Tag Archives: A Lee Malone Adventure

Contents Vol. 2 No. 1

Welcome to Volume Two, Number One of Dime Pulp, A Seral Pulp Fiction Magazine. The start of the new year and the beginning of the second volume of this serial pulp fiction platform also marks the conclusion of our long running serial novel, The Last Resort, A Lee Malone Adventure, by Pat Nolan who reveals that he borrowed a technique from the proto-surrealist Raymond Roussel and that the first sentence and the last sentence in his novel are the names of countries. Other than that, the last chapter of The Last Resort ties things up as neatly as Lee Malone cinching the bow on the laces of her running shoes.

The new year also brings the latest installment of Colin Deerwood’s Better Than Dead, a golden age serial detective fiction prompted by the illustration of a vintage Black Mask cover. Lackland Ask, on the lam after the massacre in the Heights and hiding out with his new partner in crime, the young,  winsome, yet feisty Rebecca Eisen, is more than a little surprised when she reveals that she has managed to make off with the rest of the diamond stash. Yet with hardly any time to rejoice in his good fortune, he makes a troubling discovery: Rebecca’s father is a bomb builder and possibly an agent for Uncle Joe. Can this mean their lips will never touch? Don’t bet on it.

In this issue as well, the third installment of Pat Nolan’s novella, On The Road To Las Cruces, Being A Novel Account of the Last Day in the Life of a Legendary Western Lawman, a work of fiction tethered loosely to historical fact. Fearful that harm has come to her husband, Apollinara hitches up the buckboard and heads down the mesa to look for him. In the meantime, the old man, encouraged by a bottle of pulque, has recounted his background as a lawman and his role in the White Sands Murders. As much a retelling of some history as it is how such a retelling might come about, On The Road To Las Cruces is represented in the manner of a tall tale, the deadpan details of a crime story, melodrama, and a conspiracy to murder.

Dime Pulp continues its crime spree with the serialization of three full length novels, The Last Resort and Better Than DeadA Detective Story, as well as On The Road To Las Cruces.

If you’ve made it this far, go ahead and follow the links below to reading entertainment with the serial contents of Volume Two, Number One.

 —Perry O’Dickle, chief scribe
and word accountant


DPjuninsetDeep in the redwood wilds along the Corkscrew River, someone is shooting neighborhood dogs. The year is 1985 and Lee Malone, former fashion model, queen of the runways from Paris to Milan, once dubbed the most beautiful woman in the world, now a part-time reporter for The Corkscrew County Grapevine, is looking for a story to sink her teeth into. When Lee finds the owner of Kelly’s Seaside Resort brutally murdered, it leads her on an adventure that includes a mysterious gray van, another murder, extortion, pornography, sex slavery, and a shadowy organization of militant feminists known as SAPHO. In the process, Lee Malone’s notorious past catches up with her.

The Last Resort, Chapter 36


“Lackland Ask is the name. ‘Lack’ to my friends, ‘Don’t’ to those who think they’re funny. You might have seen my portrait on the cover of Black Mask, the crime fiction magazine. This is my story. It starts with a blonde. This kind of story always starts with a blonde.” Thus begins the seemingly non-stop, endless narrative of Better Than Dead in which women are not the only trouble although most of it, told with the wit and street savvy of Runyon and Parker.

Better Than Dead—13


otrpic1fi2In late February of 1908, a one-time drover, buffalo hunter, saloon owner, hog farmer, peach grower, horse rancher, US Customs inspector, private investigator, county sheriff, and Deputy US Marshal set out from his adobe home on the mesa above Organ, New Mexico accompanied by a young man in a black buggy on the journey to Las Cruces. He would never arrive. This is the story of that journey, a novel account of the last day in the life of a legendary lawman.

On The Road To Last Cruces—Three—

The Last Resort, 36

by Pat Nolan

Chapter Thirty Six

RESPECT

The bullet had gone through my left shoulder. They said it was just a flesh wound and that I was lucky. All the same, there was an ugly dimple where the bullet had gone in and a purple raisin-like scar where it had come out. On the right side of my face where Rhonda had pistol whipped me, a small tear shaped scar hung just below the cheekbone. My surgeon recommended plastic surgery. I said I’d think about it. I was chipped porcelain. I kind of liked the idea. It took about a month for the pain in my shoulder to cool down enough for me to resume my daily jogs. I was living in a rental in Feather but still running in the old Primrose Lane neighborhood while I had the cabin rebuilt. The insurance would pay for it.

After the cops had tracked Timmy down, he implicated the Montague crew in the arson and extortion of the small wineries in Corkscrew County. He was held responsible for the conflagration that ate up an entire block of greater downtown Timberton. The Antique Store & Motorcycle Repair Shop, and the Grapevine office upstairs, the abandoned gift shop next door to the real estate office, all pretty much gone. Rhonda did not survive the blaze, the shotgun blast having done most of the job. Blackie made it out alive but just barely. Rhonda’s shot had pierced his right lung. That was the least of his problems. The stomping Timmy had given him put him in a wheelchair, maybe for good.

arson-motelIn the days following my release from the hospital, I was the center of a media storm. I’d been there before. This time was different in that it involved arson, extortion, murder, an international sex trafficking ring, and money laundering, not my usual outrageous prima donna shenanigans. I was camera candy on a daily basis for a couple of weeks. It was like the old days in Milan. I couldn’t go anywhere without being accosted by the strobe of camera flashes. Then someone else’s high jinks, this time in DC, took over the headlines.

I learned that State and local authorities had been investigating Tommy Perro’s operation for some time before Fashwalla’s murder. The feds had been brought in once the scope of the operation was realized. The murder in Feather had been the wild card that turned things around. Up until then Ramparts Corp had kept their illegal business within the bounds of criminal decorum that could easily be overlooked by bribing local officials. One of them was the District Attorney, Chandler Wong’s boss, the leering racist letch I’d met in the hallway at the Hall of Justice last winter. Some of the information I gleaned from the Daily Republican, some of it Detective Rick Santos let slip when he visited me in the hospital in the course of his investigation. After he was done asking his questions, he’d given me a wry smile and teased, “What’s it with you and shotguns, Malone?”  Chandler Wong provided me with most of the details over dinner one evening not long after I got out of the hospital.

With the first killing, the investigators had realized there were more players than they had originally figured. They never caught on that Rhonda was the controlling hand behind the scene. As an aging porn queen, she had never even come up on their radar. As a result of the police raid at the Winery, Tommy Perro, who survived his heart attack and would be recuperating in a federal penitentiary hospital, was arrested along with Junior and charged on a number of racketeering counts. Timmy was facing murder, manslaughter, and attempted murder raps. I had inquired after Preston Carmichael. Chandler said that when they converged on the warehouse that night they found only the old man, young Tommy, and some of their staff. There were no dead bodies, of either Preston Carmichael or a Doberman pinscher.

I wondered what had become of the women I had seen being auctioned off like livestock. Chandler explained that they found nine young women in a makeshift dorm at the warehouse. Most of them were country girls who had been lured by ads placed in freebie advertisers by phony modeling agencies. Once in the clutches of the white slavers, they were drugged and held virtual prisoners. They’d been released in the care of a halfway house for abused women in Santa Quinta. A few were foreign nationals and would eventually be repatriated. Chandler said that if it hadn’t been for me, they’d probably still be prisoners. The medical emergency had provided the ideal pretext to stage the raid on Montague Winery.

I was also trying to make sense of what had happened at The Mint. The killing of Timmy’s bearded partner, Bruno ‘Bear’ Fitzwaller, in Alice Franklin’s bedroom had investigators scratching their heads. I had told Detective Santos in my original interview that the dead man was one of the men in the gray van. I didn’t know then that he was a thug tied to Timmy Montague and Montague Winery. Once I identified Timmy as the other man in the van, they were able to piece together a plausible scenario. It centered on Ramparts Corp’s voracious appetite for acquiring property as a means to launder their ill-gotten gains.

 From the statements Timmy made in his confession, it appeared that Rhonda had been negotiating with Alice Franklin to sell the family resort. Although Alice had agreed to a deal at first, she had a change of heart, claiming she had a nephew who might be interested in keeping the business in the family. Fashwalla and his brother had made a similar mistake in accepting an offer from Ramparts Corp and reneging on the deal. In that instance, Ralph Fashwalla wanted to hold out for more money. He got a shotgun blast in the back for his greed, and his brother, in fear of his own life, cut a deal with the murderers. Faheed Fashwalla confessing to his brother’s murder and later recanting was a ruse dreamed up by Preston Carmichael to throw the investigators off the scent.

tlr36end In Alice Franklin’s case, an enraged Rhonda had instructed Timmy to do whatever it took to get Alice out of the picture. Ramparts Corp would then grab up the last resort on the Corkscrew River for next to nothing. It was well known that Alice was in financial trouble exacerbated by a drinking problem. She needed money to keep the Mint open, and having fallen in with dubious company in the persons of Timmy and his partner, Bear, she was persuaded that the money they made from a risqué movie would pay off her mounting debts. Timmy denied any involvement in his partner’s death in spite of the fact that his fingerprints were all over the murder weapon. Even more damning was evidence that it was the same shotgun used to kill Fashwalla. The investigators also found a video tape in a search of Timmy’s apartment at Montague Winery. The tape confirmed that Alice and Bear engaged in perfunctory sex play. The video also showed Alice shrinking back with a mixture of surprise and fear as Bear advanced with shotgun in hand. Bear then stopped as if something had distracted him and, with an angry frown, glared off camera. The video stopped at that point indicating the camera had been turned off. Confronted with the evidence on the tape, Timmy admitted that once Bear had his way with Alice, he meant to kill her. The investigation concluded that Alice Franklin had turned the tables on them and acted in self-defense. What or who had distracted the killers and why the filming had stopped was an unresolved detail that would not hinder the DA from adding conspiracy to murder to Timmy’s growing list of criminal charges.

I got a slightly different version of what had gone down from Blackie when I visited him at the rehab facility in Santa Quinta. In the account Blackie had given the cops, he placed himself arriving after the gun had gone off.

He told me how he had walked in on the setup that night. Alice had been a friend of his and Arlene’s since their early days in Corkscrew County, and he had gone by to say hello and thank her for letting him use the dumpster. He’d called out her name walking up the steps to her room, not wanting to take her by surprise. To his own surprise, when he came to the doorway of the bedroom, he spied a naked man and a naked Alice struggling for a shotgun. He yelled something, more to distract the man than anything else. He was about to jump into the fray when Timmy, whom he had not seen at first, shouldered past him and knocked him back out into the hallway. He had first thought to go after Timmy but instantly realized that Alice was in more danger so he went back into the bedroom where the naked pair had now fallen across the bed in their struggle for the shotgun. He planted a boot in the big man’s kidney and it was enough to get him to release his hold on the weapon. Then the gun went off hitting Bear square in the chest. He didn’t think that Alice had intentionally pulled the trigger. Alice, once she saw what she had done, was inconsolable. It had tipped her already fragile mental state into the abyss of psychosis. About then was when I arrived with Rikki and Wallace to find Blackie dialing for help.

I was concerned for Blackie. His business had gone up in flames, and he had been critically injured. His future was uncertain. It must have shown on my face.

“Hey, at least I still got wheels,” he had joked halfheartedly from his wheelchair. I figured that it would be a good idea if I looked in on him every once in a while.

There were still pieces of the puzzle of what had occurred over the last year that I needed to fit together for myself. The dog murders were resolved when it was revealed that Timmy Montague was an animal sadist. He had bragged to a cellmate that he liked to cruise residential neighborhoods and shoot dogs that had the nerve to chase his van.

The mystery of the burnt-out van itself and the charred bodies it contained remained unsolved. My intuition notwithstanding, the autopsy determined that both victims were males and yet to be identified. Timmy and Bear undoubtedly had a hand in the grisly ruse. The investigation, according to the Sheriff’s Office, was ongoing.

The Grapevine, Corkscrew County’s last independent newspaper, was put out of business by the fire. JJ wasn’t too broken up by it, though. She’d met an antique dealer at the fashion show, someone who had gone to high school with her, though she had to admit she didn’t exactly remember him. He’d been in the class ahead of her. Or behind her. Not that it mattered. He lived in Arizona and was quite wealthy.

Meanwhile back at the resort, Rikki and Wallace had come up with the idea of buying The Mint from Alice Franklin. They planned to renovate it, with the help of Nathan Thiele, and make it into an exclusive resort for their same preference friends.

And there was my step-father’s involvement with Rhonda and her money laundering schemes. Just the thought of it gnawed at my gut like a festering ulcer, and I knew I would have to get to the bottom of it, if for no other reason than my own sanity.

What caught my attention was the small tattoo on the inside of her bicep, a V bisected by a line, the Aeolian Greek letter psi. I knew that symbol well. It belonged to SAPHO.

Marty Steele, the little mannequin TV news reporter at KSQU, offered me a job as a news anchor. I told him I’d think about it. I was being deluged with similar offers. News shows and talk shows clamored for my presence on their tiny screens. I felt like telling them I was too big to fit in such a small space, but I kept it to myself. My old agency was desperate to get me back even though they had hung me out to dry in the waning days of my career. I wasn’t all that interested in any of it. I liked who I had become in the anonymity of the tiny river community. I took the calls from my friends who expressed their concerns and envy that even out in the middle of nowhere I still had the ability to draw the world’s attention. My answer to them: “some of us have it and some of us don’t.” I gave a tentative yes to Marilyn Nakamura, an old runway mate who was starting a line of yoga togs and wanted me to model them for her catalog. I’d never been a catalog model before. At one time I might have considered it beneath me. These days it was simply something I could do for an old friend and that was enough. And I patiently fielded the calls from my mother who was beside herself with what she called my reckless lifestyle. They usually came in the evening, around dinner time, like calls from pollsters or aluminum siding salesmen. My patience wore thin after about a week of tipsy dialing. Finally I told her that I was in the driver’s seat of my life and if I took the curves a little fast and tight, that was my worry.

I had one more piece of business to attend to. I wanted to personally thank the woman who had pulled me from the burning building that night. I had come to on a stretcher being loaded into the back of an ambulance to see May Ann Young, the County fire investigator, peering at my face, brow furrowed in distress. Her face smudged with soot, she had put her hand on mine and smiled when she saw that I recognized her. I managed a weak stretch of lips myself.

May Ann retired from her position with the County before I had a chance to properly thank her. If she left a forwarding address, I wasn’t privy to it. I did get the opportunity to view the investigative report she filed in which she admitted that she had mistakenly assumed I had deliberately set fire to my cabin for the purpose of collecting on the insurance. When she reviewed the timeline and the witness statements, Rhonda’s appeared inconsistent. Determining that Rhonda’s story would require further inquiry, she had driven out to the Primrose Lane address just in time to see the old woman put something that looked like a rifle or shotgun in the trunk of her car and speed off followed by a man on a motorcycle. Her suspicions aroused, she set off to follow them but was called away by emergency radio traffic of a vehicle into a power pole. Since she was the closest County unit, she responded. The accident was responsible for knocking out the power to Timberton and the surrounding area. Once the scene was secured, she continued her search for Rhonda, ending up in Timberton just about the time the power came back on. She was on the road out of town when she heard the radio traffic reporting shots fired in the vicinity. By the time she reached the motorcycle repair shop, it was fully engulfed. She called the fire in to dispatch and went to investigate. When she approached the rear of the building she saw two motorcycles and Rhonda’s Coupe Deville. And Timmy running off down the alley. Peering into the smoke choked open doorway, she spotted the bodies and took it upon herself to pull them to safety, first me and then Blackie.

Her uniform shirt sleeve had been ripped up past the elbow, a gauze bandage soaking blood from the wound on her forearm. She had been injured going back into the burning building after Blackie. What caught my attention was the small tattoo on the inside of her bicep, a V bisected by a line, the Aeolian Greek letter psi. I knew that symbol well. It belonged to SAPHO.

leewarhol2I put my right running shoe on the front bumper of my Volvo and tightened the laces and then did the same with my left. I would attend to everything I could all in good time. But first I was itching to run. I inhaled deeply, the cool of early morning autumn air filling my lungs. This was my favorite time of the year, the deciduous trees on the verge of turning to a riot of reds and yellows. With a water bottle strapped to one hip and a tiny cassette player on the other, I ran in place, adjusting the earphones on my head. I pressed play and grinned as Aretha’s voice sang “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me.” I knew exactly what she was talking about. My feet beat the asphalt as I propelled myself down Primrose Lane. Was there ever any doubt? I rock!


~END~

The Last Resort, 34-35

by Pat Nolan

Chapter Thirty Four
ESCAPE

I reeled like a sapling in the wake of a tornado. My legs went weak, knees about to buckle. How long had I been standing there? An eternity? The man in the wheelchair grasping at his chest in agony focused all attention on his drama. Bodyguards set up a perimeter and Tommy Junior’s voice shouted out above the confusion for an ambulance. A rough hand grabbed me by the arm to keep me from collapsing.

I couldn’t focus. I had projected my entire being at the old devil and now there was nothing left of me. I was empty. The hand, the shoulder, the arm around my waist, the feet striding quickly, purposefully out of the spotlight and backstage belonged to Blackie. My eyes fought the encroaching dark and my skin turned cold. Then I realized that we were outside and I wasn’t dressed for evening. I was barely able to put one foot in front of the other.

Blackie half carried half dragged me behind a sheltering row of vines. I was limp as a rag doll. He shook me roughly. “Come on, Malone, snap out of it!”  His anxious face multiplied in a blur like the spinning dial of a telephone. Finally he heaved me over a shoulder and jogged to behind the pump house where he had hidden his motorcycle. He took a black bandana from the pocket of his jacket and tied one end around my wrist. Numbly I complied with his instructions to climb onto the seat behind him. He pulled my arms around his waist and tied the end of the bandana to my other wrist. He pointed the bike downhill and coasted to a point where the engine came to life with an earsplitting roar. Helpless, my head pressed against the slab of his black leather back, arms bound around his waist. I should have been afraid but my instincts told me to trust the old man, trust him the way I had trusted an old woman not so long ago.

The screaming apparition of an emergency vehicle, flashing red lights blazing, passed in the opposite direction on the darkened road.

chopper darkI just wanted to curl up somewhere warm, soft, safe and quiet. Instead I was on the back of a noisy chopper with a gale force wind blowing through my skimpy blouse and up my long skirt. And I was on the down slide, the price I had to pay for my extraordinary power. I’d been there before, guided through my initiation by Trayann, and allowed to right my tumbled world before the blazing hearth of her stone hut with a bowl of herb tea, listening to the murmured litany that would help ease me out of the depths of my autism.

“I am chaos, I am order. I am she whose smile induces forgetfulness. I am the vessel of dreams, she who turns the year round its axis. I am the claw of night, the sigh of all time, silence incomprehensible.”

I had gone looking for the old woman after the hubbub of my rescue by the Prince’s commandos had died down. I’d hired a fisherman from Sardinia to ferry me back to the black sand beach. Everything was gone, every trace of the women, of SAPHO, had been eradicated. The villa was in a state of disrepair that would have taken centuries to accomplish. Trayann’s stone hut, a pile of time worn rubble, and the once raging stream, dubbed Milk of the Goddess, an anemic trickle. I stood on the deserted black sand beach and looked up at where the villa had been, remembering the names of the women I had become friends with, the women who had changed my life. Xuxann, Urann, Roxann, Choann, Reiann, Mariann, Elann, Diann, Belann. And above all, Trayann.

“I am the vibrant virgin, the fertile female, the wizened hag. I am the primal force, the mist in the trees, rosy-fingered dawn. I am truth. I am beauty. I am the first and the last, the honored and the scorned, the holy and the whore, the virgin and the wife, the daughter and the mother.”

In the weeks after I had witnessed Trayann’s performance I completed my initiation into an ancient sisterhood whose ubiquity is its camouflage. Every woman has life shaping power, the power over life and death. Once this truth is acknowledged, the ancient technique, known in French as la Folle, or as Xuxann liked to call it, Femme Fu, ‘crazy woman,’ is relatively easy to learn. Of course, it helps if you have a heart stopping body like mine. However, it can only be used as the last resort.

The screaming apparition of an emergency vehicle, flashing red lights blazing, passed in the opposite direction on the darkened road. In the wake of its oscillating wail I could still hear Trayann’s voice.

“I am knowledge and ignorance, shameless and ashamed, strong yet weak, fearful yet fearless. I am foolish. I am wise. I am the child at every birth, the bride at every wedding, the corpse at every funeral. I am the many. I am the one. I am the labyrinth.” 

Teeth chattering, I was fully alert by the time Blackie brought his bike to a stop in the alley behind his motorcycle repair shop. He untied the bandana and led me to the back entrance. All of Timberton was in the dark, another power outage apparently. Once inside Blackie found a kerosene lamp and lit it. He took a bottle down from a shelf and poured each of us a stiff drink in coffee mugs. When the whiskey hit my gut, it was like a little sun had exploded, sending its warm rays out to my extremities. I studied Blackie’s craggy lined face in the warm glow of the oil lamp.

“OK, I think you need to tell me what’s going on.”

He shrugged. “You know about as much as I do.”

“No, no, that doesn’t cut it.”  The drink had put fire in my veins. “You need to tell me what you were doing there, at the Winery. “

Blackie stared at the wall behind me, his lips pursed like he wanted to tell me but hadn’t figured out how to say it.

“Come on, Blackie, you can tell me. What were you doing there? You certainly weren’t on their team, not the way they manhandled you.”

He bobbed his chin in agreement. “Actually, I was keeping tabs on you.” Blackie registered my surprise with a sly grin.

“I don’t get it. You were stalking me?”

He shook his head and sighed. In the dim light of the lamp he appeared older, tired. “You remind me an awful lot of her.” He pointed to the picture of Arlene on the wall. “She was a feisty one, too.” That brought a hint of a smile to the lines around his mouth. “You wouldn’t listen to me when I said you needed to keep your nose out of this business. I knew you’d eventually bump into trouble. You have no idea how ruthless these guys are. Everything you said to JJ about the murders and your suspicions was relayed to Junior.”

“Joyce James, that bitch!”

“The way I see it, torching your cabin was a warning. You were supposed to back off. But you wouldn’t take the hint. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw you flitting through the vine rows. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out what you were up to. When you disappeared into the warehouse I knew you were just plain stupid.”  He paused to light a cigarette. “Then stupid followed stupid.”

I was about to answer when the power came back on. I nearly jumped out of my skin.   “Hey, nothing to be scared of,” Blackie said, laughing at the panic in my eyes, “it’s only a little electricity.”

If I had been a man, my actions would have been viewed as ballsy. As a woman, I was just stupid. My lack of caution made me reckless, not brainless. I shrugged it off. “Did you know what was going on at the Winery, the auctions?”

Blackie drained more of the bottle into his cup. His hand was shaking. “I had a pretty good idea that if it involved Tommy and his kids, it was probably no good. I keep a low profile where Tommy Perro’s concerned. He knows, and I know, that if I ever got him alone I’d wring his scrawny neck. I’m not interested in going back to jail.”  He stared down at his cup.

“I know about your time in prison, Blackie, that’s not what concerns me. What’s your connection to Tommy and the boys?”

Blackie drew on his cigarette and let the smoke out slowly. “Ok, if you know about my time in the pen, then you probably know why.”  I nodded and he continued. “Imagine my surprise when I got out and found Arlene with a couple of kids. And living with Tommy! Well, I didn’t care nothing about that. It was gonna be a fresh start, her and me. Like nothing had happened.”  He frowned remembering. “We’d talked about quitting the business and heading up to the Corkscrew River before. Arlene, she was all for it, but she couldn’t leave the boys with Tommy.” He shook his head. “He was too coked up or smacked out. Unpredictable, irresponsible. He was leaving his shit lying around where the rug rats could get at it. It was a real horror show I found when I got out of the slam.”

“So you moved here with Arlene and the boys. Didn’t Tommy come looking for you, to take the boys back?”

Blackie’s look told me I’d touched a sore spot. “Yeah, he come looking for Arlene,” he said slowly as if it were a strain to talk about it. “Took his damn time. She was set to enroll the boys in elementary school and all of a sudden he shows up and says he’s taking custody cause she’s an unfit mother being a porn actress and all. He had the brass to claim she was immoral yet here he was a big time drug dealer and porno pimp. Good thing I was gone or I would for sure have wacked his sorry ass!”

“Where were you?”

“Ah, I had to go back east, Boston, to help with my mother’s funeral arrangements. And there were other family matters that needed sorting out so I was gone longer than I figured. When I got back, Arlene, she was in pretty bad shape and I was ready to go after Tommy and put a bullet in his knobby little skull. But Arlene wouldn’t have it. It wouldn’t bring the boys back, she said. Tommy had the lawyers and the money so we couldn’t fight it that way.”

“And that was the last time you saw the twins?”

Blackie looked at me from behind the pain in his eyes. “I thought I’d seen the last of them. They’d been a handful anyway, and I don’t have much patience with misbehaving and disrespect. The way they treated Arlene always made me mad. I was ready to give them a thrashing more than once but Arlene wouldn’t have it. But with them gone, we had some kind of peace.” The lines around his eyes relaxed as he recalled the tranquility. “Then, half a dozen or so years later, out of the blue, Timmy showed up. He’d got himself into a jam down south and needed a place to lie low. I didn’t want anything to do with him, but Arlene, she put him up in the spare bedroom. Let me tell you, it was no picnic. He was a wild one, but the way Arlene fussed about him you woulda thought he was the Prince of Siam. I had him help me out in my shop to try to keep him out of trouble. Had a knack for the machines, I’ll say that for him.” Blackie glanced around the shop as if the deep shadows concealed the memories. “But one day, he just left, didn’t say a word. Disappeared like he’d never been there. Arlene took it hard as you might expect. Me, I just couldn’t figure what made him tick. I got an idea about a week after the boy took off. Santos, the local deputy at the time come looking for Timmy. Seemed that the cops suspected him of setting grass fires, one of which burned down a house. Well, Arlene wouldn’t believe it when they told us and of course I took her side seeing as how I never had no love for the police. They took me down to the substation for interfering with an officer of the law.”  Blackie scoffed at the memory.

“So Timmy was the evil twin?” Blackie’s story was making me sad. I wanted to comfort him, but his stiff manner wouldn’t allow it.

“If you ask me, they’re both evil. I thought I’d seen the last of them. About then is when Arlene took sick. And that was mostly what was on my mind. Caring for her.”  His eyes got glassy and he looked away.

“That must have been when Rhonda moved up here, right? Arlene must have been comforted to have her old friend nearby.”

Blackie frowned. “No, Arlene passed before any of them showed up again. First it was young Tommy, throwing money around and buying up property and planting vineyards. Changed his name to Montague. He come by once, just to check me out. I didn’t see much of him after that. And then Timmy come by. Had himself a chopper. Wanted to use my shop to work on his bike.” Blackie sighed. “Can’t say I was too welcoming. Considering.”

I was puzzled. “So Rhonda. . . ?”

Blackie shook his head. “Me and Rhonda never did get along once the whole dirty movie business started. I always figured she was the one who got Tommy going in that direction. And the way she treated Arlene, like she was her maid. I know she’s got a cabin in your neck of the woods, but her and Tommy Perro, I stay out of their way.”

Something was not adding up. “I have a confession to make, Blackie.”

He smiled, relieved to be pulled from his dark reverie.

“Oh yeah, what’s that?”

“I suspected that you set fire to my cabin. I was told that a motorcycle was heard in the neighborhood before the fire was discovered.”

Blackie fixed me with a stare, brow stepped with concern. “Who told you they heard a motorcycle?”

I was about to answer when the power came back on. I nearly jumped out of my skin.

“Hey, nothing to be scared of,” Blackie said, laughing at the panic in my eyes, “it’s only a little electricity.”

I had easily recovered from the surprise of the sudden bright light. The apparition in the doorway was the cause of my saucer eyes. Timmy beamed an evil grin at Blackie’s back. And behind Timmy stood Rhonda. The square black thing in her hand was a pistol.

Chapter Thirty Five
A FAMILY AFFAIR

I was speechless, I couldn’t think of a thing to say. Not that the situation required me to say anything. Rhonda, gun in hand, was clearly in control. My head was spinning. It felt like I was having post-hallucinatory hallucinations. The way my gut dive-bombed told me that it was all too real.

Blackie blurted, “Rhonda? Timmy? What?” before Rhonda cut him off.

“Shut up Blackie, and keep your hands where I can see them.”  There was a remorseless feline cruelty to her eyes.

And I finally got a good look at the surviving occupant of the gray van. As my prime suspect in the murder of Hitler, Goldberg’s Airedale, and presumably Creasy’s pup, he had epitomized the sense of wrongness, of evil, in this whole affair. What I saw was a greasy sadistic pipsqueak in a motorcycle jacket holding a big shotgun.

It must have been the adrenaline contributing to the dryness of my mouth and the sense that my back had arched. I locked eyes with Rhonda. The way she twisted her mouth into a haughty smirk. I recognized it. Timmy was making a similar one and I didn’t think it was because they had both attended the same smirk class. The resemblance between Rhonda and Timmy, and by extension Tommy, was striking. That was only slightly troubling. It was the resemblance between Rhonda and the old man in the wheelchair, Tommy Perro that had me gasp in surprise. My puzzlement resolved in a flash of intuition. She was the brains behind Pa. And she was his sister or a very close relative.

I was looking at a pistol and a shotgun yet I felt like I had the upper hand. “I think you just confirmed that I do know what I’m talking about. Tommy Perro is your brother.”

I blinked. Rhonda sensed that I knew. For that, I would have to pay. “And you, you meddling bitch.” She crossed the short distance between us and hit me in the face with the pistol. It wasn’t a blow that was intended to hurt as much as intimidate. I felt the skin on my cheekbone split and put my hand up to meet the swelling. I looked at the blood on my fingers. The sight of blood, especially my own, always makes me faint. I tottered.

Blackie moved to catch me but Timmy read it differently and clubbed him with the butt end of the shotgun. Blackie dropped to his knees and then fell full face forward to the concrete floor. I caught the edge of the work bench and held myself up until the wave of nausea passed. I focused on the photos Blackie had pinned on the wall, the old photos of Rhonda and Tommy and Blackie and Arlene. The old gang, the original porn crew, the youthful clan of sybarites grouped in sibling camaraderie.

Timmy left off kicking Blackie at Rhonda’s caution. “We don’t want to kill him. Just yet.”

A crimson halo spread from Blackie’s head across the cement floor and I felt a cramp in my gut that told me I was going to heave. I dug my nails into the wood of the workbench. I swallowed hard. “So you’re the mother of the twins,” I said finally, swaying to keep my balance.

Rhonda gave a sardonic cackle. “Of course, the twins are mine. There was never any doubt of that.”

“But Arlene, she was supposed to be the mother,” I managed as the room slowed its spin.

“You’ve got that right. She was supposed to be.” Rhonda scoffed. “If you must know, miss busybody, not that it’s going to do you any good, Arlene was supposed to act like they were her kids while I was doing time in the slammer. She claimed to be their mother so they wouldn’t end up in a foster home. I didn’t want that to happen to my babies. I know what that’s like. I love my babies.” And she gave Timmy a little maternal smile of affection, seductive in its controlling power. Timmy, in turn, frowned the troubled frown of a momma’s boy whose leash had just been tugged.

Rhonda felt a need to explain. “I was doing time when Blackie got out of prison. Once he hooked up with Arlene again, she left Tommy and took the kids with her. Tommy didn’t care, he’d become strung out on his own product. So when I got out on parole I wanted to know where my kids were. In the meantime, Tommy had become quite wealthy and greedy and thought he could write me out of the script. I had news for him.”  She said it, lips pursed in ruthless resolve.

“But you told me. . .”  I stopped. I wasn’t sure what she’d told me, there were too many loose ends.

“That’s the problem with beautiful women, they’re so gullible. The more beautiful, the more gullible. And fashion models like you think they’re better than the rest. Face it, honey, to men you’re just a piece of meat. Less than that. A picture of a piece of meat. You’re what they want. I’m what they get.” There was a bitter truth to what she was saying.    “Sure, I had to play it straight, but all the while I was working behind the scenes, managing the finances, letting Tommy be the front. I diversified. He kept the girlie concession. He always was a horny little bastard.”

“And you’ve known that since you were a little kid.”

It was her turn to blink. I knew I had got to her by the stormy furtive look she threw Timmy’s way. Timmy was clueless as I imagined he’d always been, a puppet tied to his mother’s apron string. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

I was looking at a pistol and a shotgun yet I felt like I had the upper hand. “I think you just confirmed that I do know what I’m talking about. Tommy Perro is your brother.”  It was a leap but her clouded brow told me I’d hit the mark. Timmy stiffened as if stung, the dim light behind his eyes suddenly bright.

“You think you’re so clever. Here’s something you don’t know. One of the original investors in my little business venture, the guy who showed me how to launder money, set up a dummy corporation, branch out into international markets, do you know who that was?” She was certain I didn’t have a clue and she was right. A shiver of fear rippled up my spine. “The guy who owned the cabin you lived in, your sainted step-father, Frank Zola.”

Timmy might have just as well hit me in the gut with the butt of his shotgun. “Frank was involved in all of this?”  Now I was really going to puke.

“Dad is your brother?” Timmy was looking at his mother, head cocked to one side, confusion darkening his features. “You’re my aunt? He’s my. . .uncle?”

“Now Timmy, honey, don’t listen to her.” She made a move toward him as if to comfort him. He leveled the shotgun at her. It wasn’t so much a threat as something that would keep her at arm’s length while he mulled over the ambiguity of the situation. Once he had been so sure of himself and now he felt betrayed.

“Timmy,” Rhonda repeated, pleading.

“No, mom, I gotta figure this out on my own.”  It went with an angry pout. It didn’t last long.

Blackie had come to or he’d been playing possum. Either way, he managed to rise to his knees and throw his body against Timmy’s legs, knocking the boy down which in turn triggered the Fireshotgun. The blast hit Rhonda on the left side just as she got off a round striking Blackie in the back. She was thrown backwards, taking the oil lamp with her. It shattered on the concrete floor sending flaming oil in all directions. Timmy’s legs were pinned under the weight of Blackie’s body.

Stunned, my ears ringing, I stumbled over to help Blackie. I glanced at Rhonda and caught the wicked gleam in her crazed eyes just as she raised the pistol and fired. My entire body stiffened, seized with pain, before I collapsed to the floor. Runnels of burning kerosene had reached a pile of greasy rags catching them on fire and filling the workshop with choking smoke. Timmy freed himself and crawled toward the doorway. A huge orange flame roared up from the cans of solvent stacked behind Rhonda. She was engulfed by fire in an instant as surely as if she had been sucked into the gates of Hell. A cacophony of voices filled my head, shrill voices, siren voices, swimming toward me as I closed my eyes. I didn’t care anymore. I was too far gone.


Next Time: The Conclusion. “I Ran, I Rock!”

Contents Vol. I No. 11

Introducing Dime Pulp Number Eleven

In Issue Eleven of Dime Pulp, A Serial Fiction Magazine, Better Than Dead, a 1940 serial detective fiction prompted by the illustration of a vintage Black Mask cover featuring the hapless Lackland Ask holed up after the massacre in the Heights and looking for a way to extricate himself from a mess of murder. But first, a romantic interlude..

The Last Resort, A Lee Malone Adventure aka Tales Of A Long Legged Snoop, picks up the pace toward its concluding chapters as the former international beauty and now reporter for The Corkscrew County Grapevine, is put in the position of being auctioned off to the highest bidder in a sex slave auction and has to resort to using her secret weapon, femme fou.

And beginning this issue, we are pleased to start the serialization of Pat Nolan’s On The Road To Las Cruces, Being A Novel Account of the Last Day in the Life of a Legendary Western Lawman, a work of fiction tethered loosely to historical fact. It is as much a retelling of some history as it is how such a retelling might come about, and represented in the manner of a tall tale, the deadpan details of a crime story, melodrama, and a conspiracy to murder.

Dime Pulp continues its crime spree with the serialization of three full length novels, The Last Resort and Better Than Dead, A Detective Story, as well as On The Road To Las Cruces.

If you’ve made it this far, go ahead and follow the links below to reading entertainment with the serial contents of Volume One, Number Eleven

  —Perry O’Dickle, chief scribe
and word accountant


TLR banner321Deep in the redwood wilds along the Corkscrew River, someone is shooting neighborhood dogs. The year is 1985 and Lee Malone, former fashion model, queen of the runways from Paris to Milan, once dubbed the most beautiful woman in the world, now a part-time reporter for The Corkscrew County Grapevine, is looking for a story to sink her teeth into. When Lee finds the owner of Kelly’s Seaside Resort brutally murdered, it leads her on an adventure that includes a mysterious gray van, another murder, extortion, pornography, sex slavery, and a shadowy organization of militant feminists known as SAPHO.  In the process, Lee Malone’s notorious past catches up with her. 

The Last Resort, Chapters 32-33

BTD head

Lackland Ask is the name. ‘Lack’ to my friends, ‘Don’t’ to those who think they’re funny. You might have seen my portrait on the cover of Black Mask, the crime fiction magazine. This is my story. It starts with a blonde. This kind of story always starts with a blonde. 

A Detective Story–11

Second Snowstorm Slams Into St. Mary's MD

In late February of 1908, a one-time drover, buffalo hunter, saloon owner, hog farmer, peach grower, horse rancher, US Customs inspector, private investigator, county sheriff, and Deputy US Marshal set out from his adobe home on the mesa above Organ, New Mexico accompanied by a young man in a black buggy on the journey to Las Cruces.  He would never arrive.  This is the story of that journey, a novel account of the last day in the life of a legendary lawman.

—ONE—

The Last Resort, 32-33

by Pat Nolan

Chapter Thirty Two
WONDERING WOMAN

I felt something touch my arm at the elbow. It was cold and hot at the same time. Then I lost consciousness. When I came to, my hands were tied behind my back and I had that horrible feeling of déjà vu. The last time I’d been in a similar situation, I had been found face down on the floor of my cell at Sabbia Negru by Mohamed el-Ipir of the Prince’s security force, the purple swelling of a bruise under one eye.

In that instance, everything had to be made to appear as if I had been mistreated. I had been recognized and word of my whereabouts revealed. The women of SAPHO had no choice but to clear out. Besides, I had served my purpose. My captors, if it was up to me, would remain anonymous, a mystery to the world at large.

I had been smeared with dirt and Xuxann had reluctantly, though forcefully, poked a fist in my face. Then I had been fitted with a gag but not so tight that I couldn’t swallow or breathe. Hours later I heard the churning rotors of a helicopter and felt the tiny cell shake with the nearby vibrations as it touched down. I had been rescued, I realized then, by the very men who wished to keep me prisoner.

This time I wasn’t gagged and my cheek was resting on the cool black leather of a couch in a dimly lit room. From the ornate desk at one end, it appeared to be some kind of executive office suite. As my eyes blinked and found focus, the circumstances that had landed me in this fix overtook me in a rush of detail.

satdish          I had been standing on the balcony off the mezzanine of the faux castle admiring the view and accepting that I would soon be bathed in a chemical stew altering my perception with heightened awareness. Already the edges of the landscape had become noticeably vibrant. The live oaks shimmered with golden intensity as day waned. In the distance I made out a metal sided warehouse encircled by a chain link fence topped with barbed wire, and, barely visible just above the roofline, the gridded arc of a satellite dish. I had seen a similar one at the Prince’s chateau outside Paris.  Again my curiosity led me down the speculative path. Why would a warehouse have a satellite dish and be surrounded by such a barbed wire perimeter? Why were limousines arriving with what appeared to be a scheduled regularity and its occupants ushered, not into the charity event in the castle, but into the warehouse? Why were they all men? I imagined Tommy Perro alias Tommy Montague holding a high stakes poker game to recoup his contribution to charity.

I was in a wondering mood. I wondered why I was looking for the exit that would take me out to the rear of the castle. And when I found it and walked out to the edge of the grassy terrace, I wondered how close I could get to the warehouse without appearing conspicuous. The rows of vines luxuriant with early August foliage ran parallel to the warehouse and looked like they might provide adequate cover. I wondered if the posted signs that read Warning, Grounds Patrolled by Security Dogs really meant what they said.

Barefoot is not always the best way to walk through a vineyard, but engulfed by the lushness of the vines, the tart aroma of the ripening clusters, and the organic breath of the warm tilled earth, my feet didn’t seem to be touching the ground.

As I suspected, the chain link fence blocked closer access. The warehouse was a formidable structure, no mere storage facility. I heard a succession of sharp barks around the back and voices yelling at the dogs to shut up. Ducking under a few vine rows I saw two men in dark suits. They were chauffeurs if most of my life spent in limos was any judge. And they were taking a smoke break. Two large Dobermans in the nearby kennel, alert to their presence, snapped out challenges. A door opened at the back of the building and a man in what appeared to be a uniform stepped out and added his authority to the demands that they be quiet. The dogs dropped obediently to their haunches. When the men finished smoking, they crushed their cigarette ends with the soles of their polished shoes and reentered the warehouse.

Normally cautious, though some would dispute that claim, I felt a fierce recklessness surge within me. I made a dash for the door as soon as it closed behind the drivers. The dogs raised a howl as I suspected they would. I crouched down on the hinge side of the door, my back pressed against the metal siding. The door swung open and the voice of authority in black military-style boots stepped down onto the concrete pad and shouted them into submission. The dogs returned to their haunches but reluctantly. They could see me behind the door but he couldn’t. As the door swung slowly shut on its pneumatic hinge, I picked up a chunk of oak twig from the ground litter and jammed it into the closing gap. It was just enough to keep the latch from catching. I gave myself time to take a couple of deep breaths and then cracked the door open a few inches. Once my eyes adjusted to the dim light inside, I made out a long corridor that ended in wide auditorium double doors. I heard muffled voices and laughter coming from the security post, a closed sliding glass window over a half wall, the door to the small office also closed, just inside the entrance. Like a white mouse in a maze I crouched low and hugged the wall making my way to where I thought there might be cheese. There was a burst of hearty laughter and then a low voice of accented English with East European intonations spoke. Bulgarian immediately popped into my ultra-conscious mind.

When I reached the double doors, I discovered stairways flanking them and leading up to a balcony. I heard the sound of music, the kind with a grinding backbeat. I padded up the carpeted stairway on all fours keeping my head low. I peered into the near dark of the empty balcony. Bright light splashed over the railing from below. I gazed down onto a small amphitheater with a runway jutting out from the proscenium. A young Asian woman in high spiked heels and little else did her version of the model-strut. Shortly she was followed by a tall leggy blonde in an outfit that consisted of fringe draped from her broad shoulders. A man in a tuxedo at the back of the stage called out a name and a number, first in English, then in Arabic, and then in Japanese. My gaze widened to take in the men in the shadows seated along the edge of the runway. Their attention was not a leering lust, but the focused appraisal reserved for merchandise.

I’d seen that look myself many times before as I had swung my hips to the end of the runway, haughty and saucy, decked out in the latest fashion in New York, Paris, Milan, and Budapest. What I was witnessing was a parody of my life as a model. Only a few select men could have me, and only on my terms. The male fantasies of the world turned to surrogates, women who would serve their desires while I remained pure and unattainable.

I felt something touch my arm at the elbow. It was cold and hot at the same time and I lost consciousness. I moaned involuntarily as I came to and tried to make sense of my surroundings. My moan was greeted by a growl and I was suddenly aware of the bared dripping canines of a guard dog staring me in the face. My instinct was to play dead, close my eyes and let my head drop back against the leather couch. I tried to keep my breathing shallow but my heart was pounding like a runaway piston. Then it took a leap.

Overhead lights blazed on. I heard men’s voices approaching. I cautiously opened one eye to a pitiless glare of bright artificial white. They were standing over me. I recognized one face immediately. I should have guessed. It was Blackie.

Chapter Thirty Three
A BURST OF POWER

The scowl on Blackie’s face said he wasn’t happy to see me. I almost burst out laughing. Not because I didn’t grasp the tight spot I was in, but because of the absolute hilarity of what had just occurred to me. It was that delicious line once spoken by Mae West: “Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”  The gun wasn’t in Blackie’s pocket, it was in his back. He stumbled forward, pushed from behind. The gun was in Tommy Junior’s hand. His lips were stretched across his teeth in a smile. It wasn’t a happy smile.

I’ve been told that a woman with a sense of humor is dangerous. Men consider laughter, the only emotion they dare express, to be their inviolable domain. Once again I was where I wasn’t supposed to be, doing what I wasn’t supposed to be doing. And I was surrounded by men, all bristling with ambiguous hostility. Behind young Tommy, a limp withered figure glared from a wheelchair. Behind the wheelchair stood Preston Carmichael. The wizened apparition’s right hand moved, bringing a pale plastic wand to its throat. It wasn’t much of a leap, but I knew immediately that I was looking at old man Montague, aka Tommy Perro. A metallic sound crackled from the wand and shaped into words, “Must be my lucky day.

Tommy Perro’s hard eyes had no intention of smiling. The skin beneath his cavernous eyes hung like folds of mottled vinyl. “My old pal, Blackie, come to visit me, and he brought his girlfriend, the most beautiful woman in the world.”  His laugh sounded like static.

Tommy Junior managed a sneer, “Once the most beautiful, don’t you mean? You have to admit she’s got a few miles on her.”

“A woman is not an automobile.” Preston spoke in his measured tone, his wan cheeks slack but his amber eyes calculating. “Like a fine wine, certain vintages will age to perfection. And this one will bring a price to rival anything on four wheels.”

The old cripple wheeled closer to the couch where I no longer pretended to be unconscious. My heightened awareness enlarged my vision. My eyes felt like they were the size of dinner plates. I was one beat ahead of everything going down. It seemed all so very predictable. Except for the Doberman, tensed, ready to lunge at a word, and incidentally, the only other female in the room.

I get payback, from my old buddy Blackie for ripping my family apart, and as a bonus, something that will be the prize of some sultan’s collection. It’s my lucky day.

“I’m afraid she’s already spoken for.” Preston’s tone was firm. “I have an exclusive contract with a certain party for the finest of Caucasian flesh, particularly of Circassian ancestry.”

The old man turned in his wheelchair in a way that looked both painful and menacing. It was a demand for explanation.

“In the late seventies, I had been asked to arrange to have a certain fashion model with a notorious reputation entertain a very wealthy and politically powerful man at his villa on the Caspian Sea. Enroute to this assignment she was intercepted and kidnapped by a gang of terrorists. Lee Malone, once the highly sought-after international beauty, Leeann, is still very much a prize. This is my opportunity to restore credibility with my client.”  Preston pulled a small pistol from under his dinner jacket and pointed it at Junior. “I’m afraid I shall have to take possession of her. You can deal with your friend as you must.” Being a lawyer, Carmichael relied heavily on the bluff.

Tommy Perro had gone to a different law school. The old man rasped a noise through his wand and the Doberman launched like a brown projectile at the dapper lawyer. Preston fired, hitting the dog in midflight. At the same time, Junior fired his pistol.

For a minute I thought I was on the set of the Maltese Falcon: men in dinner jackets with gats. And it happened instantly, inexorably, no close ups, no wide angles, overhead or tracking shots, just bang, bang, bang, one, two, three, by the numbers, the last round fired in reflex as Preston dropped like an expensive Pelure Cochon leather sack, fashionable but empty. One dead dog and one dead man. Tommy Junior spun and pointed his gun at Blackie who looked like he might be contemplating something gallant but stupid.

The old man may have been constrained by his physical condition but his barked electronic commands were dispatched with authority. He had some very valuable property and he was certain that there were those who would pay a tidy sum to acquire it.

I was hustled down to the auditorium and taken backstage by the security muscle, a scowling ape with a shaved head and glowing red eyes. I should have been frightened. Instead I felt fearless, as if I was inhabited by another entity, a truly powerful being bursting with supernatural energy.

The ringmaster reappeared to adjust the lighting and check the sound system. He asked with a grin if I was having a good time. Then he asked me if there was any particular music I preferred for my walk down the plank. He indicated the row of cassette tapes next to the stereo console. I didn’t hesitate. My eyes were drawn to it and my finger pointed at it. The Pipes of Pan, music by tribesmen from the Atlas Mountains of North Africa. I’d been poolside at Brian Jones’s mansion outside of London when I first heard it. It was exactly what I wanted. After all, Pan is the root of the word panic.

minoan womanI watched from the wings as old Tommy was positioned in his wheelchair at the foot of the runway. Tommy Junior came up and glowered at me. He yanked the front of my blouse down to expose my breasts. “Let them see what they’re getting for their money.”

“I was just about to do that myself,” I said, raking him with a fierce look that clawed his eyes and made him flinch. The ringmaster started the music, spoke my name and stated the opening bid. Shades of county fairs and the beginnings of my conquests as the queen of beauty. They could have at least started the bidding a little higher. I stepped out onto the runway accompanied by the cacophony of fifes and drums. I was in my element.

It was all very clear to me. I had become Treyann, the embodiment of the three secret aspects of womanhood: the ancient, the beautiful, and the powerful. As I swayed and whirled in dance, clapping my hands in rhythm over my head, proud of my firm uplifted breasts, nipples triumphant, I knew that all eyes were on me and soon they would be under my spell. They might have thought that their dreams were within their grasp. I was about to become their worst nightmare.

There was no doubt as to exactly who I was. I spoke to myself the words I had always known. I am Leeann, paramount in my sphere, far beyond competition in my beauty, in my power to enchant men. I am, in a word, irresistible, Aphrodite in human form, the face that launched a thousand shipwrecks. I am supreme, above the best. Over the currency of my flesh wars are fought, yet in my name peace is invoked.

A physical transformation took hold of me. My supple roundness acquired a hard muscular edge. The skin of my cheeks grew taut, my eyes narrowed to gun slits. I bared my teeth, canines extruded like those of a cat or viper. I knew then that I had their undivided attention. And I knew that they realized, perhaps not in so many words and with the same depth of understanding, that from the beginning of time they, as men, have struggled with the threat of female dominance, against her strength, her complexity and impenetrability, her dreadful omnipresence. No man has yet been born who is not spun from a pitiful gob of refuse to a conscious being on the secret loom deep within the cave of a woman’s body, the body that is a nurturing cradle but also the inevitable pitiless fatality of nature. As every woman I control all of creation. What I bring into this world I can take out. I am the beginning. I am the end.

I stopped in my tracks and thunder clapped thrice, swaying like an axe about to fall. The air crackled with a faint blue intensity. I heard a collective gasp. I concentrated all my energy directly at the old goat in the wheelchair. He burst like a paper bag full of wet sand.


Next Time: From The Frying Pan

Contents Vol. I No. 10

Introducing Dime Pulp Number Ten

In Issue Ten of Dime Pulp, A Serial Fiction Magazine, the big news is that Colin Deerwood, who had always considered A Detective Story as a working titled, has finally settled on Better Than Dead for the title of his 1940 serial detective fiction prompted by the illustration of a vintage Black Mask cover and featuring the hapless Lackland Ask now on the run from the cops and the mob after the massacre in the Heights.

The Last Resort, aka Tales Of A Long Legged Snoop, picks up the pace toward its concluding chapters as Lee Malone, former international beauty and reporter for The Corkscrew County Grapevine, accompanies her boss to a Charity Fund Raiser fashion show at Montague Winery’s flashy mini Bavarian castle.

In the final installment of The White Room, Helene Baron-Murdock’s Detective Jim Donovan of the Weston County Sheriff’s Office Violent Crimes Unit narrowly escapes being shot on sight as he tries to solve the mystery of the death of Ike Carey in this latest Hard Boiled Myth.

Dime Pulp continues its crime spree with the serialization of two full length novels, The Last Resort and Better Than Dead, A Detective Story, as well as another serial short story based on Greek myths under the rubric of Hard Boiled Myth.

If you’ve made it this far, go ahead and follow the links below to reading entertainment with the serial contents of Volume One, Number Ten

  —Perry O’Dickle, chief scribe
and word accountant


TLR banner321Deep in the redwood wilds along the Corkscrew River, someone is shooting neighborhood dogs. The year is 1985 and Lee Malone, former fashion model, queen of the runways from Paris to Milan, once dubbed the most beautiful woman in the world, now a part-time reporter for The Corkscrew County Grapevine, is looking for a story to sink her teeth into. When Lee finds the owner of Kelly’s Seaside Resort brutally murdered, it leads her on an adventure that includes a mysterious gray van, another murder, extortion, pornography, sex slavery, and a shadowy organization of militant feminists known as SAPHO.  In the process, Lee Malone’s notorious past catches up with her. 

The Last Resort, Chapters 30-31

HBMbanner421

Greek myth is rife with murder, mutilation, cannibalism, mayhem, and the ever popular incest.  Weston County Sheriff’s Detective Jim Donovan of the Violent Crimes Unit wouldn’t know a Greek myth from a Greek salad, but if he did he would find some troubling similarities to the cases he’s investigating.  Revisited as crime fiction are the strange death of Hippolytus, the agonizing death of Heracles, the slaughter of Penelope’s suitors, the Fall of Icarus,  the sparagamos of Orpheus, and the cursed lineage of Pelops.  Helene Baron-Murdock’s Hard Boiled Myth taps into the rich vein of classical literature to frame these ancient tales in a modern context.

The White Room I
The White Room II
The White Room III
The White Room IV
The White Room V

BTD head

Lackland Ask is the name. ‘Lack’ to my friends, ‘Don’t’ to those who think they’re funny. You might have seen my portrait on the cover of Black Mask, the crime fiction magazine. This is my story. It starts with a blonde. This kind of story always starts with a blonde. 

A Detective Story—10

 

The Last Resort, 30-31

by Pat Nolan

Chapter Thirty

GLASS SLIPPERS

It’s not like I didn’t have any clothes. A model always has clothes. Mine were in the trunk of my Volvo. There was a basket of laundry I never found time to do. And two shopping bags full of clothes I never got around to donating to the local thrift store. Underneath all that was a large garment box my mother had mailed to me in a fit of spite. It contained the cast-offs of a life spent in the promotion of my classic good looks.

I had spread most of the clothing across the bed and on the wicker furniture of the cabin I was now renting at the Mint, just a few doors down from where Rikki and Wallace were staying. The laundry basket contained the usual delicate items gone stale, the tops that stained too easily, and the jeans and skirts that were too confining for the summer months. I was amused and not a little surprised by the items I pulled from the thrift bags. Things that were long past fashionable seemed like treasures now that they were all the clothing I had. Some of the items went back twenty years to the mid-sixties when the styles, by today’s standards, seemed laughable. There were miniskirts and plunging necklines as well as the colorful confusion of paisley gowns. Each piece had its own history that I could have called up wistfully, but I had to decide on something to wear and in a hurry. JJ was getting impatient.

For a brief moment I had the sense that the long narrow garment box was a cardboard coffin in which a life that had once been mine was now entombed.

I had promised to be her moral support when she strolled down the runway at the Montague Winery Charity Fashion Show, something that apparently took precedence over the burden of my recent calamity, and she was going to hold me to it.

“That’s nice,” JJ commented on the beaded bolero jacket I held up. Unfortunately there was nothing else that went with it. The belted miniskirt tunic was a little too twiggy, and I had thrown away my white go-go boots long ago.

“What’s in the box?” She lifted the flap and poked around disinterestedly.

“I can’t remember.” A few years back I had gone to the post office and the box had been waiting for me. The enclosed letter contained the usual irrational accusations of diminished affection my mother liked to imagine and use as a guilt lever. It had worked before, but no longer. The emotional blackmail in that letter still made me angry.  “Some old things.”

“Is this a cheerleader outfit?”  JJ held up the blue and gold sweater, beaming. “I had one just like this, except it was maroon and white!”

“I don’t think I could possibly wear that,” I dead-panned.

“And a tutu?” She had turned her attention to the other items.

“I must have been twelve when I wore that. I’ve grown a bit since then.”  I held up a silky iridescent shift. “I wore this when I was crowned Miss Teen America.”

JJ gaped. “Oh my god, that’s right, you were a Miss Teen America!”

For a brief moment I had the sense that the long narrow garment box was a cardboard coffin in which a life that had once been mine was now entombed.

“You wore this?”  JJ held up an embroidered peasant blouse with an expression of disdain.

Seeing the blouse again startled me. I reached blindly into the box certain of what else I would find. Yes, it was there too, the red, black, and white tiered full length skirt. It and the blouse were some of the only clothes I had worn when I was being held in the villa compound on Sabbia Negru. I remembered Xuxann explaining the significance of the colors to me. They were the colors of the goddess: white for innocence, red for fertility, and black for death. Those items of clothing were tangible proof of the most bizarre chapter in my charmed yet otherwise disheveled life.

I felt a stab of pain at the tip of my finger. Cautiously this time, I extracted the skirt from the box and spread it on the bed. Pinned to the waistband was the small bronze medallion that Treyann had given me not long before we parted ways. It depicted a woman around whose lower torso twin snakes were twined, and whose heads she held parallel to her own. She was the great earth goddess, mistress of the underground, and prototype of the caduceus.

“I think I’ve found what I’m going to wear.”

“What?” JJ wrinkled her nose. “That? That’s so. . . ethnic hippie gypsy earth mother peasant. . . .”  And when I turned to seriously reflect on the blouse with its intricate embroidered history, “Kind of passé, don’t you think?”

I ran my thumb over the embossed medallion smiling to myself, and pictured Treyann swirling in dance, a dance in which the arms were extended over the head and the hands brought together in rhythmic thunderclaps accompanied by flute and tambour.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen stitching quite like this on a peasant blouse before,” JJ observed when she realized I wasn’t going to be swayed by her disapproval. The embroidery was as unusual as it was ancient. Ears of barley were depicted in the distinctive motif as well as small purple flowers similar to forget-me-nots.

She pointed to the multicolored spirals embroidered at intervals along the neck line. “These look like little galaxies.”

I had to smile. “Mushrooms.”

Her eyes widened. “You mean like. . .mushroom mushrooms? Shrooms?”  She gave a tentative knowing grin.

I nodded. “Yes, when I. . . .”  I was going to say, “was held captive” but decided on “lived at Sabbia Negru, I partook of them regularly.”

Again, I puzzled her. This was something else about me she had failed to anticipate. “Sabbia Negru?”

“It’s a long story.”  And it was a long story, one that I thought I had extricated myself from but was once again insisting in capturing my attention. My confinement on the grounds of the villa had been made less of an ordeal because of the daily companionship of Treyann. She was the wise old priestess at whose knee I learned about an ancient selfless world, a world in which inner beauty complimented outer beauty and made one radiant. They were lessons in the power of the female that did not reside solely in the triad of attraction, the face, the breasts, the pudendum. I was made aware of this awesome unity with Treyann’s guidance through the sacramental mushroom. My eyes were opened and what I experienced was a power both benevolent and cruel.

JJ glanced at her watch. “Well, we don’t have time for a long story. If that’s what you’re going to wear, get dressed. I don’t want to be late for the preshow rehearsal.”

glass_slip I happily complied, the feel of natural fabric on my bare skin like a recovered memory. I brushed my hair out and let it fall to my shoulders like I wore it when I was a free spirit running on the black sand beaches far from the daily pressures of high fashion and celebrity.

JJ was looking at me like she wasn’t quite satisfied. “Shoes, you need shoes.”

All my shoes had gone up in smoke. “I’m thinking barefoot.”  That was how I originally worn this outfit.

JJ shook her head, “Mmm, no, not quite.” She flashed me a sly grin as she held the door open. “I’m thinking glass slippers.”

Chapter Thirty One

SCAPEGOAT

Tommy Montague was a real charmer. JJ had every right to gush. He was a good looking guy, attired in dark slacks, a gold polo shirt, and a tan dinner jacket with the Montague Winery crest on the breast pocket. His manner was professional, his handshake firm. But there was something about him that bothered me.

For one I had no effect on him. Even with a thousand watt smile that would normally turn most men’s brains to mush, his eyes registered nothing, nada. What also bothered me was that if you took an eyebrow pencil and drew a raggedy goatee around his mouth and then combed half a can of motor oil through his hair, you would have the man in the gray van, the one with the vicious dog.

Tommy personally took us on a tour of the petite castle. Except for the private apartments, which, of course, were off-limits. We were shown the wine cellar, the tasting room where a sumptuous buffet was staged, and the spectacular ballroom with the runway the models would soon be catwalking down. The mezzanine led to an open terrace overlooking sloping stretches of vineyards interspersed with little oak oases. There were champagne fountains in the tasting room as well as on the mezzanine. I availed myself of a flute as soon as the server came by with a tray. I have a weakness for bubbles.

Our guide had a two-way radio that called him away. He made his apologies and left hurriedly. I accompanied JJ to the dressing room and got caught up in the crush and hysteria.

There were two kinds of women elbowing each other for mirror space to make last minute adjustments. The professional sticks, ‘twiggys,’ who are nothing more than skeletal clothes racks, and the amateurs, or as they are known in the trade, ‘heifers,’ who are mostly high school girls, innocent and perfect, or middle aged women who think they still have something. dressing roomAmateurs have a tendency to carry more meat on their bones which made them dangerous to the intent of high fashion. As every designer has told every model he has ever draped, flesh destroys fabric. There were some models who took it to the extreme. I had been one who had trod that fine line. JJ, on the other hand, as an amateur, had bulges that stretched the limits of design. But then some men find that attractive.

Rikki and Wallace had volunteered their services to do hair and make-up for the show. I was greeted by Rikki who eyed my outfit and immediately dubbed me the ‘barefoot Contessa’ and cracked that I was not doing the fashion world any favors by parading around like a hippie princess in front of all these impressionable young women. He was aghast that I was shoeless. I reminded him that my shoes were charred rubble. All I had in the way of footwear were a pair of hiking boots and rubber flip flops. That shut him up though it didn’t change his look of sour disapproval.

I had to laugh. Here I was, a world famous model at a charity fashion show, and I would not be sauntering down the runway. Certainly not in my archaic pagan outfit. I was aware that I had been recognized and that my presence was causing a minor commotion among the participants. As usual I remained unapproachable.

I quit the hubbub of the dressing room and wandered among the arriving patrons with my flute of champagne. I had determined earlier that the terrace off the mezzanine would be the ideal place to await the start of the show. I was feeling especially bright and forgiving. As chintzy as the phony miniature castle appeared from the outside, the interior was expensively and, to a certain pedestrian extent, lavishly accoutered. I was particularly taken by the large medieval tapestry at one end of the mezzanine in what Tommy had indicated as the private suites. I was drawn to it by the intricate weave of story it told. It was a classic, a lithe blonde female with her hand on the snout of the pure white unicorn. I felt as if I were being drawn into the woven landscape and wondered if I may not have had a horn too many.

On the stage, in tiered skirts of ancient fashion, the women of SAPHO performed a whirling foot stomping version of a primitive flamenco.

A door opened at my left to draw me out of my reverie. A large man in a large dark suit approached and glared at me with large disapproval. I got the message and made my way back through the wide gold filigreed doors that took me out to the terrace and the cool of early evening. My bare feet seemed to sense the deep warm character of the marble paving. My eyes were drawn to the misty distance where an orange aura backlit the ridge of conifers. The air was heavy with earthy fragrance and the scent transported me to my time in captivity, or as I had come to consider it, my retreat and rebirth. I had experienced a similar overwhelming sensation, but at the time I had voluntarily imbibed in one of Treyann’s herb, amphibian and mushroom cocktails. I ran my lightly throbbing finger over the image of the brooch that had pricked it and let the realization sink in. A tincture of that potion applied to the brooch pin would have been enough to produce the heightened awareness I was now feeling. A tiny pea shaped mouth in my head was telling me to panic but I held firm. One of the many things I had learned from Treyann was how to fearlessly walk the gossamer tightrope into a state of pure delight. I also learned that there was a dark side to this particular power.

Again it was an instance where my curiosity had got the better of me. It was one full moon night when a large group of women had been ferried over from the resort at the northern tip of Sardinia. I had been prohibited from joining the evenings of music and dancing on the chance that I would be recognized and my presence at the old Roman villa on the St Bartholomew straits would get out. After months of custody I was trusted enough that I no longer needed to be escorted by Xuxann. Besides, I had been biding my time in the company of Treyann. I had spent that particular day hiking on the hillside behind the villa and had come back exhausted and famished. Treyann had fed me homemade stone ground bread, goat cheese and olives. I had fallen asleep on the little cot that she kept out in the open space between the garden and her hut. I was awakened by a chilly breeze off the Mediterranean. It was late evening and I heard the strains of fife and drum coming up from the courtyard of the villa. I called for Treyann but got no answer. She never went anywhere after dark. She did not trust her eyesight to walk the winding trails at night.

I wandered back to my little cell above the villa, but the sounds of gaiety and the throaty ululations called to me. Stealthily, I slipped into the courtyard and was not disappointed. A mass of women, bare breasted or in tiny shrugs covering not much more than their shoulders, exulted in their freedom, arms waving in the silver air of a full moon like fields of grain in a breeze, their feet stamping to the rhythm, hips undulating to the hypnotic music of a primitive orchestra of breath and skin.

The musicians were mostly African women, one of whom was Xuxann. Their instruments included a variety of drums, from the tall African type to smaller single head Celtic tambours. The flutes were of all sizes as well, shrill piccolos and the larger bass breaths of the Australian outback. They had cut a groove and the dancers followed it like water down a chute. On the stage, in tiered skirts of ancient fashion, the women of SAPHO performed a whirling foot stomping version of a primitive flamenco. Among the mass of swaying bodies I was anonymous. Then everything I had ever assumed turned upside down and inside out.

The music stopped with the exception of the low moan of a large bamboo flute. A female figure was paraded around the stage on a palanquin carried by four women dressed in sheer glistening gowns. At first I assumed that it was a statute like the one of the Virgin Mary I had seen carried in processions in Mediterranean villages on certain holy days. On her head, a large elaborate gold headdress perched like an exotic bird. Very much alive, the woman was helped to her feet by her attendants. She was astride shoes with soles that were easily two feet high, adding to her already towering presence. Even though she was draped in layers of multicolored scarves, her face painted to exaggerate her eyes and highlighted with fearsome red streaks, I recognized Treyann

The music started up again, slowly at first then building to a frenzy. Treyann twirled and whirled to the frantic beat of the drums and the piercing shrieks of the fifes as gracefully as if she had been barefoot. All eyes were fixed on her and a great hush descended over the assembled women as we all seemed to breathe in unison with the spinning apparition. As the tempo changed from frenzied to that approximating a steady heartbeat, it became obvious that Treyann was enacting a ritual, a paean to female power. A piebald Old World Nubian buck that had seen better days was brought onto the stage and placed before Treyann. She spun like a dust devil around the trembling animal. The flutes fell silent. The drums continued with rolling solemnity. A towering Treyann swayed, stomping her elevator shoes in time to the beat, hands held above her head clapping a polyrhythm. The drums stopped abruptly. In the rushing silence, every woman breathed as one. Treyann clapped her hands thrice like the crack of thunder. She directed all the gathered energy at the sacrificial animal. The old goat tottered and then crumbled, a mere bundle of skin and bone.


Next Time: Wondering Woman Snared By Her Curiosity

Contents Vol. I No. 9

Introducing Dime Pulp Number Nine

In Issue Nine of Dime Pulp, A Serial Fiction Magazine, the big news is that Colin Deerwood, who had always considered A Detective Story as a working titled, has finally settled on Better Than Dead as the title of his 1940 serial detective fiction prompted by the illustration of a vintage Black Mask cover and featuring the hapless Lackland Ash in a quest for diamonds and the legendary Empress’ Cucumber.

The Last Resort, aka Tales Of A Long Legged Snoop, picks up the pace toward its concluding chapters as Lee Malone, former international beauty and reporter for The Corkscrew County Grapevine, is under suspicion of torching her own country cabin. To the rescue comes her neighbor, Rhonda LaLonda, one time porn star, to take her under her wing for commiseration and whiskey.

In the fourth installment of The White Room, Helen Baron-Murdock’s Detective Jim Donovan of the Weston County Sheriff’s Office Violent Crimes Unit ties together more pieces of the mystifying puzzle into the death of Ike Carey with the help of Ionna Gunn, director of the environmental group, EAF, that points to a sinister government agency operating behind the scenes as he tries to solve the mystery of this latest Hard Boiled Myth.

Dime Pulp continues its crime spree with the serialization of two full length novels, The Last Resort and Better Than Dead, A Detective Story, as well as another serial short story based on Greek myths under the rubric of Hard Boiled Myth.

If you’ve made it this far, go ahead and follow the links below to reading entertainment with the serial contents of Volume One, Number Nine

  —Perry O’Dickle, chief scribe
and word accountant


TLR banner321Deep in the redwood wilds along the Corkscrew River, someone is shooting neighborhood dogs. The year is 1985 and Lee Malone, former fashion model, queen of the runways from Paris to Milan, once dubbed the most beautiful woman in the world, now a part-time reporter for The Corkscrew County Grapevine, is looking for a story to sink her teeth into. When Lee finds the owner of Kelly’s Seaside Resort brutally murdered, it leads her on an adventure that includes a mysterious gray van, another murder, extortion, pornography, sex slavery, and a shadowy organization of militant feminists known as SAPHO.  In the process, Lee Malone’s notorious past catches up with her. 

The Last Resort, Chapters 28-29

HBMbanner421

Greek myth is rife with murder, mutilation, cannibalism, mayhem, and the ever popular incest.  Weston County Sheriff’s Detective Jim Donovan of the Violent Crimes Unit wouldn’t know a Greek myth from a Greek salad, but if he did he would find some troubling similarities to the cases he’s investigating.  Revisited as crime fiction are the strange death of Hippolytus, the agonizing death of Heracles, the slaughter of Penelope’s suitors, the Fall of Icarus,  the sparagamos of Orpheus, and the cursed lineage of Pelops.  Helene Baron-Murdock’s Hard Boiled Myth taps into the rich vein of classical literature to frame these ancient tales in a modern context.

The White Room I
The White Room II
The White Room III
The White Room IV

BTD head

Lackland Ask is the name. ‘Lack’ to my friends, ‘Don’t’ to those who think they’re funny. You might have seen my portrait on the cover of Black Mask, the crime fiction magazine. This is my story. It starts with a blonde. This kind of story always starts with a blonde. 

A Detective Story—9

 

The Last Resort 28-29

by Pat Nolan

Chapter Twenty Eight
THE LADYBUG RUSE

Anything I said could and would be used against me. I had a right to remain silent. Yet in many situations such as mine, people have a tendency to babble, volunteer more than anyone needs to know, and in the process, unwittingly incriminate themselves in crimes that they never committed or intended to commit. People can be so obliging in the face of authority.

As a young up-and-coming model with a mind of my own and outspokenly opinionated, I had learned the hard way that anything I said would be twisted and bent to mean exactly the opposite of its intent. After being burned at the stake in numerous tabloids, I chose my words carefully and dispensed my opinions even more penuriously than I did my favors. I had taken as my motto the words of the other Hepburn. I didn’t care what they said about me just as long as it wasn’t true. I kept my mouth shut.

First there was the long silent ride to the Hall of Justice where May Ann Young had her office, a tiny cramped closet in the basement. Her manner was apologetic as she had me sit in the only other chair. Battered black file cabinets took up most of the wall and floor space. Cardboard boxes overflowing with case files occupied any area that didn’t block entry and exit. A few posters exhorting fire safety served as decoration on the otherwise drab green walls. She had removed a sheaf of forms from her desk drawer, a dinged and dented metal affair that looked like it had come in last at a destruction derby. She referred to the small yellow pad I had seen her with at the fire scene and copied her notes into the spaces provided.

I felt cold. In the heat of this late July day my flimsy attire would have been appropriate, but my chill had more to do with an uncomfortable self-consciousness at having only bikini bottoms and a makeshift halter top underneath the ridiculous polka dot trench coat. My gold sandals had turned to mush and so for all intents and purposes I was barefoot. The scent of my charred cabin hung about me like a noxious perfume. I was trying to put together a scenario that would explain who would be capable of such an act. Blackie came to mind immediately. Even after what Chandler had told me, I had difficulty believing that he would set fire to my home. Yet his words “play with fire and you get burned” resonated with ominous significance.

May Ann returned my driver’s license after copying from it onto the form in front of her. She extracted a cassette recorder from a drawer and set it on the desk, plugging it in the outlet behind her chair. When she faced me again, her mouth set in determined seriousness, she reminded me of my rights. “Why don’t we talk about why anyone would want to torch your cabin?” she said as she depressed the record button on the machine.

I could have declined to speak until I had a lawyer present. But there were more viable suspects than me. And, I was never good at taking my own advice. I told her about the Fashwalla murder and the one at the Franklin Resort. About the dog killings and the men in the gray van. And about Blackie. I also mentioned Assistant DA Chandler Wong. Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything about the ongoing investigation into Tommy Montague and Ramparts Corp.

Her eyes narrowed with a steely glint. She punched numbers into the keypad of her phone after she stopped the recorder. She shuffled the forms on the desk in front of her while she waited for someone to pick up.

“Mr. Wong, May Ann Young, County Fire Investigator.”  She paused. “I’m fine, thank you. The reason I’m calling is that I have a women in my office on a suspicion of arson.”  She paused again. “Her name is Lee Malone. She says she knows you.” A longer pause. “Her own home.” May Ann blinked in surprise and for a moment lost some of her professional composure. She listened to the voice at the other end of the line, nodded in assent a few time, interjecting an “I see” now and then. All the while her eyes took me in as if the words she heard were prompting a reappraisal. When she put the phone down, her cheeks appeared flush. She folded her hands on the desk and looked down at them for a moment, gathering her words. She fixed me with her relentless gray eyes and spoke. “Ms. Malone, your story checks out with the DA’s office. You’re free to leave. And I apologize for any inconvenience.” She sounded sincere.

I didn’t have to be told twice. I picked up my purse and opened the door. I hesitated.

“Turn right and up the stairs. I’ll call up to have them buzz you out to the lobby.”  Her tone had lost its hard professional edge.

When I reached the locked security door that led to the lobby, there were two younger women waiting to be allowed out as well. If I had not been barefoot and wearing my fashion faux pas, we would have been in similar states of undress. One of the women was a short skinny blonde with way too much make-up that did not look all that freshly applied. Her denim shorts were cut so that much of the curve of her buttocks was exposed. An off-white sweater top allowed a view of her bare midriff encircled by a gold chain. The open-toed high heeled plastic shoes she wore could have doubled as step ladders. Her friend was taller, closer to my height. There was something familiar about her, as if I had seen her somewhere before. She wore a green blouse with short puffy sleeves over a bright orange tube top that accentuated her perky breasts quite accurately. A leather mini-skirt and black thigh thigh-high boots completed the outfit. From the way they both joked with the deputy at the door, it was obvious they were familiar with the routine.

media doorOnce out in the lobby, they stopped to chat with another deputy at the reception kiosk. I made a bee line for the double glass doors that led outside. I stopped in my tracks. A throng of reporters and TV cameras were waiting at the bottom of the steps. The last thing I wanted to do was face them, especially in my ladybug coat. One of the reporters spotted me and alerted the others. A deputy kept them from bursting into the lobby. I turned to look for another way out. That’s when I caught sight of Rhonda.

I was surprised to see her there. She had just recently returned from an extended stay in Switzerland. There was a hospital in Zurich that promised a cure for what was afflicting Ward. I had not seen her in months. But thinking back on the years I had lived in that neighborhood, she and Anna were often gone for long periods of time. They were retired, she told me more than once, and they loved to travel. They even had a little place in Malaga. On the other hand, she liked to say, there was no place like Corkscrew County to get away from it all.

“Who’d a thought we’d ever be in the woman’s bathroom at the Hall of Justice with a famous old time porn queen and a world famous fashion model?” Liza exclaimed like a delighted child. Sandy was bubbling over with giggles.

At my puzzlement, she explained that she had come to bail me out. She knew I hadn’t set fire to my cabin. She had already told that to the deputy who questioned her. She’d been taking her midday nap when she was awakened by the sound of a motorcycle roaring away. Soon after that she had smelled smoke and had seen flames coming from my cabin. She had been the one who had called it in. Now she was here to take me home, what was left of it. It was just the neighborly thing to do.

The mention of the motorcycle made me think of Blackie again. The reporters were clamoring at the glass doors and I moved further out of sight.

“Help me, Rhonda,” I pleaded, “I can’t go out there and face them.”

The hookers had wandered over, drawn by curiosity. I saw inspiration light up Rhonda’s face. She motioned to the two women. “Do you ladies know who this is?” She didn’t wait for an answer. “This is Lee Malone, world famous fashion model.”

The one who had looked familiar to me nodded and said, “Yeah, I thought you looked familiar.” It was then I understood why I thought I’d seen her before. She was me. She had imitated my hair style, the way I used to make up my eyes, along with a slight physical and facial resemblance.

Rhonda explained my predicament as she led us all into the woman’s bathroom. She was about to outline her plan when the short blonde, whose name was Sandy, pointed a finger at Rhonda and said “I know you! I’ve seen you in porn movies. You’re famous!” The prostitute who looked like me and whose name was Liza chimed in. “Right, right! I’ve seen your movies before. My boyfriend made me watch them. You’re amazing!”  We all looked at each other and burst out laughing.

“Who’d a thought we’d ever be in the woman’s bathroom at the Hall of Justice with a famous old time porn queen and a world famous fashion model?” Liza exclaimed like a delighted child. Sandy was bubbling over with giggles.

“Now, calm down, girls,” Rhonda said, “After all, we’ve all sold our bodies in one way or another. Nothing to get excited about. Here’s my plan.”

Liza and I were to exchange garb. She was thrilled by the makeshift halter top after I explained I had gotten it in one of trendiest boutiques in Monte Carlo. She wrinkled her nose and passed on donning the bikini bottoms. And she wasn’t so sure about the trench coat but that was a big part of the ruse. I had no problem fitting into the tube top, the boots and the leather miniskirt. I don’t know why I was surprised that she wasn’t wearing underpants.

Rhonda’s plan was that Liza, dressed as me, would create a diversion to draw the reporters away from the front doors, and then Sandy and I, as hookers, would slip away unnoticed. She sweetened the deal with a few bills from the bankroll she pulled from her purse.

The plan worked like a charm. The reporters swarmed Liza who put on fashion model airs quite naturally. I caught a glimpse of her wide smile as she basked in the momentary crush of notoriety. By the time the reporters realized that it wasn’t me, I was being whisked away in Rhonda’s Coupe Deville.

Chapter Twenty Nine
ODD WOMAN OUT

I had no clothes. I had no home. And I didn’t have a clue why anyone would want to torch my cabin. I stood on the littered asphalt and stared at the smoking debris. Rhonda dragged me back to her house and handed me a large glass of scotch. “You need to relax” was her admonition. I took a tentative sip, the alcohol burning as it went down. My nerves released their grip and by the time the molten drop made it to my gut, I wanted another taste.

We talked. Rather, I babbled and she listened. I had to get over the hurdle of my disbelief. When I voiced my suspicion that Blackie might have done it, she considered me warily and then shook her head.

“I go way back with Blackie and unless he’s changed since then, I don’t think he would do something like that. If Blackie has a bone to pick with you, you’ll know it because he’ll be right there in your face,” she said touching up the glasses with a drab more scotch.

“That’s right, you guys were in business together.”  Rhonda’s fingers tighten around her glass, lips pulled into a mirthless smile. “More like co-workers, considering that we were both employees.”

“So you knew Arlene.” I was curious about the woman who had been Blackie’s mate and whose photo I had seen on the wall of his shop.

Rhonda drained her glass and then stared at the empty bottom. “Arlene was my best friend. We both come from foster homes in the Midwest. Me Indiana, her Missouri which she liked to pronounce misery. We were runaways. And we met out here, on the West Coast. A way to make a quick buck back then was posing for nude photos. We were just kids, but that’s what the pervs want to see. We were hoping to be discovered in Hollywood like a lot of young gals. This was after the war. We hooked up with a gang of motorcycle guys who also had the idea of making it into pictures, as stunt men. One of them was Blackie, another one of them was Tommy Perro.”  She paused as if making an effort before she spoke the other name. “And Chip Pierce.”

I’d seen the picture on the repair shop wall, a young Rhonda with someone Blackie had identified as Chip. I vaguely recalled something about an accident, too. “Blackie told me a little about those days. You were all models, is that right?”

“That’s one way of putting it.” Rhonda chuckled. “And if that’s the way Blackie wants to remember it, that’s fine with me.” She shrugged. “The way I remember it is that Tommy had a friend who worked as a cameraman for a low budget studio. They came up with the idea of making dirty movies, what you’d call soft core these days. The plan was to use me and Arlene, and Chip and Blackie as actors. The first one they made went nowhere. It was mostly ham-handed situations, innuendo, cleavage and crotch shots, and a lot of tongue twining, grunting and panting.” She exhaled a staid chuckle and splashed more scotch against the sides of her glass. “Tommy found a backer, a two-bit gangster and wannabe movie producer, to put up the money. But the guy wanted something a little more realistic. At first everyone was cool to the idea. We all knew that once you were in stags, your chances of going legit were dead. But the money was easily more than either of us made in months of waitressing. And the guys, well, they were always broke. The way Tommy talked it up, we wouldn’t be doing anything we weren’t already been doing with each other. It’d just be on film is all. So Chip and me went at it first. Then Arlene and Blackie. Then Arlene and me. Then Blackie and me. And Arlene. And Chip.

“Once we got over our initial bashfulness, we went through the motions like actors playing their parts. All except for Blackie. ” Rhonda smiled grimly. “He was a hunk, then as now. But he just happens to be an apple with a short stem.”

I laughed involuntarily at her expression.

“Tommy used to rag him mercilessly about that. But Blackie took it from Tommy because they were friends. And among Blackie’s faults is his blind loyalty. If he’s your friend you can count on him to give you the shirt off his back.”

“And if he’s not your friend?”

She shrugged. “What do you want me to say? He’s got a temper.”

“So I heard.”

“Really?” Rhonda sat back in her chair, guarded. “What have you heard?”

I realized that I might know more than I should let on. What Chandler had told me was confidential. “Oh, just something JJ said in passing.”  I’m not a very good liar. “You were saying, about Tommy and Blackie?”

Rhonda nodded and looked at her glass as if the thread of the story would be found in the half inch of amber liquid. “Yeah, Tommy was a ball buster. But Blackie took it good naturedly. Of course we all knew not to tease Blackie, especially about something like that. The actor Tommy used as a body double with Arlene didn’t know that. I don’t think he even got to finish the taunt. Blackie came unglued and beat the man to a bloody pulp.”

I inhaled sharply. Even though I’d heard the story, it still shocked me. “He hurt him pretty bad?”

“He killed him.”

The way Rhonda spoke it so matter-of-factly it shocked me nearly as much as Blackie’s brutality.  “Oh.”

“Blackie served his stretch, and when he got out he looked up his old friends. Arlene was first on his list. You can’t blame him.”  Rhonda sighed, a troubled frown drawing a V between her penciled eyebrows. “But Blackie had spent his time in the pen thinking about a lot of things besides Arlene. One of them was his old buddy, Tommy. He came to realize that Tommy was a manipulator, a behind the scenes backstabber and that he only cared about numero uno.” She said it with a sly sarcastic smile. “Blackie’s plan was to get back together with Arlene and get as far away from Tommy as he could. He didn’t expect to find her living with Tommy and two babies, twin boys.” She didn’t take notice of my gasp. “Arlene didn’t hesitate. She packed her bags, loaded the kids into her car and took off with Blackie.”

I was dumbfounded. These were details that Blackie had conveniently left out when he told me the story of how he and Arlene ended up in Timberton. “What about you? I mean, did you know they were going to leave it all behind?”

Rhonda shook her head, maybe more at the memory of what she was dredging up than my prying.  She swirled the scotch in the bottom of her glass before knocking it back in one practiced motion. “No, I was out of the picture about then.”  She gave me a baleful stare. “The problem with working for Tommy is that he wasn’t just making dirty movies. He was dealing drugs, too. Hard drugs. Most of his actors were using. Chip got hooked after his accident. Morphine and then heroin. And it gets to be a habit. You realize you’re not going to survive the day without a fix.”  She shook her head sadly. “It’s kind of ironic, you know? Blackie getting out of the slam and me going in.”

“You went to prison?”  I didn’t hide my disbelief.

“In front of the camera?” Rhonda took a sip with an amused expression. “Not for a couple of years now. You’d be surprised how many men want to see an old gal get it on.”

Rhonda nodded. “About a month before Blackie got out, I was sent up on a drug charge. I owed Tommy for drugs, and after Chip overdosed I really hit rock bottom, so I was moving weight for him.”  She pursed her lips and raised her eyebrows as if to say what do you expect. “And I got popped.”

“I don’t get it. Tommy and Arlene and two kids. Blackie just spirited them away? Tommy didn’t do anything about it. I mean, they were his kids, right?”

Rhonda cocked her head to one side and considered me with a narrowed look, like I was being a little too nosy. “Yeah, no telling what was going through his head. Besides dollar signs, I mean. I didn’t know what Arlene and Blackie had done. I didn’t find out till much later when I was let out on parole.”

“That Blackie and Arlene and the kids were living up in Corkscrew County?”

“Right. I heard that Blackie was working as a mechanic, and living at the Mint, in fact. Arlene wasn’t idle either, making the rounds of garage and estate sales, buying things to resell. She always had good sense in that way.”

“What became of the kids, the twins?”  I hold my liquor better than I can contain my curiosity. “Isn’t one of them named Tommy?”  And get enough liquor in me and I’m liable to blurt out anything.

She gave me a pained smile. “Did Blackie tell you that? Yes, Tommy. And Timmy.”

I tried not to be coy. “I know that Tommy Perro is now Tommy Montague and the money behind Montague Winery. And that he has a son, also named Tommy, running the business. I didn’t know about Timmy.”

Rhonda offered a bemused smirk before answering. “Tommy was making too much money so he got the idea of buying up property and planting vines as one way to launder the dirty cash. The boy, Tommy, he’s smart, crafty like his old man. Timmy, his twin? Let’s just say he’s. . . .” She paused, searching for the word. “Odd.”

Odd how that word struck me. Odd. I searched my memory of anyone I thought of as odd, and I’d known many who fit that description. But none of them came immediately to mind. The image the word triggered was of a greasy dark haired man with a scraggly goatee. A man I had seen not more than a few times and then only briefly and in passing. Someone who filled me with apprehension. The booze was prompting my odd fuzzy logic. Odd that I felt a sudden chill. “So what happened to them?”

Rhonda stretched her arms across the table, empty glass in her hand, weariness weighing the corners her eyes. “It took a while but Tommy tracked Blackie and Arlene down. I was out of prison by then. He had the money, lawyers and the connections to have Arlene declared unfit. She could have fought it, but she knew that if she did Blackie would get involved. And he would kill Tommy.”

“Were you still working for Tommy then?”

Rhonda shrugged, the strain of this stroll down memory lane taking its toll. “I got straight. Took my cue from Arlene and cut loose of Tommy. I worked restaurant jobs, went back to school, looked for something better paying. I’d find one, and then some guy would recognize me from a stag film, and once word got around the office, they usually found a reason to let me go. I was too much of a distraction.”  She snorted a laugh into her empty glass. “I kept at it, though, spent a good fifteen years walking the line, keeping my head down. I even resorted to wigs, dying my hair and wearing glasses to change my appearance, and eventually it worked. The problem was that I was making peanuts while all my old friends who were still in the business were sitting in the lap of luxury.”

Rhonda considered the bottle before she continued. “I knew that I didn’t want to work for another crook like Tommy. So I got together with an actress I’d worked with before. You know her. Anna.”

I nodded dumbly, partly in shock. I was desperately trying to keep all the new revelations from tangling into an incomprehensible snarl. The fact that my head was swimming from the effects of alcohol didn’t help.

“And we started our own production company. We had a pretty good idea what guys wanted to see, but we also knew what women were interested in. The money was good and it was better than walking the street. After that I never worked more than a couple of months a year. I can’t complain. I’ve lived well.” She said it with great satisfaction. “I’ve got a house in the Frisco, a place in Spain, and when I want to get away from it all, I’ve got my little shack in the woods, which up until yesterday was nice and quiet.” She held up the bottle at an angle and stared at the corner remaining before dumping it into her glass. “When Arlene took sick I semi-retired and moved up here, to be near her.”

“Semi-retired? You mean you’re still. . . ?” I didn’t exactly know how to say it.

“In front of the camera?” Rhonda took a sip with an amused expression. “Not for a couple of years now. You’d be surprised how many men want to see an old gal get it on.”  She hefted her large breasts with both hands. “I still got it.”

That was obvious, and I wondered if I would still have it when I was her age. I sighed. “Well, it’s a man’s world, after all.”

Rhonda rolled her eyes. “Listen, honey,” she said, pointing a well-manicured finger at me, “man may have invented the wheel, but if it weren’t for women, it would still have corners.”


Next Time:  A Sleeping Beauty Awakens