by Peter Leonard,
Author of Trust Me
Lou Starr was in bed reading, covered to the waist by a sheet. He'd set the air at sixty-eight and heard the compressor kick on outside. He pushed up the glasses that were falling off the end of his nose and stared at the signature hole of a new Robert Trent Jones PGA golf course called Whispering Palms.
He fondled the medallion that was hanging from a gold chain around his neck, resting on a sweater of chest hair. Lou said, "Want to see the best-looking new hole in golf?" He tilted the magazine toward Karen on the other side of the king-size bed, two feet of mattress between them.
Karen didn't say anything. She was propped up on pillows, the bedsheet angling across her chest revealing the pale white skin of her shoulder and the round curve of a breast. She was watching a sitcom on a Sony flat screen that hung on the wall a few feet away.
"It's a six-hundred-yard par five," Lou said. "Longest one in golf." He grinned now, imagining himself on the tee looking down the fairway. He took a couple practice swings with his Fusion FT-3 driver and blasted the ball 325 yards straight down the pike. Hey, Tiger, beat that.
Lou hit his second shot over a bunker and a water hazard -- on in two. He lined up the putt and sent the ball forty feet over a swale -- left to right -- for an eagle. He grinned big and closed the magazine and placed it on the table next to the bed. He took off his reading glasses, put them on top of the magazine and turned off the light.
Lou slid over next to Karen, touched her shoulder with his index finger, tracing a line down her arm to her elbow. He was horny. She'd been putting him off for a couple of weeks. First it was her period. What could he say about that? Then her allergies kicked in. What allergies? She'd never mentioned them before. And the past few nights she'd been too tired. From what, Lou wanted to know? All she did was go to the mall while he worked his ass off. He was wondering what he'd gotten himself into. They'd been living together for eight months and he was sure there were monks who got laid more than he did. Well he was going to get some to night. He'd demand it.
Lou moved his hand under the covers, stroked Karen's thigh, her hip, the smooth round point of her pelvis under the nightie.
Karen pushed his hand away. "Come on, Lou. Not now."
"Not now," Lou said, "when?"She was watching Pardon My French, this stupid fucking sitcom.
Karen said, "Chuck's getting married."
She sounded like she knew him. "Well, we're engaged," Lou said, "in case you forgot. How about my right to a piece of ass every couple months whether I need it or not?" He slid away from her, rolled over on his side.
A few minutes later it was over. He could hear the announcer's voice say: "Pardon My French has been brought to you by Levitra. The more you know about ED, the more you'll want to know about Levitra."
Lou got a kick out of that, Levitra for all the losers who couldn't get it up. He was fifty-six and still had a hard-on like a steel post. He glanced at Karen -- hoping she'd slip her nightie off and attack him -- this good-looking woman who was more interested in TV than sex. What was wrong with this picture?
He watched her yawn and close her eyes. The switcher slipped out of her hand and fell on the bed. Her eyes flickered open. She yawned again, picked up the remote and turned off the TV. It was dark, the room was quiet except for the ticking of his clock.
He'd been asleep for some time -- he was sure of it -- when he heard the noise. It was loud too, like something breaking, a window maybe, he couldn't tell. He looked at the clock. It was 2:48. He turned toward Karen. She heard it too, her eyes were big, a nervous look on her face.
"What was that?" Karen said.
She sat up and opened the drawer of her bedside table, took out her Airweight .357 and turned toward him. He was bringing the .45 out of his drawer, racking it. They got up with their guns and moved around the bed and went through the doorway into the living room.
Bobby saw them come in the dark room, holding guns, barrels pointed up like TV cops. They didn't go together, Bobby was thinking. The guy was short and hairy like a little gorilla. The girl was something though -- lean and pale with skinny arms and nice jugs he could see hanging under the thin fabric of her nightie. He knew their names, Lou and Karen.
Bobby made his move coming in behind them, pointing the .32, telling them, if they moved, he'd blow their fucking heads off. Delivering the line like he meant it, surprised by the sound of his voice in the quiet room.
They bent down and placed their guns on the carpet, and now Lloyd entered from the other side of the room."Folks, step back here, have a seat, will you?" Bobby said it friendly and polite, no reason to be rude now that he had their attention. He waved the gun motioning them toward the couch.
Lou said, "What the hell do you want?"
"Have a seat over here, we'll let you know," Bobby said.
Lloyd picked up the .357 and the .45. Bobby was wondering why these suburbanites were armed in the first place, not to mention with large caliber handguns. Lou grabbed an afghan off the couch wrapped it around the Karen's shoulders and they both sat down.
"Come with me," Bobby said to Karen. She didn't hesitate, got up and headed toward the bedroom.
Lou said, "Hey . . . where you taking her?"
Lloyd sat in a chair across from the guy, pointing the .45 at him.
Lloyd said, "We catch you and the little lady getting after it?"
"What the hell business is it of yours?" He was mad letting Lloyd know it.
"I'm making it my business," Lloyd said. "I got the gun. You didn't wimp out maybe you'd be holding on me. But you froze like an amateur." He glanced around the room, checking things out. It was dark, but his eyes had adjusted and he could focus now. The furniture looked like it should be on a porch, not in somebody's living room, but he liked it. Real comfortable too, bent wood frames with khaki cushions.
Neither of them said anything for a while, sitting in silence like strangers on a bus until Lloyd said, "Nice place you got here. Is that a real one," pointing to the zebra skin rug on the floor.
"What do you think?"
Lloyd said, "Where'd you get it at?"
"I shot it," Lou Starr said.
Lloyd said, "You mean like on safari?"
"No, in the backyard."
"I hunt too," Lloyd said, "with a bow and arrow."
Lou Starr said, "Congratulations."
"What kind of gun you use?" Lloyd said.
"You don't give up, do you?"
"I was just wondering," Lloyd said, "that's all."
" A 30.06, okay? You happy?"
Lloyd wondered if the guy was always this grouchy. He was making a real effort to be friendly and it wasn't working.
In the dressing room, Bobby fixed his gaze on Karen. She was a knockout, red hair and pale creamy skin. He'd always had a weakness for girls like her.
"Do you think I'm going to overpower you?" she said.
"Huh?" He wasn't paying attention, his eyes staring where the afghan didn't cover her.
"The gun," Karen said. "You don't have to point it at me. I'm not going to try anything."
He was surprised she was so relaxed, like people broke in her house in the middle of the night on a regular basis.
"Do you mind if I put something on? This thing itches," Karen said. She didn't wait for permission; let the afghan slide off her shoulder onto the floor. She grabbed a robe off a hanger and slipped it on, tying the sash around her waist.
There was a framed sign hanging on the wall that read: "Everybody's a Star at Lou Starr's World Famous Parthenon." There was a photograph of a storefront and the word "Parthenon" in neon surrounded by a silver border of stars. He said, "What's that?"
"It's from Lou's restaurants," Karen said. "You get one when you eat there. Lou thinks it makes people feel special."
"He make you feel special?" Judging by the angry look on her face he would've guessed, no. "What the hell're those for?" He was staring at the wig stands, three of them on a shelf -- two had salt-and-pepper hairpieces on them.
"No kidding. I thought they were yours." He glanced at her and felt himself grin. He lifted one of the hairpieces off the stand and studied it. It looked like a furry little creature in his hands. He was going to try it on but didn't want to mess up his own hair. "Is it real?"
"Yeah," Karen said. "It's hair from a fourteen-year-old Chinese girl."
"Does he put it on, and get a yen for chop suey?" Bobby grinned big. He couldn't help it. He surprised himself sometimes.
"He has them custom-made in London," Karen said. "The same place Burt Reynolds gets his."
Bobby said, "Burt Reynolds wears a rug, come on?"
"Are you kidding," Karen said, "his hair looks like it was made by Karastan."
"What's a custom rug cost these days?" Bobby said.
"They start at $700 and go up from there."
"That's a lot of money to look like an idiot. Why's he have three?"
"They're all different lengths so it looks like his hair's growing," Karen said.
"Where's the third one?" Bobby said, eyeing the blank wig stand.
"On his head," Karen said."Duh," Bobby said.
How'd he miss that?
Lloyd was staring at a framed picture on the end table next to him. The guy across from him was in a safari outfit and there was a dead animal at his feet. Lloyd turned the frame toward him so he could see it. "Look at you. What is that, a lion?" Lloyd put it back on the end table. "What's a lion weigh?"
"Three fifty, four hundred," Lou Starr said. "This one went four twenty-five."
He finally got the grouch's attention. "Four twenty-five, whoa hoss, that's a big cat, ain't it?" Lloyd grinned at him. "You were in Africa, right?"
"That's been a dream of mine," Lloyd said. "Get some sahibs to carry all the shit, go out every day and hunt. Smoke any of that homegrown they got over there?"
He stared at Lloyd. Maybe he didn't know what homegrown was. Lloyd was just trying to be nice to the guy, making conversation, trying to pass the time and he was being a real dickhead. "Ever hunt whitetail?"
Lou Starr said, "Uh- huh."
He wasn't giving him much. "You prefer a tree stand or a blind?"
"Who the fuck cares?"
"Ever got yourself a trophy buck?" Lloyd said. "One that made book? I'm not talking about seeing it while you're up on a limb. I'm talking about nailing it, bringing it home."
Lou Starr looked across the living room to the bedroom, glanced at his watch. "That's it," he said, standing now.
Lloyd aimed the .45 at him. "Don't be a dumbass. Sit down."
He dropped back on the couch, covered his face in his hands. He had a huge diamond ring set in gold on his little finger. Lloyd hadn't noticed it before, too busy looking at other stuff. "I like your ring," Lloyd said. "Always wanted one of those."
"I got an idea," Lou Starr said grinning. "When you get out of prison, get yourself a job and start saving up."
Bobby stared at a hanger-rack-ful of Lou's guayabera shirts: white and blue and yellow, reminding him of the shirts barbers wore, same style with the open collar and little vents on the tails. But these had a decorative quality to them and he imagined a roomful of short compact Latin men in the same kind of shirts, dancing and drinking wine.
Bobby turned and looked at her. "What nationality is he?"
"Take a guess," Karen said.
"Something Mediterranean," he said. "Italian or Sardinian."
"I'll give you a hint," Karen said. "Lou's real name is Starvos Loutra."
She was sitting in a chair now, chiseled legs visible, sticking out of the bottom of the robe.
"He doesn't have a brother named Spartacus, does he?" He smiled thinking he was funny and she smiled back telling him she did too. "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts," Bobby said, "and don't bend over and pick up the soap. That exhausts my knowledge of Greek heritage."
"I'm impressed," Karen said. "I can see you're a real scholar."
Bobby said, "Where's the money at?"
"What're you talking about?" Karen said.
"The $9,600 Lou won at the casino."
Karen said, "It's locked in the safe at one of his restaurants."
"I'm not walking out of here empty-handed," Bobby said.
"Do you want to make some real money?" Karen said. "Two hundred fifty thousand, maybe more."
"What do you think I just fell off the back of a turnip truck? Do I look that dumb?" She stared at him and he wondered what she was thinking. "Where's it at?"
"In a house in West Bloomfield," Karen said.
"We can get into all that," Karen said. "Does this sound like something you might be interested in?"
A quarter mill and a shot at her, hell yes he was interested. But he didn't trust her. How could he? You didn't break into someone's house in the middle of the night and expect to get propositioned. He fixed his gaze on her and said, "Are you scamming me?"
"No," Karen said. "I've been waiting for you."
The above is an excerpt from the book Trust Me by Peter Leonard. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.
Copyright © 2009 Peter Leonard, author of Trust Me
Peter Leonard, author of Trust Me, lives in Birmingham, Michigan. His first novel, Quiver, received wide-spread critical acclaim.
For more information please visit http://www.peterleonardbooks.com/