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Archive for: October, 2010

Short Story – “En Flagrante” – Part 6

En Flagrante Part 6

by AG Bluvier

I practically ripped the door off the hinges to get in. I ran to the closet and pulled down the dusty old cigar box, and looked inside. It wasn’t there. The watch was gone, all that was left was the bottle of Whiskey. I sat back on the ground with a heavy thud and stared off into space. This wasn’t possible, was it?

Flashbacks, smoke, haze and gunfire echoed through my head. I struggled to push away the images, images that had haunted my dreams. I grabbed the Whiskey, and with it the promise of absolution. And I started drinking. I drank until the pictures went away.

It was almost Noon when I woke up, head filled with icepicks and no ice. Mouth dry, head pounding, pounding, pounding. No, that was the door. It was a long way away. I stared at it, willing the person on the other side to go away, but I had a feeling that wasn’t going to happen. It didn’t. The pounding grew louder. I managed to haul my 180 lbs of dead weight to the door. I paused for a moment. Whatever was on the other side, wasn’t good, that much was sure. Maybe I should just wait for them to kick it in.

“Open ‘er up Jackoff or we’ll kick it in.”
Right, they read my mind. Fine, I opened it. A couple a rats in suits exploded into the room. One of them was carrying a machete. “Only in Havana” I thought to myself.
“Lemmie at im, lemma at im.” the lunatic with the Machete whined while he carved the air with it.
The other guy, the big guy, grabbed my collar and threw me into the wall. “Where’s the money.”
“What money.” It was a sincere question, I needed to know which bookie was trying to collect.
“Yeah, Tommy Garbunko. What’d you forget lowlife?”
“Left front pocket.” The rat looked surprised.
“You tryin’ to tell us ya got the money?”
“Take a look for yourself.” He grabbed my pocket and ripped the envelope out. He pulled out the wad of cash and counted.
“Whatta ya know. It’s all there.”
“And if even a penny is missing Garbunko’s gonna know to pin it on you two ballet dancers.”
“Oh, funny. Sure.” He slapped me a few times like the fairy he was and they took off.

Well, at least that was one close call avoided. Now all I had to do was figure out how to stay alive for the next 12, no 11 and a half hours. Shit, I needed a drink. The Whiskey bottle was empty so I headed down to the corner bar. The one good thing about Havana, you can always find a place to get a drink. I briefly considered drinking myself to death, but there wasn’t enough time. More drastic measures would be required.

The sound of gunfire rattled through my head, the smell of gunpowder filled my nose. There wasn’t enough Whiskey in all of Cuba to drown it out. Soldiers yelling, a little girl screaming.
“Dammit barkeep, I need another.” I slurred.
It was on the bar in front of me before I had time to slam my fist down.

I looked up to thank him but he was looking behind me, and judging by his face, and the way he backed away, trouble was heading right for me. No surprise, I have a talent for it. I knocked back the whiskey in one slug, stood and turned just in time to find myself staring into the most enormous adam’s apple I’ve ever seen up close.

“I don’t recall us being introduced.” was all I could wheeze out from my position between a forearm like a telephone pole and the bar. Somehow the barstool had found a way to get jammed into my left testicle. The next thing I knew, I was getting real well acquainted with more of the furniture, all I could hear was “Monnnnneiiiieee!” between grunts as the gorilla smashed my face to the table. “Right Pocket.” Or at least that’s what I thought I said. It must’ve sounded like some kind of insult, all he did was scream. So I screamed louder. “RIGHT POCKET!! MONEY! RIGHT POCKET!!”

He stopped. I could see nothing but a blur, eyes filled with blood and sweat. I felt myself get frisked, heard a grunt, fell to the ground and that’s about the last thing I remember.

noir short story

Target Market: Mom’s, Parents -Top 10 Laws of Parenting


10 Immutable Laws of Parenting

Law of Parenting  #10 Baby toys were invented to make sure that Mom learns to play ‘Fetch’

#9 The Law of Breast Feeding: To beat the Holiday crowds, all you need to do is go to a crowded mall, whip out a breast and start feeding your baby.

Law of Motherhood #8: Showers were made for people who don’t have babies.

#7 The Law of Baby Food: Baby Food is made in such a way as to guarantee that your baby will nurse for the rest of his or her life.

Law of Parenting  #6 Small baby toys exist to make sure that Mom finds every dust bunny in the house.

Law of Parenting  #5 Baby items are constructed in such a way as to guarantee that the apparatus won’t be installed/assembled until the baby is of voting age.

#4 The Converse Law of Parenting: It takes twice as long to dress your baby is it will to arrive at your destination.

#3 Einstein’s theory of baby relativity sates that your baby’s weight will exactly exceed the amount of upper body strength you need when you forget to bring the stroller with you to the mall.

#2 Baby sleep techniques were created for the parents; to leave them passed out from exhaustion while their toddler runs around banging toys and screaming.

#1  Baby will ignore all toys that cost over $20 and be completely entertained by things that cost nothing: light sockets, dog food, spare electrical cord, kindling and dirt.

Short Story – “En Flagrante” – Part 5

En Flagrante Part 5

by AG Bluvier

We stumbled through the underbrush, and she all but dragged me to a small bridge. From here we could see and hear the voices behind the Havannah, but we were hidden.

“He’ll leave at around 1:30″ she whispered “That’s when you’ll have your chance.” Her body was pressed against me, she was shivering.
“Whoa there sister. Not so fast. Let’s get a few things straight first.” I grabbed her, maybe a little to hard. She let out a cry, and then I remembered that she’d been thrown around earlier, I let go of her.

“Yeah, let’s start with that. What’s with the rough and tumble down at Dock 16?”
She looked up at me for a long minute. “If Carlos isn’t dead by tomorrow at Midnight, then Juice will –”
“What? What will Juice do?” This dame was starting to make me mad. I wanted some straight answers, and I wasn’t in the mood to wait for them.

Just then a shot rang out. I turned and saw a commotion in back of the Havannah. Santorini was in the middle of it yelling orders.

“Over there. The woods. Get moving.” He screamed. For a cat that looked so cool on the outside this guy had a temper like a wildfire in a hay factory. Next thing I knew Orchid was over the edge and into the water. Damn. I dove after her. Not much of a river, but it was deep enough to carry us. I caught up to her, we made it to shore a half mile down stream.

We were both half drowned and soggy as week old corn flakes.
“All right Girlie, it’s time to get some things straight here.”
“I know a place where we can get dry.” Well I wasn’t about to say no to that. We were both too cold to talk. 12 blocks later and we were in the dry, luxury spread of the penthouse at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba. Without a word she headed for the shower, but I stopped her.
“When we both get human again, I want answers.”
“All right.”
“No disappearing acts this time Petunia.”
“I’ll tell you anything you want to know.”

20 minutes later and I was wrapped in Egyptian Cotton – whatever that is. But it was plush, I’ll give you that. And she was wrapped in white silk. Why didn’t that surprise me?

“All right, little Miss, I wanna know what you’re up to.”
“Cigar?” She offered me a Montecristo.  Smooth. I guess she expected to be here a while. I took the cigar, seemed like a fitting salute for a dead man.
“First off, who’s suite is this?”
“Santorini’s”
“Doesn’t he live here? What’s he need the suite for?”
“Yes he has a house here, no he doesn’t live here. And he uses the suite for Entertainment.”
“Is he married?”
“No.”
“Then why not use his house?”
“He uses the house for other purposes.”
“Out with it Daisy-May or whatever your name is. Velma.”
She held my eye steady, no reaction at all. “Sure, you can call me that.”
“I wan’t the story, all of it. It’s time for you to start squawking. Where I come from killing a man ain’t an everyday thing.” She didn’t blink. This dame was pumping ice water through her veins. She turned away.

“It’s hard to know where to begin.
“Try the beginning.” She turned back towards me.
“I was born in Russia. I was – brought here – when I was 14.”
“By who? The guy at the doc?’
“Yes.”
“He has a rivalry with Carlos Santorini.”
“But now you’re Santorini’s girl.”
“Sure, you could say that.”
“And you’re the way for Juice to get close to Santorini.”
“I’m the only way to get to Santorini.”
“Why?”
“Nobody will touch him for any amount of money.”
“Money can do a lot of talking.”
“They’re too scared of him, of Juice, of the war between them.” I waited for her to continue, she did. “You see, Juice does’t just want Santorini dead, he want’s PROOF of a certain kind.”
“Yeah, so what.”
“Santorini has a tattoo on his left arm.”
“So Juice wants the arm?” She nodded slowly, “Yeah, that’s gruesome, but not terrifying.”
“No. It is the Tattoo that is terrifying. El Diablo.”
“Big deal lady.”
“You know that this Island is Catholic, yes? Do you also know what Santaria is? It is an ancient witchcraft, after which Santorini is named. The Little Santaria maker is the meaning of his name. Santaria is a very dark and very powerful worship of the Devil.”
“And so everybody is afraid of the Devil and won’t touch him?”
“Not quite. It is not just El Diablo, it is what he is doing that is so – disturbing.”
“What is he doing?”
“I do not want to say.” Fear crept across her face, the goosflesh on my arms was getting goosflesh.

There was a long pause.

“Let me get this straight, if, in, your little scenario, Santorini is the messenger of the Devil, who exactly is Juice?”
She whispered, and I could barely hear the words escape from her lips, ‘El Diablo himself.”
“Now why would the Devil want to kill his own messenger?”
She wheeled around and yelled in my face, “Because he is trapped! Because Santorini has him on call, under control!”
“You’re crazy lady! There’s no way to control the Devil! And why are we even having this conversation, this is crazy talk.”
“Believe what you will, but someone will win, either the Devil or the Santorini. This all started long ago. And it will be finished by Midnight tomorrow night.”
“And that’s where I come in.”
“Yes, that’s where you come in.”

“I’m just an average guy, a nobody in your little pawn game. What’s this got to do with me?”
“Oh sure. Don’t act so innocent. We all know better.”

It was like ice water had been splashed in my face. It wasn’t possible that she knew, was it? I grabbed my coat and fumbled for the door, it was time for me to make my Sionara, to head to Kansas or Podunk Iowa, or anywhere, it didn’t matter anymore.

I was racing down the Hotel stairs when the thought struck me, “If what she’s saying is real, and true, then there was a debt to collect – and not just the money I owed to my Bookie.” I doubled my pace and headed straight to my own cramped little room. I had to get there, and fast.

Short Story – “En Flagrante” – Part 4

“En Flagrante” by AG Bluvier

Then she headed directly South.  There was only one thing in that direction, and it was no place for a little girlie. Heck it was no place for a seasoned war Veteran with prison tattoos, and I wasn’t packing heat. I briefly thought about cutting back through town to get my piece, but no. I couldn’t risk losing the Girl. I had to know what this was all about. And time was short, I glanced at my watch, 5:17. I felt for the matchbook in my pocket and confirmed the locale; The Havannah club. I knew the place. Well, actually I know OF the place. Swanky joint. Not my kinda hangout. Not much time to follow The Crimson Flower over to the docks and then get uptown, but I had to take my chances.

There she was, making her way through the broken down buildings and rubble towards Pier 16. This place smelled like death. She looked unconcerned. I had to get close enough to hear what this was about, I pounded pavement to cut her off.

“CLANK!! THUD, THINKLE JINKLE, BANG!”
Damn! I backed against a wall to stay out of sight. I must’ve knocked, oh, yeah, a pile of steel had landed behind me. Shit! Where? Oooh, I just caught a glimpse of her as she slid into the storage dock. I think I can just get close enough, if I squeeze through here….

I heard muffled voices from the other side of the warehouse “…you go see what that was…” “OK, Juice, but what about the Laydee?” “Never mind that, leave it to me.” I could tell from here that these geniuses were no boy Scouts. OK, it looked like I had some cover over here, and I’d be able to hear better. I climbed up on a pile of barrels, so that I could get a glimpse of what was transpiring below.

Just in time to see her sashay into the room.  Something was dripping on my shoulder. I didn’t have time to worry about that now.

“Hello Juice.”
“You’re late, Velma”
“I had to…”
“Yeah, yeah, go see your ailing Grandmother. Spare me.”
“Do we still have a deal?”
He grabbed her roughly by the hair. “That depends on you, now doesn’t it, Dollie.” He raised his fist.
“No!” Her hands flew in front of her face. Too late, he’d backhanded her across the cheek.
“DON’T FUCK WITH ME VELMA!”
She was sprawled on the floor, golden hair fanned out around her. She dragged herself up to her knees, then drew herself up to her feet. She actually seemed taller than before. “I HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE!” She spat the words into his face. Then her whole being changed, she got soft again. She almost jeered at him “Besides Juice, you know as well as I do, that you need me.”
“Just bring me the proof. Midnight tomorrow night – or you know what’s gonna happen.”
She spun around and was gone.

I scrambled to get out without being heard. Damn, just my luck there was a Goon at the entrance I’d squeezed into. I looked around for another way out. I had to get outta here. Shit. I dived into a pile of sawdust, just in time to stay out of sight, the first Goon was back. “I didn’t see ‘nuthin’ Boss.”
“Nevermind.” snarled Juice. “Get me the asset.”
There was a long, high pitched whine, like a dog that had been beaten. At first I couldn’t tell where it was coming from, and then I realized it was the Goon. “Do I hafta?”
“JUST DO IT.” Screamed Juice.
The Goon scrambled away.

I peaked out, to see if the coast was clear, but there was that Goon again. This time dragging a girl. She was limp. Dead? I ducked back again. There was something familiar about that girl. I waited for them to pass before I climbed back up on top of the barrels. Damn. Something was sticky here. I could barely get my foot out.

Below, the Goon brought the girl, and gingerly set her in a chair in front of Juice. She wobbled a little. Drunk? Drugged maybe, but not dead. She was starting to come to.

“Uuuuahhgghh.” she murmured.
“Wake UP Lizabet.” Juice was staring at her intently.
Her head bobbed weakly. “Whattt dyah wannt?”
“I’m giving you a break tonight. But if your sister doesn’t deliver by Midnight tomorrow – you know what that means.” He grimaced at her. She shuddered visibly.

I looked down. The door was clear. This might be my only chance to get outta here. I scrambled down and squeezed through it and into the cold night air. It was late, damn. Too dark to read my watch. Only one thing to do, get to The Havannah as fast as I could.

My feet were slamming into the concrete as I cleared the Dockyard. My flesh creeped across my back as I put distance between me – and IT. Not enough distance in this whole floating country to suit me.

As I passed under the street lights I tried to read my watch, but I wouldn’t slow down, not yet. I still couldn’t tell what time it was.

Finally, I saw the lights of town up ahead.  Once I got to the first street light, I allowed myself to stop running. I could finally read my watch. 9:52. Crap. All I could do was hope the esteemed Carlos Santorini hadn’t left the Havannah Club by now.

I got across town in record speed, but I slowed down a block away, just to catch my breath.  As I got to the club and walked in, the Girl at the front gave me one long up and down stare. Geez, I knew this joint was high-class, but you’d think they’d have better manners.

People kept staring at me. You’d think I had an extra arm or something.

Making my way into the club, there were tables everywhere. Men packed into every one of them smoking cigars. I grabbed a cigarette girl and asked her about Santorini, she pointed to the table front and center, “He’s the only guy  here who DOESNT’ smoke Cuban cigars.” She sniffed. “Then what does he smoke?” “American.” she said with disgust. At least he was here.

I took a seat at the bar at the back of the room so that I could see the action. Just then the singer came on stage. I’d know that figure anywhere. She was announced as “The Glorious Miss Rose.” Geez, this Orchid dame had more faces than the Wax Museum. But she sure could sing, and these guys all knew her judging by the racket they made as she opened her act.

And then she started peeling her clothes off. They went wild. I couldn’t move. I was transfixed. Then I looked around at this pack of hungry wolves and my mind became a buzzing hornets nest. I started to sweat and my throat constricted. I couldn’t stand watching them watching her. I hadda get out of there…

My chest was heaving as I staggered into the bathroom. I stumbled to the mirror to splash some cold water on my face. Whoa. What the hell happened to me? It took me a minute to figure out what I was covered with, as I started to wash it off. Red, that was blood. Not mine, I checked. The left side of my face was streaked and tarred. My shoulder and neck were red with blood and I looked as though I was wearing a particle board trench coat. Great. How the hell was I gonna get cleaned up?

I was working on this particular problem when I heard the music change. I peeled off backstage to catch – what should I call her?

I nearly bowled her over as she came out of the dressing room. “Shoe!” She started.
“That’s right Miss Rose, or whatever your name is.” She looked down. “And why do you look so surprised to see me? You were the one who told me to come here after all.”
“Yeah, right.”
“Let’s get outta here”
“Yes.”

Behind the Havannah club the cats were crying for scraps, but we paid no attention.
“This way.” she pulled me towards the woods.

Steamy Stars – Now Available

July 1-7 2010 If you’re looking for some 4th of July fireworks, this week – you’ll get em. A love bandit is on the loose, so keep your eye on those you are committed to. Unless, of course, YOU are looking to commit some late-night love crimes. In that case, whip out your box of sparklers and a pair of hot-pants. It’s all star spangled bras and panties after that.

HOTTEST DATE NIGHT -  The 4th is filled with enough whiz-bang to carry you through the rest of the week, or several for that matter. Keep a fire-hydrant handy.

Aries
You are torn between impulse and neatness this week. It’s no fun to tear that hottie’s shirt off when all you can do is worry about how to mend the mess afterwards. My suggestion is to rent a hotel room, buy a costume and leave the clean-up to maid-service.

Skye Diamond – Hippies, Yippies and other Misfits

Hippies, Yippies and other Misfits

“Hi, nice to meet you. My name is Skye.”
“Oh, that’s an unusual name, where does it come from”
“It’s my real name. My parents were hippies. They met at Timothy Leary’s ranch in Woodstock New York, dropped acid and conceived me. When my Mom was pregnant with me, she had a “Dream” where these beings told her what my name would be.”

This is an exchange I’ve been through thousands of times in my life. It’s a good way to meet people and break the ice, but it’s not actually totally accurate.

The LSD part, the Timothy Leary part and all that is true. But my Dad wasn’t actually a Hippie, he considered himself a Yippie. Most people don’t know who the Yippies were, or how they differed from the Hippies. To the Yippies, the Hippies were just a bunch of idle hedonists. Oh no, the Yippies were far smarter than the Hippies (or so they thought). They were intellectuals, extremists calling for revolution and the overthrowing of the Government – through violence if necessary.

No, these weren’t your garden variety ‘Peace & Love’ types. This is why nobody can understand when I describe the vicious, cruel and poisonous way with words and actions that was a rare talent my Father possessed. The man was a vinegar soaked hornet, in the middle of a black tarmac on a scorching July day in the Arizona desert.

He belonged to a group called ‘The Brotherhood of Love.’ This title is best said out loud with a heavy lacing of irony and your tongue planted firmly in your left cheek. You see, these guys were famous for being the heaviest drug users on the scene of the entire counter-culture hippie movement. It is common knowledge now that people on drugs abuse kids. It was a fact of life for me. Poison. I grew up soaked in poison, like the venom of the Diamond Back rattlers that my Dad used to collect.

It ran through my veins, choking my voice, freezing me from the inside out, paralyzing me into numbness. But not death. Never the sweet relief of absolution, never. Still, stiff, solidified in the icy oceans of frozen tears. But not dead.

This is the voyage of the Shaman. This is my story.

Short Story – “En Flagrante” – Part 3

“En Flagrante” but AG Bluvier Part 3

“You’re hurting my arm, Shoe.” I looked down, and let go of her soft flesh. It was like wrestling the winning Exacta ticket from a dead man.Edit

“What makes you think you can get away with this?”
“Look around you, Shoe. This is a place that God forgot.”
“That doesn’t mean…”
“You’re my only hope, Shoe.” She was so close I could almost taste her ruby red lips. I bit mine.

And why was she calling me Shoe? Yeah sure, I’m a private Dick, but I always saw myself as more of a Gunn, or a Razer, or even a Slingshot, but Shoe?

“Leave God out of it.” I had my own bone to pick with the big Holy Roller. “It’s Satan were dealing with”
“See, I knew you’d understand, Shoe.”
“Why are you calling me Shoe?”

She looked down, and I followed her gaze. Sure enough, I had one Black Shoe and one Brown one. A mistake from the Shoe Store? I’d been meaning to deal with it.

“It’s kind of cute.” Her crooked little half smile was disarming.
I could barely manage a grunt in reply.
“His name is Carlos Santorini, you can find him here nights after 7.” She tossed a box of matches at me. I caught it without thinking. I might not play ball anymore, but I still had the knack.

She was already heading for the door. This girl was smoother than the red satin that clung to her every curve. Everything about her was on fire, except her eyes, which were as cool and mysterious as the sea. I’d be damned if I was going to let her just walk away. I ran to the window and waited until she reached the street to see which way she was going. Grabbed my coat and hat and ran to the shadows that trailed her.

I could barely keep up with her, she beat a path to shantytown at record speed. She went into a nondescript run down little shack, like any other that surrounded it. I had to circle the building until I saw her through a window. She was talking to someone. She was obviously upset, then she fell to her knees. There was a shadow across the window, I couldn’t make out what the figure looked like. They were blocking my view, I had to climb the side of the building next to me in order to get a better look. The figure moved and I saw Orchid on her knees sobbing. The figure drew closer, all I could make out was a dark shroud, was it a woman? A frail old hand reached out and stroked Orchid’s hair. In her other hand was a Rosarie. Orchid was praying. I watched for a long moment, then she stood to leave, and I had to break for shelter or risk being seen.

Short Story – “En Flagrant” – Part 2

“En Flagrante” by AG Bluvier – Part 2

—————————
16 hours and 59 minutes later

This time I was ready for her when she walked in. I wasn’t going to get caught off guard, stammering like an idiotic schoolboy again.

—————————
17 hours and 8 minutes later

I had rearranged the paper clips on my desk so many times, they were starting to protest. This dame sure knew how to make a guy sweat.

—————————
17 hours and 19 minutes later

I looked at my watch for the hundredth time. Maybe she wouldn’t show, maybe it was just some kind of sick joke pulled by one of my pals from the war.

And then I heard that unmistakeable clicking coming down the hall. The kind that can only be made by 4 inch red stiletto heels.

Her perfume arrived in the room before she did. It made me weak in the knees, but I was determined to get some answers. I battled back the dizzy feeling of intoxication that swept over me.

My god, her eyes were violet. I shook my head to clear it. “I don’t know who you think you are lady, but I want some answers.”

“I’ll tell you anything.” she whispered breathlessly.

“How did you get that picture?” I demanded.

A tear welled up and spilled over onto her left cheek. “You don’t want to know” There was something in the way she said it, that made me believe her. But I’m a detective, it’s my job to get answers, even when they’re not pretty.

“Tell me anyway.”

“That’s my sister.” she replied.

“Gee, that’s a real tough break, but we’ve all got problems.”

“He needs to be dead by Thursday at Midnight.”

I threw up my hands, ‘Whoa lady. I told you, that’s not my gig. And you still haven’t answered me”

She dropped her purse on my desk, and out slid a stack of cash, all crisp $100′s. It was like putting a steak in front of a starving man.

“That’s enough to cover what you owe your bookie.” she said. “Both of them.” I’ll double it when it’s done.” She turned tail to leave. But not before I caught her arm. I could feel her breath on my cheek.

“How about an answer.”
“Answers lie.” She said through her teeth.
“Of all the gum shoes in this hot dog stand, why me, lady?”
“Call me Orchid. And you’ve got no choice, unless of course, you want to wind up feeding the crocodiles. I know who you owe.”

Yeah, sure I had some bad habits. I admit it, and they’d dragged me down. She was right though, I was desperate. These guys I owed money to, didn’t take no for an answer. “You’ve done your homework, I’ll give you that.”

“I needed someone as desperate as I am.” Suddenly she looked like a lost little girl. For a minute all I wanted to do was sweep her into my arms and run away together, leave it all behind. For a minute I almost forgot what she was asking me to do.

“I could always leave town.” I said.
“No you can’t.” She said, and she was right. The Garbunko crowd would see that from a mile away. They had control over every port in and out of this Coke-a-Cola can. My life was swirling around the drain, about to descend, and she was offering me the only way out.

Short Story – “En Flagrante” – Part 1

“En Flagrante” by AG Bluvier – Part 1

From my office on the 4th floor of this god forsaken building, in the god forsaken city of Havana I could see the steam rising off the streets below. A place that time forgot.

It was hot, hot I tell you, and the ceiling fan in my office had two settings; sweat and sweatier. And then SHE walked in, with legs up to here and a dress cut down to there… It was enough to make a tough man cry, to make a smart man… well, you get the picture.

And then she tossed one on my desk, picture that is, of a man, ‘en flagrante.’

“I want him dead. I don’t care what it costs.”

I swallowed hard, but my mouth was as dry as the sand dunes that were swirling through my brain. I barely coughed out my reply, “Listen lady, this ain’t that kind of place, I ain’t that kind of guy.” But she was already heading for the door. “I’ll meet you here tomorrow at noon.”

My mind was racing, I briefly considered packing up my duds and taking the slow boat to China. But I was already hooked, and she knew it. I’d be there.

I started to speak, but she was gone.

Her perfume hung in the air, like an invitation.

My goose was cooked, and I knew it. I had a date with destiny in less than 24, no 17 hours…. and the clock was ticking.

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