. I tried to act as professional as I could under the circumstances. I flashed the judge a self-deprecating smile.
 “Alice Harte. I am here today in my own defense, Your Honor. I am pro se.” I couldn’t reach the microphone on the podium, so I spoke as loudly as I could considering my face was on my stomach.
The courtroom was silent; you could have heard a lawyer drop.
The judge looked flabbergasted. “Are you mocking me?” she snapped.
“Your Honor I have a problem. May I go behind the bench?”
“The correct terminology is ‘May I approach the bench?’”
I hunched forward, pigeon stepping toward her. There were twitters of laughter in the courtroom. The judge banged her gavel. “Silence. Ms. Harte if you are attempting to make a mockery of this court, I will not take it lightly. Now straighten up.”
The judge’s bench was a good three feet taller than my head. I waddled as close as I could and mouthed the words ‘Panty hose are stuck.’ She didn’t get it.
I figured if I could get behind the judicial platform I could take off my panty hose and roll them up with the bracelet and be done with it. The bailiff was one step behind me as I slipped around the bench and under the judge’s chair. I guessed he’d never seen anyone act that way in court before because he stood there dumbstruck and then broke into gales of laughter. The spectators joined him. The noise was so loud the judge’s gavel-banging couldn’t be heard. It was twenty minutes before they all got quiet and I felt secure enough to walk out from under the judge’s chair. I did so with all the dignity I could muster. I pretended I was Joan of Arc going to the stake.
            “We will recess while the court regains its composure. Ms. Harte, I trust this is not a sign of things to come. I will not tolerate tomfoolery.” 
            I sat down next to Ron. “Ricky…”
            “Welcome back, Lucy.”
            The judge trounced back into her chambers with Dallas Little at her heels.
            I turned to face a courtroom of laughing faces. The joke was on me. So far things were not going as smoothly as I had hoped.

10:00 a.m.  Thirty minutes later the judge popped back in the courtroom with no further mention of my pantyhose debacle.
The roll call of witnesses was announced. My witness list was small. Ron would be my character witness. Salli would testify to Leslie’s style of doing business. My heart froze when I heard Nigel’s name pronounced. I held no hope for his appearance. The last name on the list was my own. I would have a chance to speak my mind and clear my name.
Glick placed a revised copy of their witness list in front of me.
“Elizabeth Channing? What does she have to do with this?” Her name was two lines down from the top of the page.
“Object,” Ron whispered.
“She could actually work in my favor. ‘The Mad Woman of the Mail Slot’ might ruin their case.”
Algy Green’s name was called out. I scanned the room to see if he was there. I was looking for super-glued ears and talcum powdered hair.
Glick jumped up. “Your Honor, Mr. Green is obviously the witness coming from the furthest distance since he is coming from London. If I may ask, Your Honor, if it is possible to work around his limited schedule?”
“Within reason, Mr. Glick, can you give me a time frame to work with?”
“Yes, Your Honor, he will be here at two this afternoon. He has to fly back to England on a four o’clock flight, Your Honor.”
“He’ll be on the stand for less than an hour? That’s perfect. Ms. Harte, do you have any objection to allowing Mr. Green’s testimony this afternoon?”
I composed myself and walked to the podium. “Your Honor, I do object. I haven’t been allowed to depose Mr. Green. I have no idea what his testimony will be. That’s not fair.”
“It’s much too late for fairness, Ms. Harte.” The judge smiled. “Discovery is over.”
“But I never had a chance. Dallas Little and Mr. Glick ignored my requests. I've filed a Motion to Dismiss because they – opposing counsel – won’t cooperate with me.”
“I haven’t seen your Motion to Dismiss.”
“Well, I filed it with the court, Your Honor,” I extended my arms palms up in the air and shrugged.
“Well, I can’t find it... dear,” the judge said sarcastically then turned to Bubba. “Mr. Glick, are you confident you can complete your questioning in that time?”
“I see no problem, Your Honor.”
“And what about Elizabeth Channing?  At what time do you expect her?”
“I believe she will be arriving at the same time, Your Honor, but she is more flexible. She’ll be available all week.”
“Oh, great,” I whispered to Ron. “The stalking starts again.”
The judge smiled malevolently, overruled my objection and called for the first witness.
Little stood and cleared his throat. “We call Leslie Archer.”
Leslie walked to the witness stand looking like a salamander, his large pale eyes rotating in his skull. He was sworn in and we were underway.
“Explain your business with Alice Harte,” Little prompted.
 “Alice Harte entered into a contract with Archer Resorts to sell golf course villas. She tried to walk away from our agreement.”
 “And she is guilty of?”
 “Alice Harte conspired with Nigel Channing, her boyfriend, to commit a fraud. She passed herself off as the owner of my property, Lizard Links, and sold it to Algernon Green. She kept the deposit money in the amount of five hundred thousand dollars.”
Dallas Little grasped his throat theatrically. “Five hundred thousand dollars.”
 Leslie glared at me. “When this trial is over, I’m going to seek criminal charges against Ms. Harte.”
“Your witness, Ms. Harte,” Dallas Little said.
I rose and walked to the witness stand. Leslie tried to break me with his eyes. I stared back at him for all I was worth. I was a flower in the center of a hurricane. I felt strangely calm as if I’d taken one too many Xanax. I just didn’t give a fig anymore.

Followers wanted :)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sample Sunday ~ Sneak Peek ~

                WENDY AND THE LOST BOYS


      Chapter One

Sometimes the journey you set out on is not the one you return from.

            I lay on my stomach on the Belgian cream-colored sheets, the 220 foot yacht rocking in the waters somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle. I had finished a pitcher of screwdrivers before the sun came up and was feeling woozy.  As I dozed in my bikini, something jumped on my back. I tried to fight it off, rolled over and found myself looking at a giant tongue and two beady eyes. It was like being married again.

            All six foot of Charlie’s bony body retreated  when I brought my knee up catching him in his man-berries. He turned rolling off the bed and abruptly slamming his johnson into the teak nightstand. His penis was huge, dark, and engorged. I was right about the pills in his master suite. They were Viagra.

"I knew you were taking that junk. Don't waste your time," I said to the naked old man with the flabby butt as he held himself with a panicked look on his face. "And get out of my suite. That door was locked for a reason! How'd you get in here?"

“It’s been more than four hours, Wendy,” he whimpered. “I’m still hard and it hurts like hell. Help me!” His once chiseled Cherokee features hung like melted wax from his cheek bones.

“My promise to Marci to care for you did not include sex… in no way… under no circumstances. That’s what you get for messing with that stuff. Call your doctor. Send the helicopter for him. Just get out of my way!”

            I snatched the ten pound white hairball called Tinkerbelle from the foot of the bed and made my way to the sun deck. Charlie Treadaway’s Predator was a yacht on steroids. It took ten minutes to get from my suite to the upper floor. Charlie had spent over $200 million of Ponzied money on this floating erection.

           The tricked-out ship was designed to stay at sea for months. It had huge walk-in refrigerators, fuel capacity of 60,000 gallons, reverse osmosis for turning salt water into fresh, was bombproof, had a state-of-the-art cloaking device, and with its high-speed twin 24,000 horsepower diesel engines it was able to outrun anything on the high seas. Charlie recited the Predator’s talents daily, like a mantra that he hoped would keep away the feds, investors, and victims who wanted nothing more than to see him keel-hauled.  

Once on the sun deck, I reclined on a cushioned lounge chair. Tink licked my face, her Maltese dog fur tickling my nose. I wrapped her leash around my left hand and whispered into her ear. “You poor little puppy. Your mama’s dead.”  The tears came and I knew there was no holding them back.

Three weeks earlier I had arrived on the Predator too late to save my friend. Marci’s body was withered, her beautiful raven hair had fallen out, and her eyes were dark, dead orbs. Charlie Treadaway stood by her bedside looking like the helpless lump of shit he was. I screamed at him, “Take her to a hospital!” He left the room.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Author Bumping - Horror in Pink

Author Bumping  -  Horror in Pink
It was my first horror writers’ conference. I was jazzed at the thought of rubbing elbows with some of my heroes of horror, both wet and dry. Horror is my first love. I was going to meet with writers who possessed the gift for tormenting their fans with chilling tales. I read the roster of famous and infamous authors, dropped my registration form in the mail, and looked forward to the four day event.
The World Horror and Fantasy Conference was being held in Providence on Halloween weekend.  I became afflicted with the “what to wear” syndrome.  There would be a main conference, breakout meetings, and a final banquette. I was sure I didn’t possess one single outfit that would work. It was time to shop for something special.
Up until that date (and ever since) I have never owned a single pink garment.  I’m not a “pink.” I’m a black or turquoise, never pink. Somewhere between my house and the shops I began to channel someone else. She must have been some fru-fru lady with ringlets in her hair and rosy cheeks. She probably wore five-inch heels and perfume. Whoever she was, she looked like me and used my credit cards. She returned home with a pink dress. It wasn’t just a pink dress, it was sissy-pink with a big lace collar.  What was I thinking?  I still wonder.
A few days later I arrived at the World Horror Conference, went up to my room, and changed into the dress. I came back down to the Conference ballroom. Everyone was dressed in black. The Los Angeles  crowd looked like Tim Burton sketches from Nightmare Before Christmas. I stood out like a wedding cake at a cemetery. 
A fairly well-known horror writer started to play eye-hockey with me. He stared. I stared back. He was a guest on a panel discussing blood and gore. He sat high on the dais, but kept sneaking peeks at me. I was a lone “pastel” in a sea of darkness. When the discussion was over, he came to me salivating with curiosity.  We sat in the hotel bar and he peppered me with questions about my life. I thought perhaps my natural charm was showing.  It never occurred to me that I was such an oddity in pink I might show up as a victim in his next book.  I spent the rest of the day under the microscope of other authors of the macabre. One after another they queued up to spend time with me. I was suddenly surprisingly popular in pink.
The following night there came a knock on my hotel room door.  Two of the female horror groupies stood there.  One placed a crumpled tiara on my head. The other handed me a homemade trophy. They declared me the “Honorary B---ch” of the Conference. “If you weren’t so nice, we’d hate you. Every guy here is following you.  It's not fair. Don’t you dare wear pink to another conference!”
I didn’t.  I don’t. I promise.

Followers wanted. Apply under “Followers” - right side of page.
No... I'm not wearing pink.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Sample Sunday - The Secret Diary of Alice in Wonderland

10:30 p.m.  I parked on the far side of Walgreen’s in the shadows of a large shrub. I opened the envelope and dumped the tape in my lap. Using a tissue I rubbed the cassette free of any fingerprints. My arms did it again… that strange sensation of growing a mile long. I put my head on the steering wheel and tried to slow my racing heart. I could be an accessory to Leslie’s murder, but if I did nothing he might come after my family again. 
 A dark limo backed into a parking space up on the far side of the lot. The driver cut its lights. It had to be Sunglasses. No movement from the car. I waited ten minutes and then with my lights off and engine purring, I slid next to the car, nose in. It seemed like forever until a window rolled down. Sunglasses was not a pretty sight at night. Holding the tape cassette with the tissue I leaned out and tried to hand it to him. 
“Park your car.” He said.
My legs were shaking so hard I couldn’t keep them on the car pedals. I considered stepping on the gas to run away. I wished I carried pepper spray or bug spray or something. I looked in my backseat. All I had was an umbrella – not too effective against a gangster in a limo – maybe I could pull a Mary Poppins.
He’s not going to kill me. He needs me. I repeated my mantra while I parked my car, slipped the tape into pocket of my jeans and stepped into his car. Sunglasses was in the backseat with one of the Tweedles, the other was at the wheel.
“We followed you from your daughter’s. Nice baby.”
I put my hands on my thighs to hold my quivering legs to the seat. What had I done to my family?  I offered up the tissue-wrapped tape again. “Leslie’s confession. It’s what you wanted.”
“You and your daughter and the baby went to the FBI today. Was that – a social call? You think I’m stupid?”
“I filed a complaint against Leslie. He sent some clowns to threaten my daughter. I figured the only way to stop him was to turn him over to the FBI.”
Sunglasses’ lips twitched. I thought he was hatching a smile, but then he turned nasty. “Check her.” he nodded to the backseat Tweedle. The goon came at me like a blind date in a drive-in. With his full body weight pinning me down, his huge hands grabbed me lingering in places they shouldn’t have been. Instinctively I kneed him. He doubled over in pain and then swung his right arm back ready to deck me. His fist hit the car window with a crack. He fell off me, howling.
“Stop.” I said to Sunglasses. Rather than endure another round of heavy weight petting I unbuttoned my shirt. I slid it off and turned around. “I’m not wearing a wire. Take a minute to listen to this tape.” 
I still had enough of my fractured wits about me to wipe the tape on my shirt corners. I passed it to him using the palm of my hand, and then put my shirt on. Tweedle-in-the-front passed him a small cassette recorder with earphones. Sunglasses’ expression went from anger to satisfaction. He got what he needed.
I didn’t go home that night. I shut off my lights and cruised into Dana’s driveway. I stayed up all night watching her house. 

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Monday, January 3, 2011

Daily Cheap Reads - January 3, 2011

Today, January 3rd at 11:00 am Eastern (Daylight)
Daily Cheap Reads will feature
The Adventures of a Love Investigator, 527 Naked Men & One Woman - as one of their top selling books in December. Please take a peek. Daily Cheap Reads is an excellent source for... Daily Cheap Reads!