Here's (most of) Chapter 13 from the upcoming "BRETT GETS HAMMERED" (Brett Cornell Mystery #6). I've omitted only the first few paragraphs of the chapter in the interests of avoiding some pretty unnecessary spoilers.
And so, here's a sample chapter from "BRETT GETS HAMMERED" ---
Chapter 13 - "BRETT CHUGS DOWN THE BOOZE"
A little while later, with my dirty work with the trash bag completed, I found an old bottle of scotch in my kitchen cupboard, opened it, and immediately downed a considerable portion of it, straight. My head was beginning to clear, and I knew that that was exactly what I needed to have happen if I expected to pull this off. They didn’t call me an inscrutable bastard for nothing – “unscrupulous” is what I meant, of course. Damn, was I already so drunk that I was having a freakin’ identity crisis all of a sudden? At least, I could still name all of Shakespeare’s plays by heart and in the order in which they were written, too: “Hamlet” – “Pinocchio” – and there were two other ones, but they weren’t very important or very popular, otherwise I’d have no trouble remembering them.
Before I knew it, the apartment buzzer sounded, and I carried my half-empty bottle of scotch with me into the living room and admitted Tammy Rankin into my private domain.
The girl had a moderately tight expression on her face when she walked into the room, and her right hand wasn’t totally clenched into a fist – yet – so, I suppose this all amounted to a pretty good omen. Waving her to a seat, I tipped my bottle of scotch a couple of quick turns and then got seated on the couch.
“Well?” she demanded, leaning forward in her chair and gazing across at me with eyes that were dancing with anticipation. Was she all excited because she expected me to inform her of the real details of her father’s death – or was it because she had suddenly found herself to be alone with me in my apartment and she was just dying for the two of us to make our way over to the bedroom just as soon as possible? Which was it? Hmmm.
“Nice day, ain’t it?” I responded, and with a big, Chestershire-cat type of grin, I even extended my bottle in her direction and invited her to have some.
“Sorry,” she said with a little curl to her lips,” but I didn’t drive all the way over here just to sit and watch you drink yourself into a stupor. My time is much too valuable for that, thank you very much.”
“And mine is, too, thank you very much,” I mimicked her, then I threw my head back and laughed when I saw her right hand turn itself into a definite little fist. “Take it easy, honey,” I assured her, continuing to beam away at her. “Things are going great.” Then I offered once again to let her take a swig from the bottle I was drinking from, and for the second time, she refused and even kept her lips firmly shut when I nodded my head solemnly and continued, “I get it now. I’m fired. So, you can’t even afford me the courtesy of sharing a friendly drink with me. Is that it?”
“As I said,” the girl informed me, barely prying those tight lips of hers apart in order to get the words out, “my time is much too valuable for this nonsense.”
“Oops, I forgot how busy you are, doing nothing,” I said, quite innocently, I thought.
“Stop that!” she yelled, finally losing it just as I knew she would. “How much more mileage do you expect to get out of that tired old song-and-dance about how I’ve got nothing to do all day, and about how poor working stiffs like you have it so bad, and –“
I held up my right hand and smiled again.
“You what?” she cried out, and THAT was when I should have asked her to take off her blouse for me, because she was suddenly thrown into such a good mood, that I might very well have succeeded in taking advantage of her in her good humor.
“Now, calm down, baby,” I went on, after taking another big swallow of scotch. “This ain’t gonna be no cakewalk, you know. Or should I have said ‘tango’ just now?” Still another burning look from the bimbo, but this time it was tempered by a smidgen of good humor. “In order to pull this off,” I said,” it’s gonna take a bit of co-operation from you. In other words, I’m gonna be depending on you, babe, and you’re gonna have to put aside this stupid hostility you feel towards me if we expect to make this thing work.”
Tammy then quite calmly lifted a hand and ran her fingers briefly through her tawny hair before saying,
“And what, may I ask, has occasioned this sudden brainstorm of yours?”
“Never mind that,” I told her, real easy-going. “First, I want the dope on your stepmother. I want to know what she usually does all day long. And don’t sit there and tell me she does absolutely nothing all day long like you do.” Another brief but stupid burning look. “I need to know all the specifics on this one. I need to know precisely what she’s been doing all day long today and what she plans on doing later on. Can you help me on that, babes?”
I suppose I was being rather vague about the whole thing because Tammy’s stupid brows began to crease into a frown, and she threw her glance around the room hurriedly before saying,
“There’s not much I can tell you, I’m afraid. Without belaboring the point, it’s true that she does do practically nothing all day long. But I can tell you that on a typical day, she rises out of bed often as late as nine o’clock in the morning, and bathes for an hour or so. After that, she has Rebecca come into her room and lay out her clothes for her and do her hair up. Then she has a bite to eat in her bedroom, takes a pill, files her nails” (Insert one big yawn from Yours Truly right about here.) “But if it’s sunny out,” the girl continued, a bit more animatedly than before,” she gets into her bathing suit instead of putting on her regular clothing and goes out to the pool, usually around noon or one o’clock. She sun-bathes most of the afternoon, takes a little dip in the pool only if the temperature outside is eighty-five degrees or higher, and after that, she goes back up to her room, has Rebecca lay out a different set of clothing for her, and sits up there alone reading a historical romance novel until it’s time for dinner. After that –“
“Would you say it’s eighty-five degrees out today?” I asked her, fondling the fringes of my beautiful bushy blond mustache and trying not to distract her too, too much when I did that. At the same time, I tried to make my question sound as casual and breezy and nonchalant as I possibly could.
what exactly are you trying to accomplish by such outrageous behavior?”
“So, you noticed the mustache, huh?” I said, grinning at her once again. “Ever notice what a great ass I’ve got?”
“Honestly! Just when I thought –“ she started to flare, but then she stopped, still infuriated, and gawked at me when I started chuckling, and then taking another drink of scotch.
“Do you really have to act like a total bitch twenty-four/seven?” I said to her, still laughing. “Don’t you realize that every time you get all riled up and start screaming at me like you just did, your tits start bouncing up and down and –“
“Enough of that!” she snapped in a really vicious tone of voice. “You wouldn’t be talking that way to me if Jerry were here!”
“If Jerry were here,” I chuckled, “he’d be licking the shit off my boots right about now.” I tilted the bottle again, took a few more swigs, brought the rim away from my lips, and continued,” I got a little job for you to do today, babes, and if you do the job right, you’ll get to see your stepmother put behind bars in the very near future.”
Tammy eased up on the hysterics she’d been seized with long enough to emit a little mirthless kind of laugh when she heard what I’d just said. Then she turned her head aside to avoid looking at me and said,
“Suddenly, I’m getting the feeling that I’m about to enter into a pact with Satan himself!”
“Don’t be such a lousy tight-assed hypocrite,” I retorted, and now it was my turn to crank up the emotions. “With or without me, you’d be doing the same damned thing. You and that weasel of a brother of yours are itching to throw your stepmother to the lions whether or not she’s guilty of anything more serious than itching in the wrong places.”
“You’re mistaken. My brother and I are not like that.”
And that’s when I had the biggest laugh of the day.
“Bullshit, baby. You and your brother are exactly like that – and that’s how I know that you’ll do what I tell you to do, and you’ll do it with a smile, too, on account of you’re nothing but a greedy little bitch and you won’t get your stinking paws on half a million clams unless Vanessa’s out of the way for good.”
“I don’t need the character analysis,” she said tartly. “Just spill it.”
When I finally got around to explaining what I wanted from her, she sat quietly, not really meeting my intent gaze with one of her own but kind of throwing her eyes around the room in little fits and starts.
First, I received a positive response from her when I asked her if she had any sleeping pills in the house. Then, I told her to crush two or three of them into a powder when she got home, to dump the powder into a shot-glass behind the bar counter in her living room, and to make sure nobody saw her do it either.
“That sounds easy enough,” she said with a little smile, and she started to rise from her chair.
“That ain’t all,” I told her, getting her to sit back down when she detected a note of urgency in my voice. “I’m going to be dropping by your place shortly after you get back. I’ll give you just about enough time to take care of business with that shot-glass. When I get there, you make sure nobody sees me.”
“Impossible!” she hissed at me. “Matthew will answer the door –“
“No way,” I said. “You get Matthew and Rebecca busy upstairs in your room, cleaning up, tidying up, hiding all your vibrators away in your bureau drawers, whatever you can think of. You ask them nicely, and they’ll do it. And you leave the front door unlocked before you get them up there, too.”
“What about Little Stevie?” she enquired, her brows knit once again.
“Oh, great! I forgot all about that stupid little tadpole!” I said to her.
“Little Stevie happens to be my nephew, one of the nicest kids –“ she instantly started railing at me.
“Well, what are we going to do about Little Stevie?” she insisted. “He’s just a kid. I don’t want him involved in any of your shady dealings.”
“I don’t know,” I said in some frustration. “Send him to his friend’s house. Keep him occupied by showing him some skin flicks. Stuff him in the garbage can. Do whatever the hell you want with him, just keep him out of my way.”
“With pleasure!” she agreed, using a tone of voice which firmly put me in my place, or so she thought.
“Now how about your brother?” I prodded her. “Know where he is?”
“He was still in bed when I left the house to come here,” she replied a bit testily. “Heaven knows, after the way you manhandled him last night and humiliated him right in front of his own wife, I’d be greatly surprised if he ever finds the strength to pull himself out of bed and face the world, ever again!”
“Good,” I said. “Keep him in his room then, and tell him to stay in bed forever and ever – or at least, long enough to keep him out of my way while I’m doing what needs to be done. Then, with that fat porker closeted in his bedroom with you making sure he stays put, your two slaves will be out of the way at the same time, cleaning your room.”
As I finished my last sentence with my deliberately crass allusion to Matthew and Rebecca’s station in the Rankin household, it came as no surprise to me when the tension began to mount in every fiber of Tammy’s voluptuous body, and the blood began to suffuse her face as she said,
“I resent the way you constantly refer to my beloved servants Matthew and Rebecca as –“
“Beloved?” I snorted, tossing my now empty bottle of scotch to the side of the couch where nobody was sitting, and bringing the back of my hand across my mouth to wipe it dry. “You trying to tell me that you love them?”
“Yes!” she indignantly retorted. “I truly do, although I’m sure that that small bigoted brain of yours can’t absorb the information that people of different races and nationalities can possibly get along and, yes, even LOVE one another.”
“Uh – Speak English, please,” I said, continuing to bust her nuggets, figuratively speaking of course.
She swept my little comment aside as if not even worthy of a response of any kind, and continued,
“Perhaps you were unaware of this, but Matthew and Rebecca have worked with us and been a part of our family for years and years. Why, seven or eight years ago when their little boy was run over by a truck right outside our home, I – I almost cried.”
“Almost, huh?” I said, and then I laughed right in her face and said,” You crack me up, baby. You really do.”
It was at that point that she decided to end the whole conversation, if it can accurately be called that, and rose to her feet with a purposeful air about her. At the same time, I moved in closer to her – closer than I’d gotten to her since she arrived a short while ago. Once the two of us were standing and facing each other – at a pretty close distance, too – she actually lowered her eyes after a time and spoke slowly in saying,
“You should be happy right now, Mr. Cornell. I’ve agreed to co-operate with you this morning, so that in itself should be enough to make you realize that – I’m not really the awful, terrifying monster you seem to think I am.”
“No?” I said with a little smirk beginning to crease my lips.
“Not in the least,” she replied, and she lifted her eyes to the level of mine once more. “I have nothing personal against you. This hostility that you seem to feel that I have towards you – Believe me, Mr. Cornell, it’s of no real consequence, as far as I’m concerned.”
“Sure,” I said, not really believing a single word of her whole spiel, and I held her gaze with mine and asked her,” How about the hostility you feel towards Faye? Or am I just imagining that?”
of absolutely no importance to either one of us. I certainly hope you don’t think I could possibly be jealous because you two –“
“Nah,” I said off-handedly. “I was just wondering, though: Will you be helping her when she moves into her new apartment?”
“No,” she said quickly and crisply, without any hesitation at all.
Then I moved in even closer to her and kept my eyes riveted on her expression as I asked her,
“Did she ask you if you’d help, when I dropped her off this morning?”
Unfortunately, I couldn’t read her mind or her expression, basically because she was already pretty tensed up throughout most of our conversation together, so it was impossible for me to determine exactly how she was reacting to the question.
“I wasn’t even aware that you’d brought her back home,” she replied, trying to sound disinterested – Or was she really as disinterested as she sounded?
But the strain of getting my plan to work and having to rely on Tammy’s co-operation was starting to take its toll on me. Before things got a little too sticky for me to handle, I decided to get rid of her so as to give myself time to think – and act – and drink -- alone. So, as I escorted her over to the front door of my apartment, I casually said to her,
“You know what to do, right?”
“It’ll all get done,” she promised with a timid smile. “Only I wish you’d tell me how this all ties in with Vanessa.”
“You’ll see,” I told her, calmly and softly as we neared the front door. “Early this afternoon. While Vanessa is out by the pool. While you and Andy are up in his room and while Matthew and Rebecca are busy in your bedroom –“
“And while Little Stevie’s playing at his friend’s house,” Tammy added in a calm voice of her own, although she sounded somewhat uncertain.
I looked her straight in the eye and continued,
“While your boyfriend the accountant is busy at the office, right?”
“And while Faye is –“ she began, and then we both came to a halt, with my front door opened wide in front of us.
Tammy Rankin looked intently into my face, and her brows were once more knit in perplexity as she said to me,
“What will Faye be doing this afternoon? You never got around to telling me that.”
Giving her a firm but gentle push to send her out the door and on her way, I said to her as she departed from my view,
“Faye will be taking a little dip in the pool.”
Then I shut the door and fished around inside the refrigerator for a much-needed Heineken.
Thanks for reading this, & I hope you get a chance to read the whole novel when it gets published !!!