If you’re reading or have finished my novel “The Professional,” the question in the title of this post might be bouncing around in your head. Javari will have her own story one day, but in the meantime, here’s a tidbit about her background. If you’ve read “The Professional,” after reading this you’ll have the two 2′s to put together to make 4 and answer the title question.
“Who are you, DEA?” Candace Milano asked the two men sitting on the other side of her patio table.
The older agent, who’d introduced himself as Edgecombe said, “No Miss Milano, we’re not; not at all.” Edgecombe reminded her of Jimmy Stewart. He had that the same “aw shucks” disposition. He was dressed the part too, like a tourist in a vomit-inducing tropical print shirt and Bermuda shorts that exposed tragic fish belly white legs. She wasn’t buying his act.
“Well, you can’t be FBI,” Candace said. “You’d be out of your jurisdiction. CIA?”
Even behind his dark sunglasses she sensed Edgecombe darting a glance at his younger partner, Agent Silva. Silva wore a linen jacket over a tee-shirt and the same dark glasses as his partner. He said, “We’re more covert than that, which is a good thing for you.” Silva was thin and beige-skinned, and Candace detected the slight remnant of a childhood accent. She was good with dialects, and figured he was the product of Cuban immigrants.
“Because?” she asked.
“Because you’re not safe here,” Silva said.
“I’m fine. Just because you found me doesn’t mean anyone else will.”
“Well now, we didn’t quite find you,” Edgecombe said. “We were watching back in ’80 when you left New Jersey for Colorado after your testimony in the Penta trial.”
“And we watched you in Colorado,” Silva said, “including while you had a live-in lover for a month.” Candace knew that was a low blow intended to demonstrate how open her life was to them.
Edgecombe said, “Now that wasn’t a smart move, Candace, contacting Roberta Moretti back home. You’re sure lucky that back then we were the only ones watching. You could’ve led them right to you, and then where would you be? You would’ve been in some kind of pickle, that’s where. You probably wouldn’t be sitting here right now in your mighty fine house on the beach, watching your daughter playing on the sand out there.”
Candace looked past the agents to the beach, where her fourteen year-old daughter played Frisbee catch with a boy from their villa. She wanted to tell her to come rub on more sunscreen, but not while these guys were around.
“Okay, so you were watching me,” she said. “What do you want now, all these years after the trial?”
“Well Candace, we want to help you,” Edgecombe said. “You really need our help.”
“Because the bad boys back home don’t forget. You put a lot of them in jail, you know.”
“Screw them. They killed my husband.”
“Be that as it may, they know where you are now. It’s not like the good old days where you could dye your hair, move one state away and disappear. We’ve got all this technology now, technology that opens up our lives to the world. And you, dear lady, have been found.”
Silva said, “Since we already knew where you were we were steps ahead of them. But those steps are getting shorter. You need to leave here, immediately.”
“Well, thanks for the heads up, boys. I’ll think about it.”
“You don’t have time to think,” Edgecombe said. “And you can’t run on your own. Technology is a leash—a long one, but still a leash. You can only run so far before you run out of rope and it stops you; snatches you right back. You can’t run and hide on your own this time. You can’t use a credit card. You can’t book a flight. If you do, they’ll know, and know where you are and where you’re going.”
“And not just you,” Silva said. They’ll find your daughter, too. And odds are, it’ll be the Maldonado cartel, who’ve partnered with the men you helped lock up, who gets to you because they’re right here.”
“And they’re not nice guys; not bound by certain traditions like the boys back home,” Edgecombe added. “They kill women. They kill children, too.”
From the beach her daughter waved at her. In spite of the heat of the day, Candace felt a chill that made the hairs on her nape prickle.
“So you can get us out of here?” Once again she detected eyes shifting behind dark sunglasses, this time two pairs.
Silva turned in his chair and looked to the beach, to where her daughter sprinted in the surf, sending water spraying as she chased the Frisbee. He said, “She’s an amazing kid: IQ off the charts; speaks Spanish and Portuguese like a native.”
“How the hell do you know about my daughter? And why?”
Ignoring her question, Silva said, “And thanks to her racial…ambiguity…she could pass for just about anybody, from anywhere.”
“What is this? Who are you people?”
Edgecombe said, “The Maldonado cartel pairing up with organized crime in the States to manufacture, transport and sell narcotics is bad news, real bad news. They need to be stopped. So far we can’t get a handle on anything because we can’t get inside. These south of the border boys are bad news, and they’re good at what they do. We need to position somebody inside, somebody who’ll be a part of their organization from their beginnings, not someone trying to walk in off the street. They won’t go for that, no sir. We need a mole, like we and the Russians used against each other during the Cold War.”
“We want to recruit her,” Silva said. “We’ll get you out of Mexico, get you somewhere in Europe with a new identity, but she needs to stay.”
Candace shoved away from the table and shot to her feet. “Get the fuck off my property.”
Edgecombe held up his hands conciliatorily. “Candace, this is a take it or leave it proposition. I know it’s a cruel deal we’re offering, but it’s the only deal we will. Turn it down and inside a week—two at the most—you and your daughter will be dead. Well, if she’s lucky she’ll be dead. She’s a pretty girl.”
“Why would you even come to me with this?” Candace asked, her heart sinking
Silva said, “Because when the time comes the cartel and the organization are going to vet her. So she’ll need a legitimate contact that they can verify. Roberta Moretti is your godmother, and great-godmother to your daughter. She’ll vouch for your daughter’s legitimacy.”
“For something like this? She won’t.”
“She already has,” Edgecombe said. “She loves you and wants you both to stay alive.”
Javari drove the 300ZX thirty miles over the speed limit for twenty minutes before a state trooper pulled her over. Then she acted nervous enough to make the cop suspicious. He searched her vehicle and found half a kilo of cocaine in her trunk under the spare tire. She was arrested, booked, fingerprinted and posed for her mug shot.
She was eighteen so she’d be tried as an adult. There would be no question as to her guilt, so conviction was a certainty.
The average sentence for first-offense drug trafficking was three years. Javari figured that since she wasn’t one hundred percent Caucasian, her sentence would be double that, maybe more. Not that it mattered.
If things went as they were supposed to, she’d be sentenced to serve her time at the state prison in Perryville. She would meet an inmate named Louisa there, and would get close to her by whatever method necessary. She would tell Louisa that the coke she’d been busted with was nothing compared to what she usually moved. She’d tell her that she had contacts that provided her with speedboats to transport goods between Florida and the Caribbean and all along the Gulf Coast.
If things went as planned, in two years the warden at Perryville would receive a Federal directive that she was to be transferred to a prison in New York as part of a DEA investigation. The directive was bogus, and once she left Perryville she would be free.
By then Louisa would have contacted her people in the Maldonado cartel and told them about her and her contacts. At some point after that, introductions would be made.
The game would begin.
© December 2013
Boxing had sunk so low in the public eye that Jamal’s interview didn’t air until the Friday evening broadcast. He missed the first airing because he was in New York taping the Letterman show. But ESPN repeated their programming all night long, so when Jamal returned home that night he was able to catch a rebroadcast. Tia was in Miami getting ready for her fashion show. Pops had come to Jamal’s oceanfront condo to watch the interview. Stephanie was sleeping over.
Stephanie had a condo in Manhattan that she’d leased back when she was a Wall Street shark, but she often stayed at Jamal’s place on the Jersey Shore when they had extended business to handle. It was easier that way because Jamal trained at Pop’s gym in Asbury Park, and he was almost always in training. So Stephanie staying over because they had their telephone meeting with Bob Sterling’s people tomorrow afternoon was nothing new.
What was new was that this time Stephanie was here but Tia wasn’t. Jamal didn’t see it as an issue. Stephanie had spent nights in his guest room before he ever knew Tia. And Tia never said it was a problem, even though Jamal had noticed that when Stephanie slept over, Tia always made sure that she gave him some hot sex, and that she was much louder than usual while they were doing it. He figured that that was just Tia’s way of peeing to mark her territory, letting Stephanie know what was what. He’d told Tia about the meeting tomorrow, so she had to figure Stephanie was at the house. So it was no issue.
Jamal and Pops were in the living room watching ESPN when the reporter started the lead-in for his interview. Pops yelled out, “Hey girl, come on! Our boy’s coming on TV!”
Stephanie hurried out of the kitchen carrying a sandwich on a paper plate and a bottle of water. She wore a plaid flannel nightshirt that fell to her knees and ankle socks. “What’d I miss?” she asked.
“Nothing yet,” Jamal said. “It’s just coming on.”
Jamal was sitting on one end of the sofa. Pops sat on the other end. Stephanie plopped down between them and curled her shapely bare legs under her bottom. As she made herself comfortable Jamal caught a whiff of whatever girly stuff she’d bathed in. It smelled nice. It crossed his mind to wonder if she had anything on under her nightshirt. But he didn’t dwell on it because he had a woman. Besides, Stephanie was more like a big sister than a real chick.
Pops leaned toward the screen and said, “There he is!” like they were looking at a stranger. Jamal sat back, watching himself on video replay. Stephanie sat with the paper plate resting on her hip. In the corner of Jamal’s eye plaid flannel molded to the curve of hip and bottom. But he didn’t dwell on it because he had a woman.
The interview was edited with the reporter’s questions cut out so that the piece just showed Jamal talking about his strategy for beating Delgado, and how he wanted to bring respect back to boxing, and how one day he hoped that every weight class would only have one champion, and how he wanted to start things off by unifying the Middleweight title.
When his piece was done the reporter said, “Well, if this were a presidential State of the Union Address, now is when we’d air a rebuttal by the opposing party. So here’s our interview last night with the WBC Middleweight Champion, and arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, Ernest ‘The Gunslinger’ Gaines.”
The scene switched to show Gaines standing just outside the arena tunnel in Las Vegas in his day glow orange suit. As the piece started he was already talking:
“…Delgado is what, thirty-five years old?” Gaines grinned. “He’s washed up. He’s nobody. He beat a nobody to get that fake belt, and now a nobody beat him to take that fake belt. I’m the real champion, and Jefferson knows it. The whole world knows it. I don’t need to fight Jefferson because I’m the real man and I’m already on top. Everything Jefferson wants, I got. Everything he wants is mine. Everything he desires is mine. And he knows exactly what I’m talking about.” Gaines looked directly into the camera and repeated, “Everything.”
Later Jamal watched the live webcast of Tia’s fashion show down in Miami. She modeled four ensembles. In Jamal’s opinion she made the other models look like men. Nobody could hold a candle to his baby.
On her last run Tia wore a military style jacket over a mini skirt that showed off her long legs and gave a whole new meaning to the term “combat ready.” She attacked the runway with the shoulder-swaying swagger that models must learn on their first day of training. Watching her, Jamal was thinking that he had just the weapon with which to go to war with his baby. He couldn’t wait for her to get back to Jersey.
Tia reached the end of the runway, stopped, and with one hand on her hip cut a sharp turn and pose left, then right, then did an about face and started back up the runway. The camera angle switched to a side view of the runway, which Jamal liked because now he could see the nice curve of Tia’s booty. He was looking at her ass and thinking that maybe he should fly down to Miami after his meeting tomorrow when someone in the audience at the side of the runway stood up and pumped their fist in appreciation as Tia sauntered past.
It was Ernest Gaines.
“You know, she might come for you one day,” he says.
I look at him sitting across from me, trying to be cool. I’m not impressed. I know all his secrets. “Anything is possible in the realm of the imagination,” I answer.
“If she does come after you, what are you going to do?”
“I might end it for her. I have that ability. Depends on how I feel.”
Duncan laughs. “She’s not that easy to kill.”
“Not for you she isn’t. But I know all her secrets. Just like I know yours.”
He lifts his glass of merlot. “Touché.”
We both look up as the next guest enters the room. She’s a tall sister, obviously of African descent. She’s wearing a floor length caftan and matching head dress. Her skin is a dark, rich brown, like coffee without cream. Her eyes are green. She’s beautiful, but she looks dangerous. In truth she is dangerous. People who’ve lost everything can be that way. Sometimes I feel sorry for her.
Always the gentleman, Duncan stands up. I introduce them.
“Duncan, this is Amarante,” I say. “Amarante, this is Duncan Gray.”
As they shake hands Amarante says to Duncan, “Our mutual friend is looking for you. She has unfinished business.”
Duncan looks at me with a cocked brow.
I shrug. “This isn’t a set up. If I wanted you dead, you’d already be there. And I wouldn’t need to use Nikira Horikoshi to do it.”
Duncan spits out a derisive laugh and looks away from me as more guests enter the room.
Eric Adams and Diane Clayton. They’re private investigators, business partners who are also sleeping together. It’s working for them right now. We’ll see what the future holds.
Here comes another interracial couple, Justin Reed and Erin Milano. Things seem to be on track for them in their careers and their relationship. But that’s today. Who knows what tomorrow holds?
Next enter the five women who call themselves The Group: Elizabeth, Robyn, Paula, Kim and Jamila. These sisters have more issues than Time Magazine. Jamila is looking at Duncan like she’s starving and he’s well done prime rib.
And there’s Mitch and Cynthia. She looks happy now that she’s with a man who doesn’t beat her down every other day. Mitch is a beat down artist, but only for other hard heads.
Gallery owner Maisha Templeton comes in with Duncan’s niece Simone. Simone has been chilling at Duncan’s second home down in North Carolina. She’s really looking good since she eased up on the alcohol, getting back in shape and all. I’ve got a feeling she’s going to have an exciting life.
Government agent Avery Silva slips into the room. As soon as he enters I catch him scanning the room, seeing who’s who and what’s what. Typical government cop. But I know he’s looking for Nikira, too. He wants to bring her down, not just because she’s a cold-blooded killer, but because after his one-on-one encounter with her he doesn’t sleep well at night knowing she’s out in there somewhere. Nikira tends to have that effect on people.
Now Lucas arrives. Smooth ass brother. Women’s heads turn his way. He makes them curious. He also makes them pay. You don’t get to play with Lucas without giving up some cash. That is, not unless you’re the woman on his arm tonight: Olivia Bettencourt. Olivia is not in Lucas’s business, but in one way or another, she still makes every man pay.
Right behind Lucas and Olivia comes Julian St. Christopher. He’s accompanied by four women: Victoria West, Grace Trouillot, Glenda Engerman and Bethany Arthur. One of the women—Beth—is Julian’s cousin. The others…well…what they’ll be to him in the end is a story yet to be told.
The room is starting to fill up. I have to stand up so I can see.
Oh man, there’s Elle. Damn. Fine ass sister. Likes to get naked—and sometimes bound—with the right man. Simon Bishop is the right man, and Elle is on his arm.
I see Elle’s receptionist Erica and her husband Ben with them. I wonder if Erica’s ass is still hurting. She’s a freak like that. It’s a thing that goes back to her childhood.
Simon sees me looking at Elle. I look at him, and he nods his head as if to say, “Yeah, we know how it is with the right woman, don’t we?”
Simon’s cousin Gordon comes in with the beautiful Aurélle. Heads turn again. This time it’s the men looking. Okay, some ladies look, too.
Now Doctors Evan and Freda Michaels arrive. They’re together but not together, still friends after their divorce. They’re trailed by their son Kyle and his friend with benefits, Dr. Britt Chandler. I wonder if either couple will find a way to get together.
Two gorgeous women enter after the Michaels, a statuesque blonde and a drop dead sexy sister. Gretchen and Ana. They’re two women who are so fine they look too good to be true…because they are too good to be true. They’re Dream Girls.
After the sun sets a new trio arrives, and I get a little nervous. Some of my other guests cut them curious glances. Some women instinctively move closer to the men.
The newly-arrived trio make a striking group; the man in his tuxedo under a floor-length overcoat and his two lovely companions adorned in midnight-hued cocktail dresses. One of the women—the youngest—is Abigail. She was born an American slave in the 1700s. The other woman is Linares. She was born in Spain when it was called Iberia, some two thousand years before the time of Christ. Neither woman looks her age.
They’re beautiful, but it’s the man who is most striking. He stands nearly six and a half feet tall. His skin is as dark as wet tree bark. Power radiates off him, so strong that one can barely stand to look into his eyes—eyes that like his beautiful companion’s seem to glint silver when they catch the light a certain way. His name is Abdiel. He knew Eve, and was a young man when she died.
Yes, that Eve.
I hope that tonight wine will be enough to quench this trio’s thirst.
Others come, and eventually they’re almost all here, all the lovers, the entrepreneurs, the cops and killers, those who have survived death and those who have never truly drawn a living breath; all but one. Every now and then those who know about that one steal nervous glances toward the entry.
I’m about to grab myself a glass of wine when a hush falls over the room. I look around, toward the door. The crowd is parting like the Red Sea in the tale of Moses, opening a path between the entry and me.
She’s there, standing in the entry, glaring at me with her lifeless black eyes.
I see Avery Silva reach inside his jacket. Duncan is pushing Maisha behind him. There’s murder in his eyes. I hold up my hand, signaling both of them to chill.
I look back toward the door. She’s coming toward me, striding confidently through the aisle of onlookers, not worried what any of them might try to do. Most of them she could kill before they knew they were dead. Without a weapon.
She’s wearing all black: a pullover and stretch jeans, like she’s working. Black that matches her ebony eyes and hair. Black that lets her hide in the shadows.
She reaches me and stops, and fixes me with her cold eyes, in which I see the emptiness of space. I wonder if there’s a soul in there somewhere.
I stare back at her, refusing to blink. She’s waiting for me to show fear. She’s a predator. She feeds on fear. If I show fear she’ll eat me alive.
I don’t break my gaze, because though I can’t see it, I do know what lies in those depths. It’s all the pain, the anger…and the fear. Yeah, I know her fear. I created it. We all have weaknesses; it’s a necessary ingredient in our psyches. Without fear there is no self-control, nothing to stop the beast from running wild.
After a moment she blinks. She’s uncertain now. It’s been a very long time since she’s seen eyes that understand her.
“Who are you?” she demands.
She moves around me. I turn with her, not wanting to lose sight of her, not wanting her behind me. “You know who I am,” I say.
“No, I don’t.”
I’d forgotten how beautiful she is. Sometimes evil can make a beautiful one ugly.
“Tell me,” she hisses. “Who are you? What are you?”
She’s stopped moving now. She clenches her fists. From somewhere in the room I hear a gasp.
I smile at Nikira. I’m not afraid of her. But I give her what she wants. I tell her who I am.
She’s satisfied with my answer. She actually smiles. Then she asks, “Do the people in this room know about me?”
“Some do. Others don’t need to.”
“What about the people outside this room, all those readers? Are you going to warn them about me?”
“I have to. They need to know you’re out here, and that they’re not safe.”
Behind Nikira, in a far corner I see Agent Silva speaking into his Bluetooth. He’s calling for backup.
“You’d better go,” I say.
“I know. He’s scared, and he should be, and so should you. I’ll be back. I’ll visit you again. You’re going to pay for making me wait.”
Ice cold dread trickles down my spine. “When?”
Nikira smiles and says, “Next year. But don’t bother looking over your shoulder because you won’t see me coming. No one sees me coming until it’s too late.”
And then she’s gone, vanished into the crowd.
Lucas steps to me, and looking amused, says, “Woman problems?”
“Not the kind you deal with.”
“If it involves women, I deal with it,” he says. He looks at his watch. “We on schedule, man?”
“Yeah, your thing will drop any day now.”
“I’ve got more associates willing to help promote our endeavor if you need it.”
“Okay, clients. I don’t brag, but some of them like to kiss and tell. And some are straight up exhibitionists.”
“I’ll let you know, man. Enjoy the party. I’m getting back to work.”
I leave the room and leave my characters to their party.
In my car I fire up the engine and tune the radio to some smooth jazz. Before I back out of my parking space I check my rearview mirror, and my heart clutches up when I see cold black eyes staring back at me.
“Don’t worry,” she says, “this is just practice.”
Lucas is coming this month. Are you ready? If your itch is dying to be scratched right now, grab a copy of the novella “The Girl Next Door,” and get introduced to Lucas before he became The Professional.
Here’s an excerpt:
I woke up on Saturday morning to a pounding so loud it seemed like the house was coming down around me. It sounded like somebody was trying to knock the front door off its hinges. I bolted up, slid out of bed and went to the window to see what the hell was going on.
I saw the Thunderbird down at the curb at the same time that I heard Harold yell, “Annie! Annie, open this goddamn door! I know you’re up in there!”
I was already mad that this fool was on my property making all that racket. But then, under Harold’s pounding and yelling, I heard a pitiful wail come through the wall.
It was Lucas. The poor kid sounded like the Devil had him by the ankle was dragging him down to Hell.
That little boy’s terrified crying did something to me. I went from being mad to being something else, something dark and cold.
As I put my clothes on I felt like my mind was a room, and someone was standing at the door, flicking the light switch up and down. But instead of a light going on and off, it was my consciousness changing, moment by moment. As I got dressed, one moment I was in the present, in my bedroom in my house on Spruce Street. But in the next moment I was on the other side of the world, in Korea. And in that place, there was blood – so much blood.
I left my bedroom and went downstairs, one moment as my present self and the next as the soldier from my past, with the ghost of Korea finally caught up with me, pushing and encouraging me.
For ten years I’d tried to run and hide from that ghost, but had never been able to really get away. I suppose that I’d always known that one day it would find me; that one day it would catch me.
Now it was finally back, and it wanted blood.
When I stepped outside Harold looked over to my side of the porch. He glared at me, and then turned back to Alicia’s door, dismissing me as if I wasn’t worth his attention. He started banging and yelling again:
“Annie, open this damn door! Annie! Don’t make me break a goddamn window!”
I said, “I’m buying this house. You break a window, I’m taking it out of your ass.”
Harold looked at me again. He said, “Nigga, if you know what’s good for you, you’ll take your punk ass back in the house and mind your business.”
Now that I was out on the porch, I could hear Lucas’ crying more clearly, coming from an upstairs window. Harold heard him too, because he changed tactics. He yelled, “Lucas! Boy, come down here and open this damn door! Don’t make me take a strap to your ass along with your momma’s!”
I stepped off my porch and around to Alicia’s side of the yard. I was peripherally aware that some of our neighbors had heard the disturbance and had come out of their homes to see what was going on. I wondered if one of them – maybe the same person who’d called the police on Francis – would call them again. The ghost of Korea hoped that no one would.
Harold saw me coming and turned away from Alicia’s door. I sized him up; he was a little taller than me, but slender. He moved with catlike quickness – he was down the steps and in the yard coming at me in a hurry. His hands were fast, too. I almost saw the straight razor in his fist too late.
I was in Korea again. The North Korean soldier was running at me, screaming, his knife poised to kill me. I was scared back then. I’d been forced into a life or death, kill or be killed situation.
I wasn’t scared this time. But I wasn’t nineteen anymore, either. Maybe my reflexes were just a hair slower than they’d been ten years ago, because even though I was able to lean back far enough to dodge Harold’s swing so that he didn’t slice my face open, his blade caught me high on my chest.
As I reached to the spot the razor had sliced me, Harold said, “See boy, I told you.”
Harold’s razor was sharp, so I felt the splash of blood on my arms and hands before I felt the burning pain. But by the time the pain set in I was gone. The blood had taken me away, and taken me back in time.
The blood is on my face; in my eyes; soaking the front of my uniform. I wipe it from my eyes, and see the North Korean on the ground in front of me, on his back with his unseeing black eyes open wide. The wound in his throat is horrifying. It’s not even a wound – it’s what’s left after his head is almost separated from his body. His blood has come out so fast that the flow is already almost down to nothing. Most of it is on my face and the front of my uniform.
I hear the men in my company behind me, running from out of the trees. They’re too late. The blood is already on me. A man’s death is soaking into my face, into my skin. I wonder if it will ever wash away. I want to scream again, but somehow I manage to choke it back.
I’m disgusted, not at the blood, but at the way that it – and other things – make me feel. I can still feel the resistance of flesh against my bayonet blade, and the way that flesh yields to my strength. I can feel it up the length of the blade, along my rifle, and into my arms, the power I have over life, the power I have to take life away. And I feel it, another human being’s death. It’s on me, represented by blood, soaking into my uniform; my face; my skin. I want to scream again, not at the horror of the bloody death I’ve caused, but at the realization that a part of me – the evil part of me – likes it.
That ghost – that evil within me – has haunted me, chased me for ten years. And now it’s finally caught me.
As I pressed my hand to my wound, Harold said, “See boy, I told you.”
I guess he figured that he’d taught me my lesson, and that now I’d back off and leave him to handle his wife and son. But I wasn’t me anymore, and I wasn’t satisfied.
Maybe Harold saw something on my face or in my eyes, because in the next breath his look of victory fell off his face and he backed up in a hurry, so fast that he stumbled on Alicia’s porch steps and fell back onto them.
And then I was on him.
Alicia had come out onto the porch. She saw me cut and bleeding and cried out, “Cam, oh God!”
I wasn’t thinking about the blood on me. The thing inside me saw that offering as a pittance, and it wanted more.
I wasn’t stupid. I’d come out of my house with my own weapon, a switchblade, and as I fell on Harold I had it out and open.
I dropped all my weight on Harold, driving my knee into his midsection just below his chest, and felt and heard his breath leave his body in a whoosh. He tried to gasp and suck air back in, but I clamped my free hand on his throat, cutting it off. While he struggled to pry my hand off his throat I switched my grip on my knife’s handle and drew it back behind my head, gathering myself.
I could almost feel it, my blade sinking into his chest, finding his heart. I could feel the impact as I drove my blade so deep that my fist slammed into his chest. I could feel the spurt of hot blood, Harold’s life gushing from his body under my authority, under my power. I wanted to feel it, so badly.
Alicia didn’t shout my name. In fact, her voice was barely more than a whisper. But I heard her. Somehow her soft voice cut through my rage and my bloodlust.
I paused with my fist cocked, my blade ready for the kill. I looked up at Alicia standing above me on the edge of the porch, at the top of the steps.
The ghost from Korea, which was really just the darker part of my soul, wanted to kill Harold. It wanted blood. But the face of the woman I loved implored me not to do it. Without speaking, she told me that I didn’t have to give in to the monster inside me, that I was better than that, if I wanted to be.
But the blood called to me.
I wanted to feel it, so badly.
THE GIRL NEXT DOOR
The shoe store was called Sensual You. The place was nice. Classy. It reminded Robyn of the Christian Louboutin store in Manhattan, but on a smaller scale. She even saw some red-soled Louboutins on display.
But she didn’t pay much attention to the ambience. She was too busy fighting off her urge to commit assault and battery as some tall blonde woman rushed to them and exclaimed, “Lucas sweetheart, it’s so good to see you again!” and then hugged him and kissed him on the corner of his mouth.
When the wench finally took her hands off him Lucas said, “Robyn, this is Alexandra. She owns this store. Alexandra, this is Robyn.”
“It’s very nice to meet you Robyn,” the woman smiled.
Robyn checked the woman out as she shook her hand: Tall and blonde; around forty years old. Pretty, if you liked the Nordic type. Brown eyes. Her light brown eyebrows and lashes meant that she might actually be a real blonde. Nice body too, in a tailored skirt and jacket.
She wondered if Lucas had ever slept with this woman. How else would he know her? Did she pay him to fuck her? And if they did do it, when was the last time?
“So Lucas, how may I help you today?” the woman gushed.
“I’m looking for shoes for Robyn,” he said.
Alexandra looked at her and asked, “Is this for a particular function? Do you already have your ensemble?”
Robyn looked at Lucas. She didn’t know why he’d brought her here; much less what kind of shoes he had in mind.
Lucas said, “Actually Alexandra, what I’m looking for is something to go with a black satin corset. As you can see Robyn has very sexy legs and feet so I’m going for a look without stockings. And she’ll either wear a black G-string or nothing, so what I want are shoes that’ll accessorize her, not clothing.”
Robyn was shocked; stunned. Lucas had just stood right there and told this woman that she was going to be wearing “fuck me” clothes.
The woman looked at her. She was already smiling, but now her smile changed. It changed into a knowing smile—a conspiratorial smirk. She said, “Ah…I see.”
Robyn thought that she ought to feel embarrassed as well as shocked. But that wasn’t how she felt at all. Instead of embarrassed, she felt…
She wasn’t sure exactly how she felt. Lucas had just basically told this woman who was a stranger to her that he was going to do her and wanted her to wear the proper shoes for the occasion.
Lucas helped her out of her coat. Then he took her hand and guided her to one of the long bench seats and said, “Sit down baby.”
If she were going to be hesitant at all about what was happening, his calling her baby cancelled it. She sat down obediently.
The woman named Alexandra looked down at her and asked, “What size are you, dear?”
“Six and a half.”
“Let’s see some mules,” Lucas said.
“Oh, we have some very nice slides, just in,” Alexandra said. “And I’m sure I can find some other goodies that will suit your…occasion perfectly.”
When Alexandra went to the back to look for the goodies Lucas took off his coat and laid it over the bench next to hers. He didn’t sit, but he looked down at her and asked, “Are you doing okay?”
Why would he ask her that? She wasn’t nervous. Should she be nervous? Just wondering if she ought to be nervous put her a little on edge.
Alexandra returned with four shoe boxes. As she sat the boxes on the bench she said, “We’ll begin with these. She opened the first box and held it out to show them a pair of black patent leather slides with a black bow on the toes.
Lucas said, “Let’s take a look.” He took the shoe box from Alexandra and kneeled in front of Robyn, then placed the box on the floor at his side. He gazed into her eyes.
Robyn felt her heart quicken.
Lucas slipped her wedges off. And then while looking into her eyes, he placed his hand under the back of her right ankle and lifted her foot onto his knee.
Suddenly the air felt too thick and Robyn found it difficult to draw a breath. Her stomach quivered. It wasn’t just Lucas’s actions, but the look in his eyes that told her that something very different was about to happen.
She was nervous.
I lifted Robyn’s sexy leg and placed her little foot on my knee. She seemed apprehensive. Cute. Keeping my eyes in hers I lifted her leg by the ankle and kissed the tips of her toes.
She flinched and let out a little gasp. Her eyes flittered first up at Alexandra, and then around the store, looking guiltily at the other customers. I thought that if just this embarrassed her, in a minute she was going to be in serious trouble.
When I started kissing along the inside edge of her foot Robyn flinched reflexively and tried to pull away. But I was ready for that. The back of her ankle still rested in my palm, so I closed my grip and held her leg immobile. I saw the color rise in her cheeks as my lips reached her heel.
There were a handful of customers in the store. They might have been looking, but my eyes were on Robyn’s so I didn’t know. I definitely didn’t care. The only one in my existence for the moment was Robyn.
I kissed my way back to her toes, this time trailing my lips over the top of her foot. Then I removed the shoe from the box.
Robyn’s leg and foot felt tense as I slipped the shoe on so I said, “You need to relax.”
She swallowed hard and didn’t say anything.
I lifted her other foot and repeated my kisses, then slipped the second shoe on. I placed her feet on the floor and stood up, and offered my hand to help her up.
When she was standing she leaned to me and whispered, “What are you doing?”
She cut her eyes around the store. “People are looking at us!”
“No, they’re looking at you because you’re so fucking beautiful and they’re jealous. Not because of me, but because they want to be you. They want to be cherished like you. Now go see how you like the shoes. There’s a mirror over there.”
Robyn felt like every eye in the store was on her as she walked to the mirror. She felt nude, even though she was fully dressed. Lucas had made her feel exposed; naked.
She almost felt like she did yesterday morning when Mrs. Murchison caught them in the elevator, like she’d been caught doing something very naughty…
…naughty but very good.
She stood in front of the floor-level mirror, turning by force of habit so that she could view the shoes at different reflected angles, but without really seeing anything. Her mind was on the dreaded walk back to the bench, and of having to meet the eyes of the strangers that she just knew were looking at her.
She turned from the mirror and yep, people were looking at her. Robyn dropped her eyes to the carpet and kept them there until she made it back to the bench.
“This is a Marabou slipper,” Alexandra said. “It’s basic, but a classic that never goes out of style. It really goes so perfectly with lingerie. A lady should have several pair in various colors as part of her wardrobe.”
Robyn barely heard her. She was focused on Lucas, who was kneeling in front of her again. He’d been kissing her toes again, but now he kissed his way up her leg to the inside of her knee. And he was caressing her leg, too. His hand had slid up past her knee to the inside of her thigh, and he was pushing her pencil skirt up with it.
Alexandra was standing right over them. Robyn looked up at her. The store owner was smiling down at her.
As Lucas’ tongue tickled the inside of her knee and his fingers teased the inside of her thigh under her skirt Alexandra said, “Robyn, I think you’re going to very much enjoy your Sensual You experience.”
She thought she should say something back to the store owner. Maybe thank you.
But she couldn’t breathe.
After my haircut I drove to the beach to the Pier Village. I just wanted to walk around, enjoy the ocean view, breathe some salt air and generally chill…and maybe to do a little work. I’m dressed for an afternoon boardwalk stroll in a Polo shirt over khaki slacks. Nothing fancy. It’s not my style to try to be flashy.
One thing I like about the village on weekdays: it’s easier to separate the spenders from the pretenders. The shops and boutiques down here don’t sell anything cheap.
You’ve got two basic types of females out here on the weekdays. First there are the unemployed and the shift workers, out here to window shop and dream. Then you have the serious shoppers. If they’re out here on a weekday it means they don’t need to work and they’re spending old money, or they’ve got somebody out making enough dough to let them come out here and burn some. Yeah, it’s mostly white women.
Money’s all green.
I was only in the village about fifteen minutes when I spotted this brunette checking me out every time I looked her way. She was curious, I could tell. Curiosity can lead to cash. I thought I’d go basic on her, just walk over and tell her that I thought she was beautiful and keep going, see if she followed and went after the bait on the hook. I was getting ready to make my move when my cell phone rang.
My caller ID showed it was Angel, my “agent.”
“Hey baby,” I answered. I kept my eyes on the brunette.
“Hello, handsome,” Angel cooed.
Angel’s voice is like liquid heat. I’ve never seen her, but if her sultry voice is any indication of her physical beauty then she’s got to be one of the most gorgeous creatures to ever breathe air.
“I have a session available this Saturday evening, if you have no plans,” she said.
“I’m open,” I said. “What’s the story?”
“A high school reunion.”
Angel laughed a throaty laugh. Even her laugh made me want to fuck something.
“The client is attending her twenty year reunion,” she explained. “She wants someone on her arm to make people believe that she’s done more with her life over the past two decades than make money.”
“So it’s all show?”
“Well, she’s paying for premium service, Lucas. I’m sure she’ll let you know her specific desires. The function is at the Shore Casino in Atlantic Highlands. You’ll pick the client up at her residence in Tinton Falls.”
“Just like a real date, huh?”
“That’s what she’s paying for. I’ll email you the particulars, if you want the job.”
“I’ll take it.”
“Every job is one step closer to your retirement goal.”
“Yep, two more years and I’m done.”
“Have you enjoyed your career, Lucas?”
“I got paid.”
“Not exactly an answer to the question, my friend.”
Sometimes I felt like Angel was inside my head, which was really creepy since we’d never laid eyes on each other. And, she’d only been my point of contact for a couple of years. I don’t know what happened to Ahmad, the dude who was my liaison before Angel. And it’s not my business, as long as the jobs and the money keep coming.
I decided to leave the brunette on the beach to her fantasies. Angel paid a hell of a lot more than I got for freelance work.
Tinton Falls, New Jersey
“If anyone asks, you’re an investment broker. You used to work on Wall Street, but now you run your own business from home. You got that?”
“Got it,” I said.
“Are you able to answer basic questions about investments? Some may ask.”
We’d just met twenty minutes ago and I was already sick of this chick. I was driving her to the Shore Casino in my Volvo like we were on a real date and I gave a fuck about her. Her name is Beverly. She wasn’t a bad looking sister, but she had a stick shoved so far up her ass she had to spit splinters.
“I can handle it,” I said.
“What’s the difference between a bull and a bear market?”
I looked over at her. “Are you serious?”
“Listen Lucas, if that occupation is too…complicated for you, say so now. I’ll think of something closer to your level.”
“And what do you think my level might be?” I wanted to open the passenger door and kick her out into the middle of Route 35 traffic…without slowing down from fifty-five miles an hour.
“Well, considering your actual occupation, I suppose you don’t have much familiarity with the white collar world.”
I took a deep breath to get a grip on my aggravation. “In a bull market, the price of given securities are rising or expected to rise, typically at a rate faster than average growth,” I said. “A bear market is the opposite. Prices are falling and expected to keep dropping.”
“And what’s considered average growth?” Beverly asked.
I glared hate at her. I felt like I was in fucking school again. “Typically about twenty percent.”
Now she looked away. “Don’t fuck it up for me,” she said. “Just get us through the night without embarrassing me.”
Embarrassing her? I’m not the one who can’t get a fucking date. I’m not the one who needed to front in front of people I haven’t seen in twenty years.
After I park us at the Casino and helped her out of my car Beverly tossed her weave, slipped her arm into mine, smiled and hugged up on me like we’ve been together for ages, are madly in love and probably just got finished fucking in the car.
Let the show begin.
I drive a black S80. It’s stylish in a subdued way. I don’t like showing off, but I like to be different. And I like quality.
See, I travel in rarified air.
It’s nice up here.
I got started when I was eighteen years old. Not in the business of money, but in the business of taking care of women. Not fucking them, which is what I thought it was all about when I was young and uninformed. I learned early on that it’s not always about what happens between the sheets, though it could be. It’s not always about wining and dining them either, though that’s often a part of the package. I get paid to give a particular woman what she needs particularly. Sometimes it’s nothing more than company and conversation. Not often, but sometimes. The bottom line is that each woman is different. She has her own particular beauty—which has nothing to do with the external—and her particular beauty needs its particular nourishment. This is where many men fall short. I get paid to take up the slack, to fill a void; to nourish her beauty, even if only for one night.
But okay, it started with sex.
The first was a friend of my aunt’s. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. She helped me learn. Then she introduced me to some of her friends.
Maybe it’s a woman’s nurturing nature that compelled them to want to teach me what a woman likes, and more important, what she needs. And maybe because I was young they considered me clay to be molded, and they felt free to tell me to do things that they couldn’t ask their men to do (if they had a man), or things they’d asked for that he wouldn’t do.
Consider the times. Women were still largely considered not to be as sexual as men. Women didn’t always feel free to be themselves, to let their sexuality off its chain and let it run loose. Whatever the reason, I paid attention and learned my lessons. I’d say that in the end, I graduated with honors. I’m not bragging. I don’t need to. I come with references.
This thing—the Passion series—started as an online short story, one of those “what if this happened?” things. The what if was what if a woman woke up after a night out partying to find herself in a strange bed in a strange house (a mansion), with no memory of how she got there? She finds a note on the pillow that says simply: You were amazing.
That’s how this thing began, and how I thought it was going to end, by answering that single what if question, and then moving on to the next thing. But like John Lennon said, “Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.” New ideas are what happen, too, and so the characters from that first story, Passion’s Nectar—Julian St. Christopher, Grace Trouillot, Victoria West and Glenda Engerman—had come alive, and they weren’t done living. More characters were to come, and they played their parts and helped me flesh out this series and add the novellas Passion’s Kiss, Passion’s Journey, Passion’s Fire, and now this last episode in the Passion series, Passion’s Fury.
And then there was the Dream Girl project. Once upon a time I had an idea for a sequel to Dream Girl. I was going to title it The Daughters of Lilith. The tale would have Frank Einstein—the founder of Headbox Industries—coming up a new invention: an injected nanochip that boosted feminine pheromones and made them irresistible to men. My idea was that there would be a plague of deadly succubus type women who were almost unstoppable. Men couldn’t go up against them because they’d be too busy wanting to…well, you know. So Agent Avery Silva—he of the unnamed government agency—would assemble a hit squad of badass women: Nikira Horikoshi and Simone Gray (from the upcoming Hitman Chronicles series) and a woman named Javari, who you’ll meet soon in The Professional. Well, a few chapters in, the story started to feel like Charlie’s Angels. That’s already been done (and maybe twice too often). So I scraped the bulk of that idea, but I still wanted to do more with Frank Einstein and the nanochip thing. The solution was to merge that idea with Passion’s Fury and wrap up two storylines.
Now, when I say “wrap up,” don’t take this as the absolute end. The Passion series is done, yes, but no one died. Well, almost no one died. You will see Julian St. Christopher and the characters from the series again, I promise. And Gretchen Smith and Ana are still out there in the world somewhere. As soon as I find out what they’re up to you’ll be the first to know.
Now, before I go, I have to give special thanks to author extraordinaire Nia Forrester (author of Afterwards), who got to listen to and put up with me griping and moaning during the making of this novella. We hold ourselves to high standards, and sometimes, when we feel that we just can’t reach that high, it helps to have someone who’s been through it to boost us up. Nia, if I left footprints on your delicate shoulders I’ll pay for the dry cleaning. Thank you.
Somewhere in Virginia
But now Frank Einstein—the man behind the Dream Girl project—has upped the stakes on libido boosting. His new drug has created an irresistible woman, a woman who is leaving a trail of dead men in her wake, and the only one who can stop her is Julian St. Christopher.
When these two competing entrepreneur’s worlds collide, one of them is willing to do whatever it takes to win—even kill. But will Julian St. Christopher have the focus to fight a professional battle while his personal life is unraveling?
In the final episode of the Passion series the lines between romance, erotica and fantasy are blurred as the hour of reckoning arrives—an hour in which some will have to pay for their sins, maybe with their lives.
Ayn said, “When you called from the States you did say that ‘we’ were coming. Did you mean your woman? Is she your wife, or something else to you?”
“Something else. Someone very important to me.”
Ayn traced her fingertip along the top of her exposed thigh and said, “And yet you’re on St. Martin alone, and she’s in New Jersey.”
Julian didn’t bother to correct her and say that Vicki was actually in California. His gut told him that that would just be more ammunition for this sexy creature to try to use against his resolve. “It doesn’t matter. I appreciate your enthusiasm Ayn, but we’re not going to do anything this evening but eat.”
“Well, may I have a drink while we wait for dinner?”
“Sure. What would you like?”
“Something cool and clear with ice, please.”
Julian went to the wet bar, aware that Ayn was eyeing him and smiling salaciously as he moved across the room. As he poured Citadel and tonic water over ice he wondered if she made moves on many of her customers, and if she did, why. The homes for sale on St. Martin were expensive, so potential buyers had to be of some means. Maybe Ayn was trying to hook one of her clients so that she could stop working for a living. Or maybe she just got off on playing around.
When Julian turned from the bar Ayn wasn’t on the sofa. Now she was standing on the far side of the room, in front of the sliding glass doors that opened onto the balcony and provided a view of the impossibly blue ocean. She stood with her feet apart, and the low hanging sun shone through the gossamer thin material of her makeshift skirt. It didn’t take much imagination for Julian to know what she would look like naked, because the outline of her figure was right in front of him.
He joined her at the doors and handed her the glass. As she accepted it she said, “You’re not having anything?”
Smiling, Julian shook his head, once. “Something tells me that around you, I’d best keep my wits about me.”
PASSION’S FURY RELEASE WEEKEND SPECIAL EVENT
To celebrate the release of Passion’s Fury, the fifth and final episode in the Passion series, from now until Monday, November 4th the first four books in the series are available for $1.99 or less, so you can have all five novellas for less than $10.00! Don’t miss the Passion Party!
PASSION’S FURY (New Release)