Monday, September 29, 2008

The Last Place to Stash Your Cash

No insurance. No way to prove what you put in the box. Fire or robbery wipe out everything you have. And though you never hear much about such things, fire and theft of safety deposit boxes were -- until this year --as common as bank closings. If you are frightened about the financial system, put your money in FDIC-insured bank accounts (up to $100,000 per named account holder). If you're scared to death, horde gold and water.

If you've got big ones, like me and The Famous Author, buy UYG on the New York Stock Exchange. It's an exchange-traded mutual fund of large, medium, and small banks and other financial stocks.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

BIG MONEY, Chapter 59

Max is a soft, helium-filled circus balloon. He floats and bounces along the operating room’s white-tile ceiling. Below him, blue doctors and green nurses huddle in an egg-shaped circle around his naked body.

How is this? Max is two places at one time.

Max is conscious of a danger, aware that being separated from his flesh means his spirit or his mind could get lost. But he is not that much afraid. There is a sturdy string attached to that helium-fill ed balloon, and whenever he wants, Max can will himself down the line, like fireman down a pole to the operating table.

Max knows this for sure, somehow, and also, he likes this floating. On a big screen in a corner of the operating room, he can see memories like movies. Or at least this one memory. The one playing now--how Max hid as a child and waited under the cages to kill his Mama’s new husband. How the smell of the cats made him sick. And how he endured by imagining himself feeding the lion tamer to lion tamer’s own lions. The same smelly cats that ate his father.

But at scene where Max is ready to strike, ready to kill lion tamer, the lions jump through the movie screen and claw Max’s back.

He screams in shock and pain.

Max can’t open his eyes, and he can’t move his hands. Maybe this is dream, too. Or maybe now Max is dead. Those blue doctors or the lion killed him.

“We could write an article for the New England Medical Journal on this man’s head,” a woman says.

Max’s mouth and throat are sore like he swallowed a basketball. And someone must have hit him on the head with a big hammer and then left the handle sticking out. Each heartbeat brings a new throb of hurt to the top and back of his skull.

“The bullet must have struck at an incredibly lucky angle,” a man’s voice says.

Max hears people speaking, such soft voices talking about him, the hospital patient Max Zakowsky, but it is probably a dream. Like floating above his body and remembering the smell of the cats.

Gentle fingers probe the base of Max’s skull.

“No, feel that,” the woman says.

Max wishes he could see her. Her voice is like classical music.

“I’ll bet this man’s sphenoid bone is at least fifty percent thicker than yours or mine,” she says.

Maybe this is not a dream. Max never hear of a sphenoid bone before this moment. How could he imagine it?

“I hope you never get a chance to compare, Sydney, but I know this man was damn lucky with the other three bullets. No bones, major arteries, or organs were damaged. He’ll be walking out of here in a week.”

Max opens his eyes. He wasn’t dreaming. There is man and woman doctors standing beside his bed.

“Quicker even,” Max says.

Intense, burning orange light becomes the early morning sun shining in Max’s window. Is his mind floating again?

No, Max is waking up in a hospital bed, the searing pain from his head to his hip no longer part of a dream. The pain is real. Hard to believe bullets could deliver so much hurt but not kill him.


Sitting up feels impossible. His body seems broken inside, muscles and bones unable to work together. Mind fuzzy with pain and something else...drugs probably. At least he can see now, move his hands and feet, legs if he wants.

Max rings a bell for the nurse.

A gray-haired woman with two sofa pillows for a chest and one major ass walks into his room ten minutes later.

“Where pants?” Max says.

“Only when I have to,” woman says. “Right now, I’m running full commando.”

Max knows she is being silly although he doesn’t understand the joke. A sense of humor is good thing. Those huge breasts look pretty good, too.

“Your clothes, what’s left of them, are in the closet, Mr. Zakowsky. But don’t think you’re going anywhere.”

Max tries to smile. “Max not going anywhere today. But would like to see my blue jeans.”

The nurse brings him a shredded mess. The other nurse, the skinny one with thin hair, explained how the ambulance guys cut up his shirt and pants to save him.

The woman with big ass and big tits stays close to the bed after she hands him his clothes. Close enough to touch if he wanted.

“What are you lookin’ for, honey?” she says.

Kneading the fabric carefully with his fingers, Max finds the spear tip with his thumb and forefinger. His father was right. There must be a spirit in the rock that protects its wearer from assassins.

The next day, Mama Bones says, “What did the coppers want?”

“If I know who did this,” Max says. “Also if I recognize anyone. If I willing to look at books of photos.”

Max sits up, grateful that his pain is fading, but tired from walking up and down the hospital hall all day. Mama Bones could be the new boss of Bluefish’s family, however, and Max knows Jerry would tell him to show the old hag respect.

“What did you say to them?” Mama Bones says.

“Nothing. I learn more from them than they learn from me.”

“Yeah? So you know Bluefish and you friend Jerry are dead?”

“I see their brains. Yes.”

Mama Bones nods. “Nunzio says it notta him. But my niece Gina, Tony Farascio’s wife, she was at the bar when you and Bluefish got shot. She tells me she has nothing to do with killing, but I’m not so sure. She was very mad about Tony. And was also mad about Anne Marie.”

“Anne? Why?”

“Gina was Anne Marie’s friend. I think. Once.”

So. That’s it. Max finally understand. Anne. Frances. And Gina. All three of them.

Maybe Max have his own suspect now for Anne Marie’s murder. He needs to check something, but if Max is right, he will kill her. Kill woman who kill his Anne, along with Austin Carr and Mexican bartender for shooting Jerry.

Maybe Max drown them all together in bag like smelly little cats.

Click on the headline to read reviews of BIG MONEY.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Financial Abyss

Okay, I know I'm just a fictional stockbroker. And lately my stock picks have been disasters. What do I know, right? But let me tell you something that's as true as rain to 90% of those involved in the financial industry: If Congress doesn't pass this bill the way Treasury Secretary Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Bernacke ask them to -- that is, without forcing too many punishments on bankers and insurance companies that will keep many from joining the bad-loan dumping system -- then the U.S. and world stock markets will crash like 1929 and 1987 (when the Dow Jones lost 20% in one day, after a months long decline).

The American public doesn't buy it, but this bailout is about them, not just Wall Street. The economy will shrink, and millions of jobs will be lost. The world financial system is on the verge of something even The Famous Author never saw in his 43 years of financial experience--a real collapse. The world is heavily invested here, and our system was/is too heavily leveraged into home mortgage credit. Wealth and confidence are evaporating weekly. New ripples are showing up from earlier closures and seizures.

TFA's father remembered getting a haircut with his father in 1929, shortly after the stock market crash. Both TFA's grandfather, a doctor, and the barber were of the opinion, screw those rich bastards on Wall Street, let'em keep jumping out of buildings. They didn't own any stock. TFA's father said a year later, the barber shop was closed, along with a third of the stores in Oceanside, California, and Grandpa was taking chickens as payment for his medical services.

Please, Congress and America, don't let politics keep this Fed-engineered shot at stability from happening. There's so much blame to go around, don't pick on one villain. Not now. Later if you want. Right now, we are slipping into a black hole.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Redhead of the Week

Katherine Matilda "Tilda" Swinton, 47, is an Academy Award- winning British actress known for both arthouse and mainstream films. Born in London, her mother was Australian, her father Scottish, the Swinton family lineage tracing back to the ninth century. To me, she looks more like the Queen of England than the Queen of England.

Tilda gained fame in 1995 when she developed a performance/installation art piece in which, as a live exhibit in the Serpentine Gallery, London, she was on display to the public for a week, asleep or apparently so, in a glass case, as a piece of performance art.

Tilda appeared as a supporting character in films such as The Beach (2000), featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, and Vanilla Sky (2001) with Tom Cruise and, as the scheming archangel Gabriel in Constantine (2005) with Keanu Reeves.

In 2005, she was the White Witch Jadis in the film version of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and her performance as Karen Crowder in Michael Clayton also drew favorable reviews.

Thanks to Tilda, Wikipedia, and those aristocratic Swinton genes.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

NY Mystery Writers Give It Away

In Cherry Hill Sunday and Monday, The New York Chapter of Mystery Writers of America will be giving away copies of their books to the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Assn.

Come on by the Crowne Plaza, you booksellers, and pick up the latest from Jane K. Cleland, Chris Grabenstein, Anthony Bruno, Jeff Cohen, Sarah Langan, Sharon Linnea, Jack Getze, Merry Jones, Jonathan McGoran, David Wind, and others.

Click on Headline for more info and directions

Thursday, September 18, 2008

BIG MONEY, Chapter 58

Still in my Camry, I read Luis’s letter for the third time. Is he talking about Gina? Angelina Farascio? He can’t be in love with the other Angelina I know, Angelina Bonacelli, although in my mind, Mama Bones definitely approaches warrior-like status.

If Luis’s love interest is Gina Farascio, that would explain why he kissed her so tenderly in the bar a few minutes ago, maybe why she was at Luis’s to begin with. That little peck on the cheek was the deepest display of affection I’ve ever seen from my favorite bartender. Luis in love. Why the idea almost--

A truck or bus backfires in spurts. Kinda like a TV cop-show shootout. Bam-bam-bam...bam-bam...bam.

Wait a minute. I forgot the Camry’s windows are rolled up, the engine already purring. It’s possible I may have failed to appreciate the true, more violent nature of those recurring bam-bams.

Rolling down the car window, I recognize another sound now--human adults screaming and yelling their bloody heads off--and even Austin Carr can put bam-bam and eek-eek together. Gunshots.

I hop my ass out of the Camry.

Oops. Luis’s letter tumbles from my lap. Don’t want to be running back inside with that little flag unfurled. Show Luis my true, villainous nature.

I fold Rosalinda’s check inside the letter, tuck everything under the Camry’s driver’s seat. My car’s semi-shag rug is a litter-box of rice-sized pebbles and coarse beach sand.

An orange sun fades below the parking lot’s pine tree border as I jog between a crowd of cars and SUVs. Branchtown lies in growing shadow. Small birds cheep-cheep their goodbyes to the safety of daylight. Tires and engines hum along Highway 35, a thick steel river of Friday night traffic.

Two uniformed Branchtown cops burst out of Luis’s Mexican Grill. I view mostly backsides as they run across my path, then dodge screeching rubber and two-ton fenders crossing the highway. They must be chasing somebody.

I look left, then right. Whoever they’re chasing--maybe the shooter?--he’s doing a great job of camouflage. Can’t see anyone they could be running after. And I notice the cops haven’t drawn their guns.

Maybe they’re chasing dick.

“I hope to hell you got a decent look at them.” Franny says. Her green eyes are dead-set against me.

How the hell was I supposed to know the cops were the shooters? “I can tell you something about them.”

El Capitan Frances Chapman and her sidekick, Chef Stuart, arrived at Luis’s eighteen minutes after the gunplay, twelve minutes behind the paramedics and a Branchtown patrol car.


“Two white males, dressed as Branchtown policemen,” I say. “One of them was one-sixty to one-seventy-five pounds, forty to forty-five years old. The other was two hundred pounds or more, in his twenties. Both of them five-ten to six-feet tall. Didn’t get hair color because of the police hats. No visible scars or tattoos.”

Once again, watching TV cop shows makes the witness invaluable to law enforcement investigators. Thank you, Detective Andy Sipowitz.

Franny says to Stuart, “You getting this?”

Everybody in the place is working pen on paper. First thing when they got there, after securing half the restaurant with crime scene tape, the real Branchtown cops told Luis’s patrons to sit down, write their name, address, and phone number on paper. I know it helped calm the place. The tears and shrieking lost most of their momentum when people tried to remember how to spell Smith and Jones.

Franny saying, “Think you’d recognize these two if you saw them again?”

“Maybe,” I say. My eyes took a few decent profile shots. “Maybe not.”

“Come on, then.” Franny turns me over to a uniformed trooper the size of Paul Bunyan. Or maybe Bunyan’s blue ox. His hands feel like horns, and he uses his state trooper chest belt to bump me around like livestock. Franny saying, “Let’s have you look at some mug shots.”

Moving toward a joint exit with Trooper Bunyan, I seem to have lost weight. About a hundred pounds. My toes fly across Luis’s hardwood floor. At least I’m on my feet. Barely breathing, Creeper went out on a stretcher. Multiple gunshot wounds, including one to the head. Kinda harsh punishment for locking my daughter Beth in a car trunk.

Bluefish and Jerry will leave later. In rubber body bags.

“It’s a simple question, Carr,” Franny says two hours later. “Did you see Gina Farascio near Bluefish, either before or after the shooting?”

“I’m tired,” I say. “I want to go home.”

“Okay. As soon as you tell me what I want to know. Now how about it? Did you see Gina beside Bluefish?”

I sigh. My back is killing me. First the barstool, then the back seat of a cruiser, now this spine-twisting chair at Trooper Interrogation Central. I wonder if I’ve been transported to a former Soviet bloc country so they can torture me?

Having witnessed two men's brains oozing across the restaurant floor, all that fresh, salty-smelling blood, I couldn’t see what direction we were headed, let alone where we ended up. I can’t even say how long a ride it was.

Where’s Chef Stuart with the fresh coffee?

“Gina checked Bluefish’s pulse. That’s what she was doing as I came back inside,” I say.

Franny’s eyes narrow. “She was crouched beside him?”

“Yeah. Touching his neck.”

“Which hand?”

“I don’t remember.”

Franny leans forward so that our faces are six inches apart. “Think. It’s important. Was she reaching across his chest?”


“It just is. Think. What was she doing with her hands?”

“Is something missing from Bluefish’s body?”

“Shut up. Did you--”

“See, I ask because the only person I saw going through Bluefish’s pockets was you, Franny.”

“Captain Chapman to you.”

“Captain, my ass.”

Just for a second, Ms. Strawberry shows up on El Capitan’s face. One of her sea-green eyes winks at me. “You had your chance.”

Click on the headline to read the first two chapters and reviews of BIG MONEY.

End of the $$$ World?

As stock and bond market investors around the world don their armor and battle helmets this morning, remember the immortal words of F.D. Roosevelt: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

Of course, FDR didn't have $75 billion invested in home mortgage derivatives.

And since one year ago The Famous Author and I said the market was THEN ready for a turnaround (Wrong wrong wrong), our crystal ball has been confiscated along with our Fannie Mae, AIG, and Lehman stock. We are no longer allowed to prognosticate.

So we'll just sit back and watch our last remaining pennies disappear in the worst financial market we've seen in more than 40 years.

The shorts are winning!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Redhead of the Week

Julie London was one of the top pre-rock female vocalists, her most famous recording being Cry Me A River, released in 1955. The Famous Author's brother was seventeen years old that year. TFA used to hear her sexy recordings late into the night, wafting down the hall from his bro's bedroom.

Born Julie Peck, in 1926, to Jack and Josephine Peck, a song and dance team in vaudeville, Julie moved from Santa Rosa, California, to San Bernardino in 1929, where Julie's parents had a radio show, on which she occasionally sang. By 1941, she was singing with the Matty Malnech Orchestra in Los Angeles and met Sue Carol, an actor/agent and wife of Alan Ladd, who obtained a screen test for Julie.

She reached star status by playing leading roles in such movies as A Question Of Adultery, Task Force, and The Fat Man. In 1947 she married Jack Webb, who was just breaking into dramatic acting on radio. With marriage, she temporarily gave up her movie career to become a full-time wife and mother, and they had two daughters, Stacy and Lisa. In November, 1953, London and Webb divorced, and she received custody of the children.

In 1954 she met Bobby Troup, a jazz musician and songwriter. Under his guidance she began a serious singing career. Her first singing engagement was the 881 Club in Los Angeles. In 1955 she cut her first album, Julie is Her Name. Included on this LP was her most successful hit: Cry Me A River. Over three million copies of the album and single were sold. The single remained on Billboard charts for 13 weeks, and the LP for 20. Julie was voted one of the top female vocalists of 1955, 1956, and 1957. On New Year's Eve, 1959, she became Mrs. Bobby Troup.

Julie's vocal style has been described as being sultry, sexy, "come-hither", intimate, breathy, warm, smoky, haunting, husky, sullen, sad, suggestive and seductive. She self-described her voice in a LIFE magazine article in 1957, as "It's only a thimbleful of a voice, and I have to use it close to the microphone. But it is a kind of oversmoked voice, and it automatically sounds intimate." The majority of her album covers were graced by sultry, yet sophisticated pictures.

Julie London suffered a stroke in 1995, and was in poor health until her death 2000.

Thanks to Julie's website and Wikipedia.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Where Is He?

Sorry for the blogging lapse, but Cindy's had my ear in Maine. I accompanied The Famous Author on a book signing trip to Bangor this weekend, and lo and behold, they don't have computers or the internet up there. I was surprised. Nothing but moose heads and potato guns. More later on the potato gun. (Wow!)

Many thanks to Cindy, Janet, Kathy, Sammi, and their men who suffered TFA's presence.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Redhead of the Week

We can't find much info on Deanna Miller, top U.S. fashion model. She was born in Pennsylvania in 1984, and she owns an art gallery in Marina Del Rey, California. Hey, when you look this good, who cares where you came from.

Monday, September 8, 2008

It's Only Money

Sniff. Goodbye Freddie and Fannie. Goodbye Austin Carr's hot tip account. Goodbye to the Treasury's commitment to keeping the two mortgage giants shareholder-owned. Thank you, Hank Paulson. The taxpayers should be happy. Me, I'd headed to a couple of funerals.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Goodbye to Summer

The air is crisp and clear this morning, all humidity wiped away by the passage overnight of tropical storm Hanna. And while the arrival of fresh fall breezes brings a quickness to the step and a desire to throw footballs, The Famous Author and I are a little sad this morning. Summer is over. Another few days or weeks, I'll have to wear shoes.

Oh, no! Nine months until I can go to the beach again? Nine months until I can go for a boat ride?

Friday, September 5, 2008

BIG MONEY, Chapter 57

The restaurant menu’s Spanish descriptions are more helpful than the English. But all Max really knows is that the Mexican food he ate before tasted squishy. Max likes steaks, pork chops, and Jerry’s favorite, barbecued ribs. Stuff you chew, not mushy-mush things like refried beans, avocados, and gooey cheese.

“What is hamburguesa?” Max says.

He lifts his gaze, finds Jerry giving him a sideways nod that means to look over the restaurant. He and Jerry already check out this Mexican place, the people inside. Max doesn’t see reason to do it again.

“Max,” Jerry says.

Bluefish glances at them over his menu.

Max pushes himself out of the booth. Bartender is making drinks. Big blond guy playing with laptop computer. Austin Carr left two minutes ago, not that Max worry about him. In fact, except Mexican behind bar, nobody in whole place looks like they could slow Max down.

Max nods at Jerry that everything is okay, then points at the restroom sign. “Be right back.”

His business finished, Max glances at himself in the mirror while washing his hands. That empty feeling grips him again. He sees it in his eyes. The same desolation that unnerved him this afternoon looking at the cloudless sky.

A world without life.

Max reaches inside his new sport coat--Jerry says the old one smelled bad--and removes the Smith & Wesson revolver Jerry gave him to carry this evening. The blue-black steel cools his sweaty palm.

The worry hits Max strong tonight. He hasn’t carried his father’s arrowhead for luck in two years.

The gun against his hip, Max pushes open the bathroom door with his shoulder and sticks his head out. Nothing. He hurries to the end of the short hallway where he can see the biggest part of the restaurant’s bar area. Nothing wrong there. Everything look the same.

Holding the Smith & Wesson mostly in his coat pocket, Max strolls through doorway, then stops in main dining room where he can see both Bluefish and Jerry.

Trouble. A uniformed policeman stands beside Bluefish, a pen and leather-bound ticket pad in his hands. The cop talking to Jerry. Shifting his weight from one foot to the other. Back and forth. Back and forth. Glancing now over his shoulder at Max.

Why is cop so nervous?

Max hurries forward, his thumb sliding back the revolver’s hammer.

A woman to his right glimpses Max’s gun. She gasps, then points at it for her friend, another middle-aged woman. The second one screams.

The three explosions come closely together. Max hears them as one long stuttering peel of thunder, a tornado rolling over him from behind. But each bullet feels different, separate from the sound and separate from each other. First bullet burns his back like fire. The second knocks all air from his lungs. Third bullet taps his shoulder like the hand of a small child.

On his way to restaurant’s wood floor, sliding down like a melting snowman, Max watches the nervous policeman draw his weapon and fire two shots, one each into the heads of Bluefish and Jerry.

Max’s weapon tumbles away as he hits the floor. So quick. Everything happen so fast.

He tries to stand, but Max’s legs don’t work anymore. His hands push okay, and he can slightly raise his head.

Big blond guy in shorts and blue T-shirt stand over him now, a wisp of gray smoke rising from barrel of small-caliber handgun. Stinky little twenty-two. Hit man special, Jerry once say. Bullet bounce around inside skull.

Max watches the blond guy aim the little gun at Max’s head. He remembers the morning’s tasteless air. That cloudless sky.

A world without life.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Redhead of the Week

Heidi Collins, who co-anchors CNN Newsroom with Tony Harris weekday mornings, looks to be a well-preserved forty-one, although I'm guessing Heidi likes to play up the tough journalist aspect of her nature. Not exactly warm and fuzzy, in this shot anyway. But even the sassiest redheads are appealing, right guys?

Born Heidi Elmquist, Collins graduated in 1985 from Mounds View High School in Arden Hills, Minn. She earned a bachelor of science degree at the University of Maryland, and married Matt Collins in 1992. Son Riley was born in 2001. They live in Georgia, I'm guessing pretty close to Atlanta since that's CNN's headquarters. Collins and her son are part of 1% of the American population diagnosed with Celiac Disease. She is the official spokesperson for the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.

Prior to joining CNN, Collins was an anchor for KUSA in Denver, Colorado.

Thanks to Wikipedia and Heidi.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Military's New Secret Weapon

Here's an exclusive shot of the Number One ranked U.S. Army sniper team, Butch and Sergeant Baxter Billingsly. Butch not only confirms yardage and wind velocity, but he can ususally smell what the target ate for lunch.

"Using dogs on the sniper teams has saved Uncle Sam millions of dollars," says Billingsly. "Butch for instance will work 48 hours straight for a small package of beef bones."

Maybe we could utilize dogs for other government jobs. How about the House and Senate?