Cold Mac & Cheese and other musings

October 12, 2010

NaNoWriMo approacheth….

Filed under: Creative Writing,Fiction — D.J. Lutz @ 11:45 pm
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50,000 words in 30 days? Who is stupid enough to try that?

Me. Maybe I’ll have a coherent novel at the end this time. Yes, I have tried this before…

At least this year I already have characters, a plot and (soon) possibly an outline.

I better get more coffee.

And some wine.


October 10, 2010

Time to get writing again…

Filed under: Fiction — D.J. Lutz @ 7:56 pm
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If you look to the right, you will see “pages” listed. There I store my completed stories (although there is one poem from Cat, too.) Are they ready for publishing? No, not really. They are good stories but they ramble at times, sometimes they get off topic, most often they are just plain disjointed and lack good character development.

But they serve a purpose. No one, at least I don’t think, starts out writing the perfect novel on their first try. Why would I be any different? I keep the stories for two reasons: one is that they are, even with their faults, decent stories and maybe I can rewrite them someday and two, there are some people that actually like them. Finally (did I mention I have trouble counting?) I hope to someday look back on these stories in a way that allows me to say “Gee, look how much better I am now!” Wishful thinking, perhaps…

So now I am starting a new story. Instead of serializing it, I am writing it off-line. I will post weekly to update my progress and to chronicle how the writing has been going. Kinda a “see, you aren’t the only one having those writer’s block problems!”

This week’s goal: identify main characters (give them names, too) and come up with the overall story premise.

March 9, 2010

Dead Man’s Hand – scene 1

The Dead Man’s Hand
By Douglas Lutz / copyright March 2010

After a slow count to five, the chloroform had done its job, rendering the old man motionless. Time was short; voices could be heard just down the walkway. This job needed to be finished quickly and there was always the getaway to consider. Much harder to get paid if you’re in jail. Concentrate. Ignore the voices for a second. Now, put the pistol in his hands; point it backwards. Get a good grip on the hands and aim center mass. Carefully manipulate the pliable digits; slowly squeeze the trigger. The 6 inch, nickel plated.38 came to life like a dog whose bite was worse than its bark, sending a spiraling chunk of metal through the skin, past the ribcage and into the heart. The tumbling bullet tore through the massive muscle of life, carrying much of it out the exit wound in back, fusing flesh and blood with the fibers of the office chair’s naugahyde back rest. Mission accomplished.

Calvin Baxter’s 12 pots full of blue crab were better than he had expected, considering the weekend’s Nor’easter had turned the normally tranquil waters of the Chesapeake Bay into a dark green, foamy grog. Hell, the boat almost sank twice and the last thing Calvin wanted to do was catch a ride with a nearby Coast Guard helicopter. The weather had cleared that morning, just hours before the Concept 2 was to pull into the marina off of 67th street. Retired and now living alone, Calvin had little human interaction of consequence and each Sunday afternoon he looked forward to selling his catch, stocking up on a few supplies and maybe, if he was lucky, spending an hour or so just hanging out at the marina. There was no kidding himself. Calvin tried to believe it was the extra cash he made selling crustaceans that made his day worthwhile, but no, deep down Calvin Baxter knew it was the few minutes, that precious quarter of an hour he would get to spend with the dock girl, Kay, that kept him coming back to the same marina, week after week. Today was no exception. Kay had already helped him off-load the blue crab and was returning with his cash, a receipt and a cart full of basic supplies, the type needed by someone who lived on their boat. A muffled pistol shot grabbed both of their attentions.

Calvin knew what had happened. Thirty years a cop, 18 years a detective on the homicide squad of the Norfolk Police Department had given him the experience to know that a fairly large caliber pistol, possibly a .45, had just been discharged inside the marina office. “Damn, here we go…” Calvin muttered as he picked up his cell phone and called 911. “Yeah, this is Detective Calvin Baxter, Norfolk PD. Just heard a shot fired inside the marina office on 67th street. No one seen entering or leaving the premises.” The dispatcher went through her normal procedures, sending the report to the nearest unit. Calvin knew he was in Virginia Beach and while he knew some of the older guys there, he didn’t want to bully his way onto their turf. “Yeah, I’ll wait outside for the marked unit.” Calvin reached into a drawer just inside the pilot house of his little boat, pulling out a Sig Sauer .38, the detective’s preferred handgun.

“What’s going on? What just happened?” Kay said with more than a little fear in her voice. Quite shaken, she had almost rolled the ice chest right into the drink. “Stay here, Kay. Probably a robbery in progress. With one shot, it’s already gotten ugly.” “I’ll stay here on the boat, if you don’t mind.”

Weapon in hand, Calvin moved down the dock towards the office. He heard voices to his right. There, on the fantail of one of the larger yachts, were four men. “Hey, our buddy is in there,” one said, pointing to the office. “Don’t worry, I’m a cop. Stay where you are until we find out what’s going on.”

December 7, 2008

9 Lives – chapter 17

Filed under: Uncategorized — D.J. Lutz @ 9:26 pm
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9-lives-178 Took 8 tries to get this one uploaded. Either something in the process changed or I just simply forgot to press one radio button during the uploading of my file.

Who knows. At least chapter 17 is ready to go for your reading pleasure. The story is in the final action sequence. Bad guys, and you know who you are, be on the look out, because Cat Melendez and her new friends are coming…

November 28, 2008

9 Lives – chapter 14

Filed under: Uncategorized — D.J. Lutz @ 6:49 am
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October 12, 2008

Retraction on behalf of cat…from dog.

Filed under: Uncategorized — D.J. Lutz @ 3:42 pm
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I must tell you faithful readers that the previous post by cat was certainly a grand bit of fiction, but indeed it was just that…fiction.

You see, there were some so-called facts in his story that didn’t add up.  I took it upon myself to attempt to verify cat’s story and found out his little adventure was not as it seemed.

Cat did see a tree fall next door.  Hard to argue that one, since the stump is still there.  However, I checked with squirrel and rabbit and neither one has ever seen orange tabby.  Jet black cat, yes on occasion, but not a Garfield look-alike.

As for meandering ten miles to the waterside marina, not even plausible.  Cat doesn’t even like to cross the street.  Too many high school drivers, especially at 7:15 in the morning when they are running late for class at 7:20. I think cat has seen too many of squirrel’s cousins “almost make it.”

But, I have evidence that leads me to think that cat made the whole thing up. Tucked away in an abandoned hole in the base of the oak tree, probably used by squirrel at one time, is a stash of catnip. No need to tell you that cat likes the stuff.  He certainly must have had just a bit too much, causing him to take…yes…a catnap.

Now cat hears man and lady talking about a dog named Great Dane.  Not wanting to be outnumbered, cat is using his three day snooze as an opportunity to try to talk me into walking to waterside marina, in order to go to Dog Island.

What cat doesn’t realize is that I saw that episode of Feasting on Waves (man falls asleep on couch all the time, leaving the television on quite often) and there are no dogs on Dog Island.

Silly cat.

Again, I apologize for cat and his extemporaneous story telling.  He’s a cat.  What can you expect???

Yours truly,


September 9, 2008

Checkmate 10

Filed under: Uncategorized — D.J. Lutz @ 3:46 am
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A week had past with no suspect in custody.  The funeral was a large, overly ornate affair.  The bank had paid for all of the bells and whistles, for this was the final tribute it could pay to one their own who was considered the public face of honesty.   Cliff Culpepper had proved everyone wrong, vindicating the bank staff.  The least they could do was spare his widow the expense of an honorable burial.

All was not well at city hall, however.  The mayor, and the press, were demanding to know the status of the case.  The district attorney was under pressure to produce a suspect.  Finding a suspect was not hard, he had three in fact.  The problem was that he could not place any of them at the murder scene and he had no murder weapon.  In fact, he had no physical evidence at all, save the dead body and the bullet pulled from its’ frontal lobe.

Detective Lou Tomasino was called in to explain the case and why the police had yet to put someone in handcuffs. It would not be a pleasant conversation.

“So Detective, after a week and two days, what have you got?”

“Well, let me run down each suspect and you decide if you want to go to trial with any of them. The obvious suspect is the wife, Christy Culpepper.  Her motive is two-fold.  She had suspected that her husband had cheated on her and in return had started her own fling.  Plenty of insurance money and the will should give her possession of the bulk of his estate, since they had no children or other close relatives.”

“Any alibi?”

“I’m getting to that, which brings us to suspect number two. You may want to read this report from Internal Affairs.”

The district attorney took a cursory glance at the report, then handed it back to Lou.  “So Detective Quadro had the technical knowledge to alter the fatal round so that it would do maximum damage but leave no exit wound? Is that pertinent to the case?”

Lou felt slightly exasperated, once again having to explain to an attorney something that only cops and killers really concerned themselves with – that being how weapons actually kill someone. “Look, it’s easy. A round enters the head through the skull.  If it travels fast enough, it passes through the other side, leaving a larger hole in the back of the head. If the powder is reduced by enough grains, the bullet loses power before it can exit the head.  It has still done enough damage to kill the guy, but there is no massive blood splatter to contend with.  No blood means no blood on the murderer’s clothes, shoes, weapon, nothing.  Blood makes a great traceable clue and we had none except a small dribble out his nostril.  Hell, you lose more blood in a decent bar fight.”

“What’s this statement about? The one saying he had an overly familiar relationship with the wife?”

“Old college friends.  Detective Quadro, his own wife and deceased along with his wife, all went to the same college years ago. As much as I would like to place Christy Culpepper at the scene, I have plenty of witnesses that place her across town with Detective Quadro, having a late lunch.  There just wasn’t enough time to physically get to the crime scene.”

“Okay, so that’s two. Any others?”

“Detective Quadro’s wife, Barbara had motive.  She could have found out that her husband was spending time with Christy.”

“I thought you said they were having a late lunch?”

“Well, yes. That’s what the report says…but…off the record – they were..uh…”  Lou decided to pull out all the stops.  “Detective Quadro had been having an affair with Christy Culpepper for almost a year.  They had a regular spot to meet and ate a late lunch or early dinner before Frank had to report for the evening shift. We have them both on Internal Affairs surveillance videos that place them miles from the crime scene.  There is no way they could have done it.”

“Which brings us back to Barbara?”

“Do you play chess?”

“Detective, what does chess have to do with any of this?”

“Barbara Quadro had her own business.  She played chess online, using a subscription service to earn money.”

“I didn’t think you could run a gambling operation within the confines of our state’s border?”

“She wasn’t gambling.  Customers pay to play the game. There are no prizes for winning.”

The district attorney shook his head.  “I didn’t realize that there could be enough of a market to sustain a chess business…”

“She made quite a lot of cash.  More customers than she could handle. Apparently if you wear a skimpy outfit, the chess geeks just go crazy and pull out their credit cards.”

“Naked chess?  You’ve got to be kidding!”

“Not truly naked, but risque enough that you probably wouldn’t want your wife to know that you were playing her.”

“How then, does this make her a suspect?”

“Barbara could have found out that her husband was seeing Christy. There is also a possibility that she was either blackmailing or being blackmailed by the deceased.”


“Not exactly.”  Lou knew the conversation was already in a bad way. This would not help.

“All forensics could tell us was that Cliff played chess two to three times a week.  The online pay service that Barbara used showed us that he paid several hundred dollars a week.  His salary at the bank was good, but not that good.  He could have been receiving cash from her, then laundering it by running it through to pay for the chess games. In effect, he could have been getting computer peep shows for free.”

“So Barbara then, could have killed Cliff to keep him from squeezing more money out of her and maybe even to keep him from telling her girlfriend from college.”

“Precisely, except that computer servers and webcams show her playing ten games of chess at once…at the time of the murder.  Another case of the suspect being too far away to pull the trigger.”

“Well thank you very much Detective.  Just what do you want me to tell the media?  Or the mayor for that matter?”

“Listen, I’m not going to be your fall guy. Make it simple – we have no evidence and no witnesses. Call it random crime, a burglary gone awry. Put out a reward, maybe someone will call the crime line.”

“You know you could lose your job if you don’t arrest somebody…”

“I’ve got a family estate in Brazil.  It’s looking better and better each day.”

September 7, 2008

Checkmate 9

“They need to see you at 8:30; bring your gun and your badge…just in case. You know the deal, I’m sure.” Words he had heard spoken before to other officers, but had never dreamed would be addressed to him. “Sure, Lou. I’ll be there. Hopefully this won’t take too long, either way it goes…”

It’s never a good day when someone has to speak to the IA, the Internal Affairs department.  Those detectives were not only the best in their respective departments, but they had an aura of secrecy about them.  Ruthless in their determination, absolute in their confidentiality, the mere names of the IA members were closely guarded.  The less known about them, the better and easier they could operate across the functional and political boundaries that existed within the force as a whole.  Frank had been considered for a spot at one time, but unknown to him, he was found “unqualified due to personal attributes.”  The IA had investigated him and knew of his extramarital excursions.  Too much of an opportunity for bias, prejudice and/or blackmail for Frank to be effective.

“Detective Quadro, the purpose of this meeting is to inform you that we are investigating your possible involvement in the murder case of one Cliff Culpepper.  We are not accusing you of the crime at this time, and we certainly hope that we do not have to do so in the future.  All we are trying to do is establish in what fashion you have a relationship to the case.  This is a standard procedural inquiry, as I am sure you are aware, and as long as you fully cooperate with our investigation, barring any unforeseen complications, you should be back on the job very quickly.  While you are not under oath, we ask that you tell the truth since any testimony today may need to be used in court at a later date.  Do you understand the purpose of this meeting?”

The IA man had read the statement very deliberately, almost devoid of any true conversational tone.  For legal purposes the statement had to be read and he had to agree to it.  The IA clearly wanted to present the obligatory oratory in the least confrontational manner so as to put Frank at ease, possibly getting him to let his guard down just enough to unintentionally let go of a clue.

“I understand.  Let’s just get this over with, please.”

“Frank, my name is Dan Hollingsworth.  I’m a detective over in narcotics.  This shouldn’t take too long. There is, however, one more standard procedure that we must take care of before we can continue…”

Frank knew that a cop’s two most valuable possessions were his badge and his gun.  During any IA interview, the officer being questioned had to place both on the desk, symbolizing that his life as a certified peace officer and all that it entailed was literally “on the table for all to see.”

Unclipping the gold shield from his belt, Frank carefully and gently placed it on the desk, centered between the two of them, with the badge facing Dan, as if to remind him that while he was doing the investigating – he needed to remember that he was addressing a fellow detective.

The gun took a little more time.  Grasping the handle of his 45 caliber Colt semi automatic, Frank tilted the piece forward enough to unlock it from his holster.  These holsters were somewhat new, specifically designed for police departments.  A locking mechanism was positioned in such a way that the officer could easily pull the gun, but a suspect or assailant would not be able to pull the handle at the correct angle to release the gun from the holster. This holster had already been credited with saving numerous lives; it was a favorite among most law enforcement types.

When handing a firearm over to another person, there is an unwritten ritual that must be followed.  Failure to use this ritual places the recipient at a disadvantage, not knowing the true intention of the deliverer.  Frank knew better than to press his luck any further than his little display of machismo with the badge.  He unholstered the 45, pointed it up and away from Dan, then pressing the magazine release button, allowed the magazine to drop from his weapon. Catching it as it fell, Frank placed the magazine on the desk, next to the badge.

Holding the gun with his left hand, Frank then grasped the upper receiver and pulled back.  The internal ejector popped the remaining round out of the weapon.  Frank let it fall to the desk as he locked the upper assembly in place, to the rear.  Taking one last look at the chamber to ensure there were no live rounds still inside the gun, Frank cautiously placed the Colt 1911 on the desk, barrel pointed away from both he and Dan.  If there was one thing that every peace officer took seriously, it was his or her service weapon.

“Thank you.  Let’s begin with your relationship to Cliff Culpepper…”

September 6, 2008

Checkmate 8

Filed under: Uncategorized — D.J. Lutz @ 9:50 pm
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The word “morning” is a relative term, with different meanings for different people.  Seeing that she worked into the wee hours of the morning, Barbara Quadro defined her morning as the time of day when the sun hits the top of the oak tree outside her bedroom window, about an hour before noon, most days.  Regrettably, her friend Christy was an early riser.  Still suffering from the shock and stress of finding her huband Cliff dead in his chair, shot once in the face, up through the nose no less, Christy called at 9:30, waking Barbara.

“Throw some clothes on; let’s get some coffee.”  Barbara took a few seconds to reply, trying to figure out who was calling and why was it so early?  “Barb, you still there?  Wake up now!”  Then the voice finally registered in Barbara’s brain. “Sure. Decker’s Diner?”  Christy agreed, giving Barbara a half hour to get presentable and make the ten minute drive to the diner.

Decker’s Diner was a classic diner situated in a modern shopping center strip mall, the kind found in suburban neighborhoods all across the country.  This one was exceptional, however.  The place was run by a staff that had been together for forty years or more. Though the servers tended to be young college kids, some of them exchange students, the cooks had been dishing out good chow since Ladybird ran the kitchen at the Texas White House.  As such, the coffee wasn’t imported, French-pressed, or served with steamed or frothed milk.  It was plain old coffee, scooped from a can with a cup measure and brewed by the gallon in a tall, commercial cylinder-style coffee maker.  The first brew started at 5 AM and lasted until about 9 or so.  Christy knew that she and Barbara would be getting there in time for fresh java from the second batch.

“So…how are you holding up?”

“Fair, I suppose.  I didn’t sleep much.  My head is spinning with so many things to think about.”

Barbara knew that she, herself wasn’t really a suspect.  She had an airtight alibi, too.  Embarrassing as it was, the computer servers could prove that she was actually on-line and on-camera when Cliff was killed.  She was more concerned with the forensics team uncovering the fact that she played on-line chess with Cliff at least twice a week.  That fact would be hard to explain to her friend, the friend married to Cliff.  Barbara didn’t even want to bring it up.  She didn’t know why Cliff did it, and it would have concerned her more except for the fact that she knew he could afford it without blinking an eye.

“Did the police say anything else?  Any leads?”

Christy had her own agenda for the conversation.  She knew that she was inocent, the problem was proving it. How could she accomplish her goal to stay out of prison, without spilling the beans that she was sleeping with her best friend’s husband at the time of the murder?  Talk about having your cake and eating it, too…

“They asked if I could produce a witness that could swear to my whereabouts at the time of the murder. It’s kind of put me between a rock and a hard place, I guess, but my witness can’t allow himself to be publically identified. He has his own issues and I may be left hanging out to dry.”

Barbara, trying to lighten the conversation slightly, replied with a it of humor noir. “Let’s just hope they don’t take your last statement…literally.”

“So who’s the mystery man, anyway?  Why haven’t I heard of him?”  This was getting more juicy than Barbara had ever expected.

“Well, I know that everyone thinks that Cliff and I have had the perfect marriage, and we worked really hard to keep that image up, let me tell you, but over the years we simply drifted into our own worlds.”

Barbara could hear the words coming out of Christy’s mouth, but her brain was substituting her own voice.  She could easily make the exact same statement about she and Frank. “And you found someone else, then?”

“Yes, and it’s oh so complicated. We’re both married and we both have a lot to lose if the news becomes public.  The bad part is that my affair gives the police even more reason to suspect me.”

“Did you tell any of this to Lou?”  Barbara knew it wouldn’t be pretty. She had heard the stories about interrogations, how they deliberately twist the words of the suspect, almost guaranteeing that the suspect ends up confessing just so that the facts get told correctly. Now her curiosity was piqued.  Christy was right about one thing… news of her affair would make her a persona non grata at the country club.  They wouldn’t ask her to leave as long as she kept paying her dues, but the membership woud turn a cold shoulder to her, making it unbearable for her to stay.

“I told him that I had a “friend” who could vouch for my location at the time, but I wanted to keep the name under wraps until I just absolutely needed to put it in my statement.  I’m just hoping that they can find some other clues.  There must be something!”

Barbara asked more about possible motives for a killer.  Cliff Culpepper was known as a church-going family man, as honest as the day was long. He didn’t cheat, or even bend the rules, when he played golf at the club. His reputation as a black and white, no gray area type of accountant made him an obvious choice to head the internal auditing department at the bank.  When allegations of financial wrongdoings by the board of directors surfaced, Cliff worked with the federal FINRA auditors and eventually cleared everyone of all wrongdoings. He was considered a hero at the bank.

“You had mentioned something about him and a clerk?  Could he have been seeing someone else?  I mean, I don’t want to imply anything, but could something be going on at work?  I’m just trying to find options for the police to consider. I’m so sorry, but at this point I just want to think of any possibility…”

Christy liked the direction the conversation was going.  She hadn’t thought about it, but this could be something firm for the cops to sink there teeth into.  “Well, it could very well be a goose and gander thing.  I guess since I have my little extra curricular activity, Cliff could have had one, also.  At one time I thought he and a clerk from the office were becoming an item, but that’s been some time ago.  He got so involved with the FINRA investigation, I didn’t think he had time to do anything but work…”

Christy looked at Barbara. They both had the same realization.  Perhaps Cliff had been seeing the clerk, all the while under the guise of having to work on the allegations of misapproprition by the board. Barbara summed it all up, “Well that’s something worth telling Lou.”

Christy had done it.  She manage to direct the conversation away from her mystery man and now had a new, potential suspect.

August 31, 2008

Checkmate 7

Filed under: Uncategorized — D.J. Lutz @ 3:37 am
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Realizing he needed to maintain at least the appearance of being a detective, Frank slowly walked back into the house.  Lou had just finished his interview with his main, albeit only suspect – Christy Culpepper, the wife of the deceased, and was leaving the study.

“Anything new?”  Frank was fishing.  Did Lou have any idea that he was close friends with Christy?  Very close?  He knew that Lou was an outstanding detective, why would he work with someone less? His choice in partners may be coming back on him now…

Lou carefully measured his words.  “She wasn’t too cooperative. As a matter of fact, it looks like she is trying to hide something, but I don’t think she is the murderer.”

Frank was momentarily flummoxed.  “How so?  She didn’t seem too upset about losing her husband in such a graphic manner a few hours ago.  I’d have thought she would be a bit more flustered.”

“Yeah, that part confuses me, too.  But a murderer, being interrogated so quickly after the fact, would have put up a thousand and one excuses, trying to come up with an airtight alibi.  All she offered was that you could vouch for her this afternoon.”

“Alright Lou.  Let’s stop the game.  You’ve left out a detail somewhere and you are hoping that I can spit it out in order to corroborate her story. This is where we are going, isn’t it?”

Lou recognized the same type of defense offered by Christy. Whatever was between those two, they had obviously talked about the possibility of being questioned, separately.  “You going to tell me, or are you just taking the easy road and bowing out of the investigation?”

Frank sighed.  This would not play well in the media.  Not too well at home, either. “Out of concern for everyone, and my career, I think I will recluse myself.  I expect that you will follow process and be speaking to IO. But Lou… rest assured that neither Christy nor I had anything to do with the murder.”

“Well, let’s hope forensics turns up something that can point us in another direction, then. I’ll tell you what, Frank, I consider the matter closed.  You, on the other hand, have to deal with Internal Affairs.  That, my friend, is your problem.”

Barbara, meanwhile, had stopped by Christy’s bedroom, where the new widow was crying.  The events of the day had finally caught up with her. “Is there anything I can do?  I know that’s a trite line, and you’ll hear it way too much in the next few days, but it’s all I could think of…sorry.”

“It’s okay. I just have a million things to sort out. What I just can’t figure out is why someone would want Cliff dead?”

“Did you tell Lou anything that might help?”

“No.  I’m afraid I was a bit on the defensive side. Probably didn’t help my own case much, I guess.”

Barbara knew she had to get back to the office.  She had series of web matches scheduled in an hour or so. “Well, I’ve known Lou for a long time now.  If he really thought you killed her, he would either still be here… or you would be taking a blue and white taxi downtown to check into the graybar hotel.”  Gads, she thought. Living with a cop has allowed police slang to infiltrate her lexicon.

“Listen.  I’ll be alright.  Go home, spend some time with that husband of yours.  I just need some time alone to cry.  Tomorrow will be better.  I’ll call you.  We can have coffee and sort this whole thing out.”

Recognizing an out being presented, Barbara pounced on it. “You just call my cell if you need anything, promise?”  Christy gave her a hug and sat back down on the bed. Barabara didn’t want to leave her best friend like this, but she knew she could not miss an on-line appointment. “I’ll call you in the morning.  Now get going.”

Back at the office, Barbara shut and locked the door, then closed the heavy drapes she had put up over the windows to keep light, and accidental voyeurs out.  Tonight she would be using her translucent one piece, the one with matching heels. She had several outfits, any one of them would either cause every man at the pool to stop in their tracks, or get her kicked out of the pool. This one would have certainly sent her packing.

With such a wardrobe, Barbara had more customers than she could handle.  She did two matches a day; one in the afternoon for the bored businessmen sitting alone in their corner offices, and one match at eleven pm.  She knew from conversations with her other married friends that after the evening news, the wives went to sleep and the husbands cruised the Internet.  Why not take advantage?  At a c-note per game, Barbara had amassed quite the nest egg, thanks to unrequited lust and a popular online pay service that kept everyone’s name confidential…

Once the computers were linked, she started greeting her opponents scheduled for matches this evening.  It was a simple business really. She played ten games of chess simultaneously, with the boards set about in a large circle. She would move, then progress to the next game and make another move. The opponents would see the move on their screen and then using instant messaging, type in their move. With ten games happening at once, each player was afforded ample time to watch Barbara play the others.

Once the game was won, Barbara would disconnect the player’s account.  Unless, of course, Barbara lost.  In this case, rare as it was, she allow the player to remain connected online, chatting with him as she played the games on both sides of his victorious board.  Incentive for them to be a better player, she thought,but what they didn’t know was she had put herself through college hustling games from old professors.

She beat nine of ten tonight. Her mind was just wasn’t on the game tonight. Barbara kept thinking about what Christy had said earlier.  Why had Cliff been killed?  It looked like a profesional hit, but why would he allow the hitman into the room…and not even put up a struggle? And what could a straight arrow like Cliff Culpepper have done to warrant a hit?

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