Friday, October 31, 2008

BIG MONEY, Chapter 63

Pressing his back against the wall, Max slides down on his haunches to wedge himself into a dark corner. Make himself as small as possible; hard to see, but coiled and ready. Max is able to jump out quickly like a spider.

Max takes three long, slow, deep breaths, trying to clear his mind of thoughts. He may have to hold this uncomfortable position for many hours, maybe all night. Is best to relax.

When he first started working for Bluefish, Max used a more direct manner. He would walk right up to the mark, tell him his time was up, or maybe knock the man down first, then talk. Most of the time, the mark would let Max do whatever Max was supposed to do. Beat the mark up, break a bone.But sometimes the mark would run, and Max hated those chases. Max is too big to run fast for long, plus things always seemed to get in his way. Couches. Cars. Other people. By the time he caught the mark, Max was usually too pissed to hold back. Twice he killed the mark when he was not supposed to. Also, once or twice, maybe three times now counting that Mexican bartender, the mark actually got away.

Make Max look bad.

Max takes another series of long, slow, deep breaths. His body relaxes, gravity working him even lower into the corner. Experience has taught Max to hide and relax. Guarantee himself the element of surprise, make his first move very strong. Get your hands on him before mark knows he’s not alone.

And once Max got his hands on someone...

Who's the naked lady with the shotgun? Find out next week.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Redhead of the Week

Thirty-year-old Lauren Ambrose (born Laura Anne D'Ambruoso) is an American film and television actress, best known for portraying the character Claire Fisher on the popular HBO drama Six Feet Under.

Born in New Haven, Lauren is a trained opera singer who studied voice and opera at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute. Ambrose has been married to professional photographer Sam Handel of Needham, MA since September 2001. The couple has a son, Orson Halcyon and currently lives in Stockbridge, MA.

Ambrose began her career in New York theater, playing in off-Broadway. Her early career also included television appearances, most notably playing supporting guest roles on Law & Order, and a feature guest role on the show as a mentally-challenged young woman raped by a group of popular high school students. Her first film role was In & Out (1997), which was followed by a more prominent role in the chaotic high school comedy Can't Hardly Wait (1998). She was the ingenue lead, Florence "Chicklet" Forrest, in the cult favorite Psycho Beach Party (2000). Ambrose began her role on Six Feet Under in early 2001. She was nominated for the Best Actress in a Supporting Role Emmy Award twice, following the 2002 and 2003 seasons of the critically-acclaimed drama.

In 2006, Ambrose made her Broadway debut in the Lincoln Center Theater revival of Awake and Sing!. In 2007, she appeared as Juliet in the Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park performance of Romeo and Juliet at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, to great critical acclaim. She is currently performing as Ophelia in the 2008 performance of Hamlet for Shakespeare in the Park.

Upcoming films include:
Tonight at Noon (2008)
A Dog Year (2008)
Cold Souls (2008)
Where the Wild Things Are (2009)

Thanks to Laura Anne and Wikipedia

Monday, October 27, 2008

New Novel from Sandra Ruttan

In the aftermath of the case that reunited them, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Constables Hart and Tain find themselves standing over the body of a murdered child, just days before Christmas.

When the brother of the victim identifies his older sister as the killer, and the parents receive a ransom demand for the safe return of their daughter, Hart and Tain must investigate the family and their business contacts to uncover what really happened and bring the missing girl home.

"Ruttan is Ian Rankin with ovaries."
- Jen Jordan, Crimespree Magazine

"The Frailty of Flesh is not only one of the best procedural thrillers I've read in a long time... but the ending knocked me right out of my seat."
- Crime Scene Scotland

"The Frailty of Flesh raises difficult questions and shuns easy answers. Sandra Ruttan writes with passion and honesty about every parent’s worst nightmare and the result is an emotionally wrenching experience."
- Sean Chercover, Shamus Award-Winning author of Big City, Bad Blood

Ms. S

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Queen of Suspense

Born Patricia, nicknamed Trish, then renamed by a publisher's marketing department, T.J. MacGregor has written 28 novels, including two different series – the Quin. St. James/Mike McCleary and the Tango Key series - and four stand-alone thrillers -The Seventh Sense, Vanished, The Other Extreme, and Out of Sight, which won the Edgar Allan Poe award for Best Paperback Original of 2002.

The Famous Author met Trish about eight years and fourteen T.J. MacGregor novels ago. She is a powerhouse writer and teacher. Her paranormal mystery and detective stories grab you quick and don't let go. Trish's personal conversations also lean toward the occult, probably because she's written 15 nonfiction books on astrology, the tarot, dreams, and yoga. In 2003, with the death of renown astrologer Sydney Omarr, Trish took over the writing of his astrology books.

Trish's most recent books, Kill Time (October 2007) and the sequel, Running Time (November 2008) are time travel novels. Click on the headline above, THE QUEEN OF SUSPENSE, to see today's Rap Sheet post mentioning T.J.

And for all you struggling writers, those yet-to-be-published authors out there, please read what Trish has to say on her Tango Key home page:

For years, my writing was confined to nights and weekends and whatever free time I could steal from my day job. I wrote five novels, all of which were rejected, and finally found the right voice with my sixth novel, IN SHADOW. It was set in Miami, involved a designer drug that enhanced telepathy, and featured a white and black cop who were investigating a series of murders.

The book was rejected twenty four times before Ballantine bought it in September 1984 the Monday after the premier of Miami Vice. My editor admitted that he decided to buy the book after seeing the first episode of Vice. Timing, passion, and a relentless belief in yourself are crucial to success in any field, but particularly in writing. Never give up!

Friday, October 24, 2008

BIG MONEY, Chapter 62

Franny laps at her last-call martini like a thirsty Labrador. “Ever see that old Jack Nicholson movie ‘Chinatown?’” she says.

“Not more than twenty times,” I say. “I think Robert Towne won an Oscar for it.”

“Who’s Robert Towne?”

“He wrote it. An original screenplay.”

“Oh. Well, then,” she says, “you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. They, I mean he, repeats the line a bunch of times in different parts of the movie. ‘It’s Chinatown, Jake,’ like there’s nothing Jake can do, things are unknowable in that part of the city.”

“Towne was writing about the dark side of people’s souls, not geography,” I say. “You never know what goes on inside a person’s heart.”

“Exactly,” she says. “That’s what I mean. You wouldn’t believe what goes on between powerful friends in New Jersey, Austin. You really wouldn’t.”

“What are you talking about?”

Franny sets down her martini glass and stares out Clooneys dark bay windows again at the invisible sea. “Me, Austin. I’m talking about me.”

Ms. Strawberry bows her head and begins to weep, eventually hugging me for emotional support. Perhaps persuaded by the electrifying sensation of Franny’s breasts pressed against my abdomen, I decide information-pumping time is over. I mean, I have no idea what the hell she’s talking about.


I work on something clever to say in hopes of facilitating the switch from pump to hump. Then I remember the pervasive Austin Carr tendency to overemphasize verbal intercourse.

Show her how you feel, ace, don’t tell her.

I slide my hand around Franny’s waist, pull her across the space between our bar stools, then bend down to kiss her. She doesn’t turn away, and our lips come together like pancakes and maple syrup. Tender at first, I let my passion build until our tongues are doing a slow wet tango.

When the kiss over, my mouth is numb and Franny’s whole body is relaxed against me. She tilts her head up and whispers. “Wanna follow me home?”

I kiss her neck. “I might be persuaded.”

The bar check has been paid, including a nice tip for the disappointed bartender. Franny’s stuffing a lighter and a pack of Marlboros into her purse.

“Listen,” she says, “I sorgot fumthing. Be a nice Austin and go wait for me in the parking lot, or take a pee, will you? I have to talk to someone.”

Huh? Where did this come from? And who the hell is she going to talk to. There’s only one table left in the dining area. No customers in the bar but us and one older man. “I’m not allowed to meet them?”

“He’s very shy.”


“A trooper friend. I have a subpoena for him in my purse. Now go pee, or wash your face, or wait for me outside. I just need a couple of minutes.”

I glance at the geezer across the bar. If he’s getting paid by the State Troopers, it’s a pension. “He’s already here?”

“Yes. Now give me five minutes of privacy. Please?”

Curiosity rules this stockbroker’s heart, and when I leave Franny in the sunken bar area, duck out Clooneys entrance, I make a sharp left turn instead of heading for my parked Camry.

The restaurant’s beach lights are off because the deck’s closed this time of year, so when I slip around the building, stand in front of the big bay window and stare unseen into the lighted restaurant, I can see Clooneys last customers talking at a table and Franny in the bar like I’m watching television. For the first time, I notice the very late, lingering diners. One of them is Vick’s daughter, Carmela Bonacelli.

My gaze slides back to Franny. She’s digging in her black purse, doesn’t see the person walking up from behind until the new arrival takes my empty stool. The familiar woman has large dark eyes, long black hair, and like Franny, also wears a black, sleeveless, scooped-neck dress.

What the hell is Gina doing here?

Side by side, Franny and Gina look like onyx salt and pepper shakers. My spiciest dream.

When Franny finally sees her, there’s no surprise. She and Gina seem much more disturbed by the similarity of their dresses.

Slowly, like she really really hates to give it up, might even take it back, Franny pulls a small thin package from her purse and hands it to Gina.

Could it be?

All previous chapters can be found in the archives.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Was Warren Buffett Wrong?

Last week, while The Famous Author and I were recovering from Bouchercon Noir (see earlier post) on the beach in South Carolina, we saw TV coverage of Warren Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha. Seems Mr. B had written an op-ed piece for The New York Times about how the time to be greedy was when other people were fearful, or, in other words, now was the time to start investing in stocks. Prices might fall farther, Mr. B warned, but in the long run -- five, ten years -- starting to buy now would look smart.

My guess, Mr. B wishes he'd waited a week for the big pronouncement. But what about it? Will stocks really come back? If you buy now, will the American economy be thriving again in 2013?

Warren Buffett says it's a good bet. He's the Number One billionaire (see Forbes listing by clicking headline) in the world, and he got that way by investing in stocks. Okay, so what do we buy?

Here's one idea: SPY is an American Stock Exchange-traded fund that holds all of the S&P 500 Index stocks. Every big name blue chip you can think of. Well, minus a few recent casualties. Spreads the risk of picking a stock. Just a way to play the whole economy. Less than 1% in expenses. You can add or subtract from your holdings all day long, not just once, whenever you want. A great way to save: Each month when you do the bills, write yourself the first check. Buy a few shares of SPY.

The Grain of Salt: TFA and I had our trading account pretty much wiped out trying to pick a bottom in financials. Our investment advice is suspect. But I bet Mr. B would approve of the SPY strategy. Certainly for people who don't have the time to research individual stocks.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Redhead of the Week

Geri Halliwell is an English pop singer-songwriter, children's author, actress, and Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund. And a darn good looking redhead, especially for thirty-eight.

Halliwell became famous in the late 1990s as a member of the Spice Girls, a singing group with sales in excess of 55 million records. As a solo artist, she has received four Brit Award nominations, released four number-one singles in the UK, and sold around 4 million albums.

Geri was dubbed Sexy Spice for her seductive outfits and stage costumes, but preferred being called Ginger Spice, stating, "I always thought of myself as clumsy, not sexy."

Clumsy ain't what I read on Google, toots.

In the United States, Halliwell has also pursued a television career, re-uniting with former Spice Girls manager Simon Fuller to appear as a judge on the reality program All American Girl, and as a guest reporter on celebrity-based series such as Extra. She has also made appearances in the television series Sex and the City, and a film, Fat Slags (2004).

In 1999, Geri became a representative for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). As a goodwill ambassador, Halliwell toured the Philippines on a fact-finding trip. She visited with staff and clients of family planning clinics, women's groups in slum areas, and college students.

In 2006, Halliwell gave birth to her daughter, Bluebell Madonna. Explaining her name choice, she said, "What really clinched it for me was my mother telling me that the bluebell is increasingly rare – so it's a precious flower, which seems just right for my daughter." Her daughter's middle name came from two of Geri's heroines, the Virgin Madonna and pop singer Madonna.

In 2007, Halliwell had signed a six-book deal with Macmillan Children's Books. Her stories feature nine year old Ugenia Lavender, as well as characters loosely based on Halliwell's celebrity friends.

Thanks to Wikipedia and Geri.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Bouchercon Noir

Four-hundred mystery writers, one-thousand editors, agents, publishers, and fans, at two Baltimore hotels, The Famous Author has to take a stool at the bar beside Tony, a talented crime writer who announces he just lost his series. The publishers said his character must die.

Inside TFA's computer case, tossed on the floor like some dying dream, my stomach knotted like that first shot of bad tequila.

"Whoa, Tony," TFA said. "But your book just came out. Were sales that bad?"

"I don't know. I haven't seen any numbers yet."

"You're kidding?"


They both ordered another drink. I gasped for air. My short life -- BIG NUMBERS, BIG MONEY, and the upcoming BIG MOJO -- passed like movie clips before my eyes. Tony is with a BIG publisher. Mid-list, but a big New York mystery publisher. And it seems like six months ago he got his $25,000 advance.

I heard TFA slurp what no doubt was Wild Turkey. "Bummer, Tony. So what are you going to do?"

"That's the good news. They've offered me another series. I just have to change my name."

TFA and I have heard this tale before. Authors who don't succeed -- bad sales, or even good sales but with high returns -- don't get new orders from bookstore chains. The publishers fight back with a new name to bypass the black list.

"And pretend to be a woman," Tony said.

I couldn't breathe. My jaw gaped like a grouper. Above me, through the Nylon skin of the computer case, I heard TFA knock over his glass of bourbon.

"It's not so bad," Tony said. I'm guessing it was two minutes later. "I don't have to wear a wig or anything. They're going to use a model for the back cover."

Bouchercon Noir. My nightmare number one. Austin Carr becomes his own Redhead of the Week.

Friday, October 17, 2008

BIG MONEY, Chapter 61

The telephone wakes me just before midnight. I’m stretched out on my couch with the TV on, Sipowitz once again putting the screws to some scum bag fink. Although now that I think about it, I have quite a little career blooming myself as a law enforcement snitch.

Reaching over my head for the living room phone, I remember Susan’s skipped with the kids. Maybe the caller is Beth or Ryan, ratting out their overprotective mother. Probably wishful thinking, but my kids love me. I know that. They’re going to want to see their pop.

“Hello?” I say.

Click. A hang up.

Must be a wrong number, the caller probably expecting a female voice on this end. You’d think this late, even on a Saturday night, people using the telephone would take a bit more care pressing buttons.

I rest the phone in its cradle and return my head to its well-worn spot on the padded arm rest. A commercial’s running instead of my favorite cop show, and my eyes slowly shut. I’m thinking maybe I should make my way to the bedroom, take my clothes off, when the damn phone rings again.


I pick up. “Hello?”

Click. Another hang-up.

Gee. And I tried to sound so vibrant and appealing that time. Now I’m pissed.

Okay, this is why I ordered the full complement of new technology on my apartment telephone. I sit up on the couch and flip on the table lamp, dial star-six-nine. Takes nine or ten rings, but finally an elderly man picks up and growls hello. Sounds like a lifetime smoker of unfiltered tree trunks.

“Did you just call 555-6564?” I say.

“Nope. This is a pay phone in Clooneys. I was walking by.”

“Did you see who was just using the phone?”

Silence. One beat...two. The old geezer’s probably trying to remember what phone I’m talking about. “A woman,” he says.

“Really? What did she look like?”

Silence. Then another voice whispering in the background. “I don’t know,” he says finally, “but I gotta go. Doris is waiting for me.”

He hangs up.

Think I just got my first senior discount.

Walking into Clooneys forty minutes later, checking the bar, the first thing my peepers latch onto is State Trooper Frances Dahler Chapman, El Cap-i-tan herself. She’s alone and deep into the martinis, I’m guessing. Hunched over the bar; the strawberry-blonde hair slightly askew; in a black sleeveless dress. As I’m standing in the entrance area staring, she lights a cigarette with wobbly hands.

Franny’s drunk. Oh, boy.

Wonder if it was Franny that called me? I don’t see anybody else here I know, but there’s no real evidence she or anyone else I know was the caller. Big coincidence I get a phone call from my second-favorite bar and restaurant, but it could have been just a wrong number.

I chose to ignore other, less sexually promising possibilities, however. I focus instead on the memory of Franny’s naked body in bed with me.

“I don’t want to talk to you,” Franny says. “You lied to me. You lied to the Grand Jury.”

“I had to. Bluefish said he’d kill my children.”

Franny glances at me sidesaddle. Her lime-colored eyes radiate the glassy quality of calm water. “I could have protected them,” she says.

I shake my head. “No way. You could have locked me up, maybe made me safe. I totally would have done what you wanted if I didn’t have kids. But I can’t have them pulled out school, hidden away some place. Frightened.”

Franny slurps at her half-done martini. The sound attracts the glance of Clooneys young bartender, a crewcut athletic type who wasn’t all that pleased to take my drink order. Probably figured he was going to pick up Franny’s disassembled but luscious pieces when Clooneys shuts the doors at one-thirty.

God, aren’t men awful?

Franny sighs. Her moist gaze locks with mine. “Maybe you were right. I should have realized what you were up against,” she says. “And the truth is, it was Fluebish I wanted. Now that he’s dead, I think I’m not so mad at you anymore.”

Fluebish? The lady is bombed. I’m starting to worry a little. She might be too drunk. I mean, even stockbrokers have some pride. You can’t go around humping the unconscious. That’s like selling limited partnerships to your mother.

“You’re not going to prosecute me?” I say.

“Probably not. The investigation is over.”

I think I like the sound of this. “What about Talbot’s murder?”

“That’s almost done, too,” she says. “We traced the video recording equipment to a stolen trunk of stuff that matched swag found in Bluefish’s warehouse. Bluefish or a friend of his must have killed her.”

“So there really was a DVD of the murder?”

“I think so,” she says. “But no one will ever see it again.”


Franny gazes out Clooneys giant bar window at the dark Atlantic. “Because the killer was powerful enough to make it disappear.”

“Powerful enough to push around cops?”

Her gaze finds me again. She blinks. “Yup. Mallory for sure. Maybe his chief. Branchtown’s a cesspool. The cocal lops are protecting someone.”

“I don’t believe you.”

Franny finishes her see-through. I’m guessing number four or five by the slump of her shoulders. She giggles. “Cocal lops? How can you even understand me?”

All previous chapters of BIG MONEY can be found on this website. You just have to hunt. Search, maybe?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Redhead of the Week

Hey, I'm not really sure Charlaine Harris is a natural redhead, but who cares. Man, can this lady tell a story.

Regular visitors to my website know that I sometimes have fun with vampire and cat mysteries. I mean, I've made a joke or two. In fiction, a reader has to suspend his disbelief, and I really have trouble with talking animals and ghouls that drink blood to survive. But at Bouchercon this year, the number two book in Charlaine's new series turned up in The Famous Author's book bag, and because of her best-selling status, I thought I'd try the first page or so, see what the excitement was about. GRAVE SURPRISE it's called.

Well, wouldn't you know, I was hooked by the end of page one, swept away in the strange life of Harper Connelly. Charlaine really knows how to tell a story. WOW! I ignored my vacation, the beach, alcoholic spirits, and even the affections of a redhead until I'd finished this book.

Charlaine is already a star and a New York Times bestseller with her vampire mysteries starring Sookie Stackhouse and her Lily Bard mysteries, but this second installment to her new supernatural mystery series might just be her biggest hit yet.

From the Berkely Prime Crime people: "A college class gets more than it bargained for when Harper gives a demonstration of her uncanny talent. Instead of just finding one body in an old grave, she finds two: the original occupant and a recently deceased girl whom Harper had tried, and failed, to find two years previously. To dispel suspicions about her own innocence, Harper and her stepbrother Tolliver undertake their own hunt to find the killer-only to find yet another body in the same grave."

Anybody who loves a mystery will like this book. I promise. You will throw away your disbelief in the first two pages. And a special shout out to Chris. Charlaine's protag is the way she is because she got struck by lightning.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bouchercon Books

The Famous Author and I are on the beach in South Carolina, reading some good books we picked up at Bouchercon 2008 in Baltimore this past weekend. Wanna see?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Bouchercon Break

The Famous Author and I are headed for the world's biggest and best mystery convention. We have a panel assignment Saturday morning at 10 o'clock. Come see us there, but no blogging until further notice.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Me and Dennis Lehane

Me in the computer case beside him, The Famous Author took a writing class from Dennis Lehane last winter. (Dennis is a REAL famous author, ever since he penned MYSTIC RIVER). A big fan of his private eye series set in Boston, and a writer who thinks his Mystic River is one of the best crime novels ever, TFA was surprised to hear Lehane say, at that writers conference, that he'd dropped the PI series, that he was done writing mysteries. From now on, Lehane said, it was literature only.

In his latest novel, out now, Jonathan Yardley of The Washington Post, says, "Lehane has done something brave and ambitious: He has written a historical novel that unquestionably is his grab for the brass ring, an effort to establish his credentials in literary as well as commercial terms. Immense in length and scope, it is set at the end of World War I, a time when "people were angry, people were shouting, people were dying in trenches and marching outside factories," and it culminates in one of the most traumatic events in Boston's history, the policemen's strike of 1919…It's a powerful moment in history, and Lehane makes the most of it."

At the conclusion of last winter's writers conference, Lehane read a scene from THE GIVEN DAY to an assembly hall of writers, teachers, and students. He held us spellbound, a scene of people talking around a dinner table, an extended family with more secrets and smokey conflict than the city erupting around them.

Literature or not, TFA is going to run right out and buy us a copy.

And good luck with YOUR writing, Dennis.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Redhead of the Week

Alyson Lee Hannigan, 34, plays Lily Aldrin in the CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother, but is also well known for her previous role as Willow Rosenberg on the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She also played flautist Michelle Flaherty in the American Pie film series.

Hannigan was born in Washington, D.C., the daughter of Emilie Posner, a real estate agent, and Al Hannigan, a truck driver. Her parents divorced a year after her birth and she was raised mostly by her mother in Atlanta.

In 1997, Hannigan was cast to play Willow Rosenberg, Buffy's best friend, on the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The show became a success, and Hannigan gained recognition, subsequently appearing in several notable films aimed at teenage audiences, including American Pie, American Pie 2, Boys and Girls, and American Wedding. By the time Buffy had ended in 2003, Hannigan was earning a $250,000 salary for each episode.

Redheaded and rich. Nice combo.

Thanks to Wikipedia

Monday, October 6, 2008

Nibble at the Stock Market

Hey, I could be whistling in the dark, but if I had any cash, I'd be spending about one-third of it right now buying UYG at $14.11 a share. UYG is a mutual fund of big financial stocks, but pick something else if you're inclined. Stick with real quality. But just one-third of what you want to invest. Keep most of your powder dry.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

TFA's Proud of This One

The Famous Author and I don't get that many invites. We go places and he talks, usually because our PR lady called first and used persuasive skills to arrange it. Not this time. TFA's email box contained a real invitation the other day, asking him speak because his books "are popular with New Jersey librarians."

I wonder why? Me, of course. It's got to be me, right?

Ooooo. I'm having a Sally Field moment...Somebody LIKES me!

Click on this image to read it.

Friday, October 3, 2008

BiG MONEY, Chapter 60

The telephone pressed against my ear, I slide gently onto my living room couch, ease back, and stretch my feet out.

Some beatings I like to take lying down.

I just spent an exhausting and stress-filled Saturday morning reading the newspaper. The kids’ mutual funds are down, my horoscope sucks, and the local rag whose name I won’t mention ran another follow-up on Shore and Bluefish. Plus, I have a sinister premonition about this call I’ve been trying to make.

“May I help you?” the operator says.

“I’m having trouble reaching a number.” I rattle off the seven digits of Susan’s house line. My old ranchero. I don’t like numbers much, my business being so full of them. And I can’t remember my morning routine when I lived there, or even what Susan looked like naked. But this damn phone number is burned into my head like some ancient petroglyph into rock. 555-5443.

“The line’s been disconnected, sir.”

A hole in the earth opens up beneath my couch. I’m plunging through space like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. “Are you sure? That’s been my house line for eight years.”

“That number was disconnected yesterday, sir. By the billing party.”

I park in front of the old homestead and immediately know the truth. The realtor’s FOR SALE sign stuck in the lawn pretty much tells the tale.

Jesus. I can’t believe Susan would do this.

Dazed, I stumble inside the house through an unlocked back door, inspect the empty rooms and cupboards, the bare walls and floors. Vacant spaces where I played Legos with Beth and Ryan. Barren corners once stacked with toys.

My gut winces, as if claws were ripping my flesh.

The telephone rings as I unlock my apartment twenty minutes later. The shrill clanging echoes in the empty living room. I hurry, hoping for no logical reason it’s the kids. Did I leave that kitchen light on?


“Hey, pal, it’s Walter. How you been?”

I sigh. “Fabulous. Susan and the kids moved without telling me.”

“Sorry,” he says. “I just wanted to let you know I signed those papers you sent me and had them notarized. I dropped them off at the post office on my way into work this morning.”

I don’t think Walter is even slightly interested Susan skipped out. Maybe he’s right. Why should he be?

“A hitter like you, dialing for dollars on a Saturday?” Busting balls is what Walter deserves.

“Yeah, well I’m still working on getting all my Shore people over,” he says. “Thought this might be a good day to remind them how well I’ve managed their money.”

A month ago I considered him a friend. Now he’s calling up my customers and telling them their money’s at risk with Shore. “Right, Walter. And the follow-up story on Bluefish and Shore Securities today had nothing at all to do with your decision. Are you going to send our customers reprints?”

“Hey, that’s a great idea.”

I must be the world’s dumbest victim. I can’t believe I just said that. “Well, thanks for signing those papers, Walter. Nice doing business with you.”

“When do I get my first check?” he says.

“I’m not sure. Call the escrow company where you sent the papers. I can’t see where it would take them more than one or two business days.”

“All right,” he says. “Take it easy.”

“Later, Walter.”

I wonder if Rags has received his paperwork yet, if he’ll sign as easily as Walter. Carr’s Famous Plan to Create Opportunity from Crisis proceeds nicely on course. I’m not planning on hitting The Fortune 500. Honestly, it’s mostly payback, although I would hope one day to cinch myself enough moola to secure Beth’s and Ryan’s college education. It’s possible.

But my thoughts won’t stay on business. The sight of my empty old ranchero, that ugly FOR SALE sign...the memories there with my kids. These images just won’t stay out of my head but minutes at a time.

The Creeper only took Beth. Susan kidnapped both my children.

Click on the headline to read reviews of BIG MONEY and BIG NUMBERS.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Redhead of the Week

The Redheaded Woodpecker is striking at rest and in flight, showing its colors, and one of the most aggressive members of the family and one of the most omnivorous.

One of only four woodpeckers known to store food, this redhead is the only one known to cover the stored food with wood or bark. It hides insects and seeds in cracks in wood, under bark, in fence posts, and under roof shingles. Grasshoppers are regularly stored alive, but wedged into crevices so tightly that they cannot escape.

Now doesn't that sound like the redheads you know?

In addition to attacking other birds to keep them out of its territory, the Redheaded Woodpecker is also known to remove the eggs of other species from nests and nest boxes, destroy nests, and even to enter duck-nesting boxes and puncture the duck eggs.

Thanks to Cornell Lab of Ornithology's All About Birds