Excerpt from the forthcoming novel THE WAY OF A MAN WITH A NEIGHBOR
With his eyes on Camilla’s bullet nipples pushing at the lace Sam tried to figure out what he could say to warn her that company had arrived that wouldn’t clue Cutter in, but his brain cells were frozen. “Okay cool man, I’m hanging up and heading to the door.” He tapped the call off before his cousin could respond. “My cousin’s outside,” he said to Camilla, trying to keep the urgency he felt out of his voice so she wouldn’t panic. “If you go out the back door he might see you crossing the yard.” He stood up; ready for an action he hadn’t yet figured out.
Camilla stayed in her chair. She knit her brow as if she didn’t understand English. “Go out the back?”
From out in his driveway Sam heard the muffled thump of a car door closing. They had no time to discuss strategy. No time for much of anything. “Okay look, I’ve got sweatpants and sweatshirts on the closet shelf in my bedroom and jerseys hanging up. Grab what you need.”
“You want me to go change?”
I’ll do whatever you tell me to do. That’s what she’d said the other day. Would she let another man see her wearing almost nothing if he told her to stay put? “Yes. Okay, no, but for right now you should. I don’t want him tripping when he sees you.”
The doorbell chimed. Camilla’s new little smile looked almost evil. “Oops.”
Sam grabbed her hand, pulled her up and kissed her fast and fiercely, then said, “I’m not ready to share what’s mine before I get mine. Go.”
Camilla popped a salute, said, “Yes sir,” and padded out of the kitchen. Sam thought that if she walked any slower she’d be moving backward.
Following her, he made sure she was through his living room and down the hall before going to the front door. He opened it just as the doorbell chimed again.
Cutter stood on the porch, frowning at him through the storm door glass. He wore a rumpled shirt with its collar open and his necktie loosened. When Sam opened the door his cousin said, “You sure I didn’t wake you up, man?”
“Nah, I was up. Just getting organized. Come on in.”
He led Cutter to the kitchen and headed for the coffeemaker. He didn’t like the way his cousin wheezed behind him as he walked. The dude definitely needed to lose some weight.
Behind him Cutter said, “Damn man, you didn’t need to set the table. I just wanted…oh…man…”
Half expecting Cutter to be clutching his chest in the beginnings of cardiac arrest Sam looked around. Cutter was looking at the two coffee mugs and partially eaten bagels on the table.
“Oh damn, man, you got company.” Cutter said.
“My bad. You shoulda told me to keep rolling.”
Sam turned back to the counter and opened the cupboard to grab another mug. “No, it’s cool. All I have is sugar so it’s either that or black. There’s bagels in that bag if you want one.”
Cutter didn’t answer. Sam looked around again and saw his cousin staring toward the kitchen entry. A slow smile was spreading over his face like the sun rising above the horizon. He was looking at Camilla, who was standing just inside the kitchen entry. She was wearing one of Sam’s Air Force ABU camouflage shirts. She hadn’t bothered with the sweat pants he’d suggested.
Sam had seen her legs every day since they’d met last Friday. Still, this new vision struck him like a fist to the chest and he was as impressed as Cutter, who was seeing her for the first time. It occurred to him then that Camilla looking so hot in nothing but his camouflage wasn’t the only reason Cutter was cheesing. His military shirt wasn’t as revealing as her lace baby doll, but the implication was the same. What she was barely wearing in his house, and that it wasn’t yet 8:00 a.m. pointed to one possibility—that she’d been here all night. That’s why his cousin was grinning like an idiot. For the moment there was nothing to be done about that.
Sam said, “Camilla, this is my cousin Cutter. Cutter, Camilla.”
The edges of Cutter’s grin stretched toward his ears. “You’re the lady from next door, right?”
Camilla padded into the kitchen toward Cutter. “Yes. I remember you helping Sam move in. It’s nice to see you again, and to meet you.” She offered her hand and Cutter shook it. “Please sit down. I’ll get your coffee. If you need cream I can run next door and get some.”
“Ah no, no. Black’s all right, thanks.”
As Cutter sat down and Camilla turned her back to get his coffee he mouthed God damn! at Sam. Then he frowned and nodded, a signal that meant, You’ve got some questions to answer.
“So what’re you working on that had you up all night?” Sam asked Cutter as they ate.
Cutter had wolfed down one cream cheese slathered bagel and was on his second. He paused his assault to say, “Cheating husband case. Woman over in Murfreesboro thinks her old man is playing around so she hired us to check him out. Eight hundred bucks a day just to tell her what she already knew. It was my turn last night to tail him.”
“All night?” Sam asked.
“Cat’s on vacation. His wife said he told her he was going camping with some business associates, dudes she didn’t know. ‘Sposed to be gone till Sunday. She thought it was bullsh—oh, excuse me, Camilla…”
“No pardon necessary,’ Camilla said. “It does sound like bullshit.”
Cutter smiled her. “It was. I trailed him to a motel in Winton last night. Seedy little one-story dive. You know the type: as many customers pay for a few hours in a room as for a day.”
As Cutter finished off his second bagel Camilla fetched the carafe and poured him more coffee, then topped off Sam’s mug. Her eyes were on Sam as she poured, and he thought the glimmer illuminating them was happiness. She liked playing hostess. Or housewife.
Cutter’s eyes locked on Camilla’s backside as she returned the carafe. He gave Sam the thumbs up sign.
To get him back on track Sam said, “So did the dude go to the motel by himself?”
“Yeah. He left his house with his camping gear around eight-fifteen last night; drove away in a late model Lincoln sedan. He stopped at a convenience store in Ahoskie, and came out with a sack of goods. Looked like snacks.” Cutter spoke in the toneless manner of a military troop or a police officer (both of which he’d been) briefing his report to his superiors or testifying at trial. “I trailed him to the motel in Winton. He went into the motel office and came out a few minutes later and drove his car around to the back of the motel.”
“He probably asked for a room in the back,” Sam said.
“No doubt,” Cutter said. “Around here just because you go to another town don’t mean somebody won’t recognize your ride. So I drive around the back, and there’s a couple other cars back there, so it was cool for me to scope him out without being noticed. The place is two buildings, shaped like an L. He was parked about midway down one so I parked at the other building with my tail end to him so I could shoot photos and video through my back window. He was already in the room so I got in my back seat and waited. Then it got crazy. Our client’s gonna own his ass if she wants to divorce him.”
“What happened?” Sam and Camilla asked simultaneously.
“So after about an hour the cat opens the motel door. He’s standing in the doorway, talking on his cell phone. Then another car comes around the corner of the building to the back. This one’s a Lexus SUV. I’m shooting pictures as it’s rolling facing me. It’s a woman. It’s dark and I can’t see her face too clear, but our computer people’ll tighten up the pictures so you can count her freckles. She parks next to the Lincoln, right in front of where the dude is standing. I got some nice shots and video of him because there’s a light outside every room. So he’s steady talking on his phone, but this woman is still in her ride. I was wondering then if he’s talking to his wife or something and the woman in the Lexus is waiting for him to hang up, but after what happened I don’t think so.”
“What do you think?” Camilla asked. Sam noted that she was leaning on the table on her forearms, eagerly eating up Cutter’s recounting.
“I think he was talking to the woman in the Lexus,” Cutter said. “Ten, maybe fifteen minutes passed before she got out of her car. When she did, she’s wearing a raincoat and high heels and what I think are stockings. It wasn’t raining.”
Camilla looked at Sam. Her expression said, Isn’t this exciting?
“So she goes to the dude standing in the door,” Cutter said, “and she’s got her phone pressed to her ear. They both hang up at the same time. She puts her phone in her pocket and is standing there on the walkway outside the door. They’re just standing there, him in the door, her on the walkway. Best I can tell they’re not talking. Then she pulls the belt loose on her raincoat and unbuttons it.”
Beneath the table Sam felt the side of Camilla’s bare foot touch against his leg and stay there.
Cutter continued, “So the woman takes her raincoat off and tosses it past the cat into the room. And she’s standing there wearing this one-piece number, you know, a cat suit.
Camilla began rubbing her soft sole up and down Sam’s leg, from his ankle to the bottom of his shorts.
“Then the woman steps to the cat and starts kissing him. And while they’re kissing she’s yanking his belt loose and opening his pants.”
Sam felt Camilla’s foot at the leg of his shorts. She caught the material between her toes and pushed it inches above his knee. He shot her an expressionless look. She gazed back innocently.
“So they kiss their way into the room and close the door,” Cutter said. “I got all that on video. So I’m hanging out, waiting, but I don’t expect to see anything again until they leave. But a couple hours later he comes out. Goes to her ride and grabs her suitcase. That’s why I’m dragging this morning, man. I stayed up all night on surveillance. She left around six this morning. He left right after her. By then Mackey was on site.”
“She’s another investigator with our firm. Last report from her she was following them on I-95 south.”
“Bet they’re going to a nicer spot,” Sam said. “They probably just wanted to get kinky and dirty to start off. I bet they spend the rest of the weekend in a nice hotel.”
“I like the way you think,” Camilla said. Her foot had found its way up the leg of his shorts and was resting against the inside of his thigh. Her expression remained baby innocent.
Cutter looked back and forth between them, and apparently sensing something, cleared his throat. “Okay well, this here picked me up, thanks ya’ll. Now I can make it that hour home, then I’m gonna crash like a redwood.” He pushed his chair back until his tub stomach cleared the table and stood up. To Camilla he said, “Welcome to the family.”
They stood on Sam’s front stoop like an old married couple as Cutter backed out of the driveway and waved as he tapped his horn and headed down the road.
“He’s nice,” Camilla said.
“Yeah, and I bet by noon I’m going to be getting calls from everybody in my family, asking me questions about my new woman. You know he thinks you slept over, right?”
“Are you worried about it?”
“We’re grown. I don’t care what people think.”
“We can do that, you know.”
“What the people Cutter was investigating did. At the motel.”
“I thought that was hot, how she got out of her car and went to the room in a cat suit.”
“Yeah. Would’ve been hotter if she wasn’t a side chick.”
“We can do better.”
“We could go to a hotel, do the same thing. You decide what I wear from the car to our room.”
“Be careful what you ask for.”
“I have no careful with you. If I question what you want it’ll only be for clarification. So if we did that what would you have me wear?”
Sam considered a moment, then said, “Sexy high heels and a smile. Are you still game?”
“What color heels?” Camilla asked.