Saturday, November 29, 2008

BIG MONEY, Chapter 66

When my thumb squeezes the trigger, nothing happens. Well, that figures. The shotgun must be jammed. A final, very bad piece of luck for ol’ Austin Carr.

I try once more, a near-death panic pushing my actions, giving me a miraculous surge of will. Still nothing. No explosion. And this time my furious attempt to fire the weapon makes the gun stock bounce and rattle on the basement’s cement floor.

Creeper’s gaze snaps toward the noise.

Well, gee, this is beginning to look like The End. The oft-forecast demise of Austin Carr and his full-boat smile. The semi-orphanization of one Elizabeth Carr and Ryan Carr, two school-age children who--

Air rushes into my desperate lungs. Oh, my. Creeper has decided he’d rather have his paws on the shotgun than around my throat. What a strange tactical decision, especially considering the shotgun so recently proved unreliable. Hell, I was almost unconscious. Go figure.

Creeper’s poor judgment not only means oxygen for my air-starved lungs, but now that I can breathe, perhaps I can even launch a counterattack, wrestle free of Creeper’s awesome weight.

I throw my shoulders and hips to the left, away from the shotgun. I catch Creeper leaning, his arm reaching for the shotgun. The jerky twist indeed breaks me loose like a stuck jar of peanut butter.

My newly reacquired air supply suddenly tastes even sweeter. A shot of confidence joins the adrenaline zooming through my blood. Kinda like last night at Clooneys when Gina told Franny I’d be spending the night in Brooklyn.

Are you watching Don Juan? Witnessing this dramatic reversal of my Last Battle on Earth?

I scramble onto my haunches and face Creeper. He’s sitting ass-flat on the basement floor, the shotgun between his ox-like thighs. We can’t be more than five feet apart. My gaze looks straight down the shotgun’s barrel. Talk about evil eyes.

“That gun’s jammed,” I say.

Though even a broken weapon is disconcerting at this proximity and angle--that black hole smells like eternity--my tone carries a certain hint of superiority. I mean, I pulled that shotgun’s trigger. It didn’t work. It’s not like I’m bluffing.

Why is he smiling?

“Gun not jammed,” Creeper says. “No shells in chamber. You have to do this each time.”

He works the shotgun’s pump. Clickity-clack.

I knew that.

The basement’s tomblike silence wraps around me like a shroud.

Employing Gina’s pump-action like a conductor’s baton, Ludwig Von Creeptoven orchestrates me up the basement steps, into the kitchen, and then into Gina’s side yard through a screened kitchen door and wooden back stairs.

On my left is a one-car garage shaped like a mausoleum. On my right, parked in Gina’s hosta and rock-lined cement driveway, a red Buick LaSabre waits for us like a fire-engine. The excited chatter of morning birdcalls emanates from the evergreens that separate Gina from her neighbors.

I love that I knew all along it was a pump-action shotgun, then forgot I had to pump it. By way of excuses, I can only say I never fired any kind of shotgun before. Plus I wouldn’t be the first stockbroker to panic in that God-awful situation. I mean, we jump out windows because our stocks go down.

I am disappointed, though. I thought I was doing so much better. Calm under fire and all that.

Creeper urges me toward the LaSabre’s trunk. A single raven squawks at us from the top of a red maple with just-emerging leaves. The bird’s oily black coat shines iridescent in the morning’s new sunlight. The sky glows bright gold.

Creeper makes me wrap my ankles in duct tape, seal my mouth with the same stuff, then stick my hands behind me so he can wrap my wrists. My body automatically leans forward, adjusting for the weight of my arms behind me. My first plan in these situations is always cheerful cooperation.

When he pops the Buick’s trunk, I resist too late and Creeper easily pushes me inside the tight compartment. Going down, I bang my head on the trunk hinge.

Creeper lifts my feet inside and slams the lid. The compression of air pops my ears. Total darkness engulfs me, like I’m inside a steel coffin.

The engine starts. Wonder where we’re going? Wonder why Creeper didn’t kill me right here?

God, it’s miserable being taped up like this. No scratching or nose-wiping. Noxious gases choke my lungs. So claustrophobic.

At least the LaSabre sports a decent-size trunk. All the burlap in here makes for a reasonably soft ride, too.

After an hour’s drive, Creeper lifts me out of the trunk and stands me up. We’re back in New Jersey at some private marina in Leonardo or Atlantic Highlands. I can see Sandy Hook directly across the water. The salty smell of the ocean invigorates my mood. Maybe we’re going fishing.

He cuts the tape around my ankles and walks me out on a wooden pier. Oh, boy. The crack of dawn’s a perfect time to bait fish. And those burlap bags he brought along from the trunk must be some kind of blanket to keep us warm. It’s going to be cold out there on Sandy Hook Bay.

Leading me to a docked skiff, the picture suddenly becomes clear. In the bottom of the boat lies a pile of lead weights and heavy linked chain.

Only four more chapters left of BIG MONEY. Tune in next weekend.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Someone Loves You

Sometimes it's hard to be grateful. Everything you do fails. Hope and determination fade. It can feel like the whole world's out to get you.

That's when you need to remember, someone loves you.

Happy Thanksgiving from Austin, TFA, and Angelina.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Redheads Hall of Fame

Our first inductee into Austin Carr's Redheads Hall of Fame was born August 6, 1911; was an American comedienne, film, television, stage and radio actress, model, film executive, and star of three landmark sitcoms; one of the most popular stars in America during her lifetime; a movie star from the 1930s to the 1970s; on television for more than thirty years.

Lucille Ball. I'm talking about the hot, funny, almost a dingbat star of I Love Lucy, The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, The Lucy Show and Here's Lucy. Our Number One Redhead Hall of Famer received thirteen Emmy Award nominations and four wins, was the recipient of the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award in 1979, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kennedy Center Honors in 1986, and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Governors Award in 1989. And now, she's our number one Redhead Hall of Fame inductee.

Here's what I wrote back In July of 2007, the first ever Redhead of the Week:

"After much rumination, and consultation with shrinks, I now believe this thing I have for redheads stems from Lucille Ball and I Love Lucy show reruns. She was pretty, spunky, sexy in her own funny way, and definitely all the entertainment you’d ever need for a long weekend.

"Yes, she was a pain in Ricky's ass, but there must have been plenty of good reasons why her hot Latin musician husband never strayed in all those years."

This redhead was a wild thing.

In 1927, Lucy dated a gangster by the name of Johnny DeVita. Because of the relationship, Lucy's mother shipped her off to John Murray Anderson School for the Dramatic Arts in New York City. Lucy came home a few weeks later when drama coaches told her that she "had no future as a performer."

The redhead responsible for my neurosis persisted, however, and began a performing career on Broadway, using the stage name Diane Belmont, and then moved to Hollywood and appeared in small movie roles in the 1930s as a contract player for RKO Radio Pictures.

At 29, Lucy eloped with Cuban bandleader Desi Arnaz.

Oh, I knew you were a WILD thing.

In 1948, Lucy was a wacky wife on My Favorite Husband, a new radio program, and when it became a hit, CBS asked her to develop it for television. She insisted on working with Arnaz. CBS executives worried about an All-American redhead and a Cuban as a couple, however, and neither were they impressed with the pilot episode. Lucy again persisted, and toured a vaudeville act as the zany housewife with Desi. The tour was a smash, and CBS put I Love Lucy on the air for a stunningly successful nine-year run.

The show co-starred Desi as Ricky Ricardo and Vivian Vance and William Frawley as Ethel and Fred Mertz, the Ricardos' conflict-creating landlords.

On April 18, 1989, Lucy complained of chest pains and underwent heart surgery for nearly eight hours. She died a week later. We will miss her always, as will many millions of fans around the world.

Thanks to Lucy and Wikipedia. Click on the headline, REDHEADS HALL OF FAME, to visit Lucy's official website.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Greatest Mystery of All

What happens when we die? Purgatory? Heaven? Hell? Or the big black nothingness that engulfed us before we were borne?

I do not intend to spark a religious debate. I merely ask the question, because as most Native American tribes believe, death is the biggest mystery of all. No one who has died is able to tell us. No one alive can look over that hill and see what's on the other side. Death has to be the biggest mystery of all, and there are no answers, only beliefs, and faith, and certain big mouth preachers who KNOW the truth because they read it in the Bible.

All of this comes by way of a funeral, the passing of a friend, and the way in which his death was ceremonialized, the way his afterlife was promised to all in attendance if only we would accept the preacher's faith. Certain that this man of God would soon bring out a tub of water, I left a little early to avoid being baptized. My deceased friend walked out with me, I'm sure of it. He didn't like being used as a recruiting tool.

Shame on you, Mr. Preacher. That funeral was supposed to be about my friend, not your weekly attendance figures.

Friday, November 21, 2008

BIG MONEY, Chapter 65

Maybe I perused too much Carlos Casteneda-type mysticism in my youth, but all I can think about on my way down Gina’s basement steps: This could be my Last Battle on Earth. I must give these moments the attention my life’s purpose deserves. I try to absorb every detail of my surroundings, let loose my inner warrior’s imagination for fight or flight.

Too bad I don’t have any peyote.

I also wish I could remember how that Don Juan shaman character created a double. Boy, would I like to be somewhere else.

“Take it slow,” Gina says.

She’s four or five steps behind me on the basement stairs, yet I can feel that shotgun aimed at my back. The weapon’s like a glowing poker radiating hot death.

I mean, Gina’s definitely going to kill me. I’ve seen the DVD, asked way too many questions, because as we all know, those of us with the Gift of Gab never know when to shut the hell up. It’s a universal fact.

I nearly choke over my next assertion. “I can keep my mouth shut, Gina. You don’t have to kill me.”

“It won’t hurt,” she says. “I’ll make it a head shot.”

Ringo is playing the drums of my heart. Back-beat, jump-beat, downbeat. Everything, all at once. My ribs stretch from the inside.

As I approach the bottom of the basement stairs, Gina flips a switch, and an overhead light pops on. Dark-stained wood shelves cover the cement basement walls. Typical garage and basement junk fills the carefully organized shelf space. Beach chairs. Lawn food. Stacks of clay gardening pots. Broken exercise equipment. Discards of suburban life on the Jersey Shore. About head-high, a narrow strip of double-thick window shows the moonlight outside and last summer’s dead marigolds.

“If I let you live, I’d always worry you’d hurt me with the information,” Gina says. “Or somebody like Franny Chapman would make you talk to save their own ass. I’m sorry, sweetie. You’re a pretty good fuck. But I just can’t take the chance, or the stress.”

“Then why did you bring me home with you last night?” I say. “Why even let me have the chance of finding that DVD?”

“When you came back in Clooneys last night, I knew you’d seen Franny give me that DVD. I had to find out how badly you wanted to watch it, if you knew what it was. Besides, I enjoyed taking you away from her.”

Other than folding Gina up in one of those collapsible aluminum beach chairs, I see nothing in this basement that could help me take away that shotgun. I see nothing, that is, until I spin around to face her.

Oh. My. God. Creeper. He’s balled up like a spider beneath the basement stairway. An electric shock jolts my spine.

In the spilt second I debate whether I should speak, leap, or do nothing, Creeper grabs the initiative. Any action on my part now is suddenly too late.

As her white-stocking foot touches the last step, Creeper grabs Gina by the ankle, dumps the naked, dark-haired beauty onto the basement floor.

Ka-boom. The shotgun goes off. Blue fire flashes from the muzzle. Stacks of burnt-orange clay flower pots explode just inches from my left hip. A cloud of smoke rises toward me from the basement floor.

My ears buzz from the blast. Shards of clay flower pot splash against my pants and shoes as Creeper pounces from behind the stairway. Two blurry-fast steps and he has Gina by the head and shoulders. I hear Gina’s neck snap like a broomstick as I lunge for her shotgun.

Ordinarily, I’d stop, take a moment, say a few words about Gina’s fine character. But hey, and I figure she’d understand better than anyone, I need to focus right now on staying alive.

At the conclusion of my dive, my chest slams the basement floor. But my outstretched fingers find and grab the shotgun. I roll hard to the right, trying to give myself some distance, but Creeper’s on me like a cave-in. His forearms press my head and shoulders flat against the cold cement. His hands encircle my throat. The shotgun blast still echoes in my head. The sulfuric odor of burnt gun powder fills my nose.

The way I figure it, Austin Carr will be a full-boat dead man in two-to-three seconds, soon as Creeper breaks--what did that autopsy report call it--my hyoid bone?

The fingers of my right hand still touch the shotgun, but Creeper’s left forearm has my reach pinned to the cement floor. I can barely wiggle my wrist, let alone grip the weapon. But this is my Last Battle on Earth, and I’m about to lose, about to pass on to that other world, that Great Mystery about which we poor humans know so little and worry so much.

Gotta try something, ace.

Maybe I can twirl the shotgun a little with my wrist and fingers, reposition the barrel so the muzzle’s aiming at Creeper’s knee and leg. Give him a kiss he won’t forget. Yes. There. Like playing spin the bottle.

Creeper’s weight presses on me like a stack of marble tombstones. I feel myself blacking out.

Finally, my thumb finds the trigger.

Next Friday, more of BIG MONEY'S exciting conclusion.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

He Chose A Path With Heart

“I’m serious, Luis," I say in BIG MONEY. "I need to provide for my children, and right now this is where I can make the most money, have the best chance of scoring enough for their education. But is hawking stocks and bonds really what I was born to do? My life’s purpose?”

Luis pulls our glasses off the bar. Guess it’s just one nightcap tonight. “Only you can answer such a question. But I agree that a man should have purpose.”

“I have an old friend who’s a fireman,” I say. “Doesn’t get paid much, and he’s always arriving at the scene before the ambulance, trying to save or resuscitate the most horribly mangled accident victims. But he loves going to work every day because once or twice a shift he’s allowed to drive a giant red diesel fire truck as fast as he can. He loved racing cars as a kid. Now he loves racing fire trucks. It’s what he was born to do.”

Luis considers my tale. His long fingers are rinsing glasses, holding one up to the light now and then to check for smudges. “For the injured, and people in fires, it is important that your friend drive fast and drive well, is it not?”

“Of course.”

“Then your friend is a lucky man,” he says. “Also a wise one, I think. He knew his purpose, he chose a path with heart.”

TFA and I are heading to California tomorrow. TFA will deliver the eulogy for his old friend Terry Zimmer, the man on whom this story was based, a former Los Angeles County fireman who chose a path with heart. The church will be packed with people who loved this man.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Redhead of the Week

It's a bad day here in Jersey. The Famous Author and I spent the day flying home from the Rome Emergency World Financial Conference to discover California is in mourning for our pal Terry, and it's snowing. Yikes. We offer this composite of MySpace redhead icons in hopes of brightening the day.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Economic Community Stunned

ROME, Nov. 15 -- In his wrap-up speech to top economists and politicians on the steps of the Roman Forum today, our own Corkface modified the words of Mark Anthony to describe the next twelve months as an economic disaster of historic proportions.

"Friends, Romans, and stock market investors, lend me your ears. We come to bury the U.S. economy, not to praise it."

To illustrate, Corkface threw all his stock certificates in the Trevi Fountain.

Once again, Corkface called for a 5% universal mortgage, backed by the U.S. government.

And once again, he ate spaghetti alle bolognese for lunch.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Exclusive from Rome

When The Famous Author and I were invited to the Emergency World Financial Conference in Rome this week, we thought it was a joke. Why would the greatest financial minds in the world want to hear from TFA? Well, it wasn't me or my boss they wanted. It was CORKFACE, the man who predicted the current collapse.

Click on the headline to see our previous story.

Guess they thought our pal wouldn't come unless they invited us, too.

Anyway, at the first day of meetings, Corkface delivered his paper on "Why the World Needs a Fed-Backed 5% Mortgage," and the reaction was immediate. Why didn't we think of that? Who is this guy? Why didn't we listen to him last year?

Don't be surprised if early next week, the U.S. guarantees all home mortgages. You'll have Corkface and Rome to thank.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Who's Got It Better?

Who's got it better than Marcus Sakey, the rock star of crime fiction?

His first novel, THE BLADE ITSELF, was featured on CBS Sunday Morning and National Public Radio, chosen a New York Times Editor's Pick, and one of Esquire Magazine's "Top 5 Reads of 2007."

Ben Affleck's production company has bought film rights for Miramax.

The Chicago Tribune called his second novel, AT THE CITY'S EDGE, "nothing short of brilliant."

His third, GOOD PEOPLE, came out this August to wide critical acclaim, with movie rights selling to Tobey Maguire.

It wouldn't surprise me if the guy stars in a movie pretty soon. He's good looking, plus he's got some kind of animal magnetism. The Famous Author and I saw him holding court at a St. Martin's party we snuck into once, and a small gaggle of young women seem to follow him at every mystery convention. He usually dresses in black. I mean, the man is a walking, talking Crime Fiction Star.

Gosh, TFA must be jealous.

I think it was this online review of Marcus's latest book, by Gloria Feit, that really got him:

"My stomach muscles clenched as the run-up proceeds to the inevitable confrontation.

"The pages are filled with nerve-tingling suspense.

"I found myself torn between being unable to stop reading, mingled with anxiety at what would happen on the next page. Ultimately, it was no contest: I could not put this book down."

Man, who's got it better than Marcus?

Click on the headline, Who's Got It Better? for Marcus's website.

Friday, November 7, 2008

BIG MONEY, Chapter 64

Her two-story house ranks as ancient so it’s no surprise the original pine floorboards creak. But do I detect a certain footsteps? I sit back on the blood red living room sofa and hold my breath to listen. A grandfather clock tick-tocks in the foyer. The oil-burning basement heater pops and rumbles. And yes, there...bare or stocking feet pad gently toward me down the hall.

I stuff the DVD under my laptop and work hard to put on my three-o’clock-in-the-morning, full-boat Carr grin. Not exactly a simple trick. And definitely not sincere. I mean, how am I supposed to be calm and forthright when this DVD suggests last night’s love interest may not be the innocent beauty I imagined?

Clever of me to wake her up.

I gasp when she steps into the living room light. Oh, my. And oops. Oh my, because Gina’s wearing nothing but white athletic socks. And oops because she’s using both hands and all ten red-nailed fingers to grasp a pump-action, single-barrel shotgun.

“You found the DVD, didn’t you?” Gina says.

“DVD?” If it wasn’t for acronyms, I’d be pretty much speechless. My gaze is tightly focused on her bare breasts and that shotgun in the same close-up. Visually and emotionally, it’s a lot to absorb.

Gina’s slender right foot slides back, toes out. Improving her balance.

“I know you found it,” she says. “Wrapped in my black dress.”

My lips move without sound. Maybe my throat’s choked with fear, but I’d rather think I’m distracted by the long curve of Ms. Shotgun’s hip, the loose weight of her breasts swinging below the carved gun stock.

“I just checked the bathroom,” Gina says. “You rifled the hamper, found the black dress.’ve got my DVD.”

I take a long, deep breath. On tough stock and bond clients, this often works as a show of calm sincerity. “I swear I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Gina racks a shell into the firing chamber.

Guess my pledge of innocence lacked conviction.

I lift my iBook and offer her the DVD. My heart ticks to an even quicker time. My ego slips a notch. Time was, the full-boat Carr grin and a reasonable lie got me over these bumpy spots with naked women.

“Play it,” Gina says. “We’ll solve the murder together.”

I slide the disk into my Mac and wonder if I’m really going to view what the Branchtown Sun calls the “MISSING HOTEL MURDER VIDEO.”

The DVD’s first images show a thirty-ish woman primping her hair before a gilded oval mirror.

“Don’t you want to fast-forward?” Gina says. “Get right to the choking and burning?”

On screen, the victim cracks open her hotel-room door. My jaw drops as Gina’s digital image rushes inside, pushing right through the startled hotel guest and knocking her flat on the carpet.

I turn from the laptop. “So it was you.”

Gina raises the pump-action level with my nose. “Watch the video.”

On my computer screen, Gina’s image finally stops kicking a motionless Anne Marie Talbot. And I do mean finally. Must have taken Gina at least five minutes to release all her jealousy, her sense of betrayal.

It was an outburst of rage and fury I haven’t witnessed since I refused to eat Susan’s pimento casorole.

Oh, my. Maybe Gina’s not quite satisfied. On screen, Ms. Shotgun throws her knee onto Talbot’s chest. Her hands lock around Anne Marie’s throat, the throttling action energized by Gina leaning forward. Transferring her weight.

My belly rolls and crashes like ocean backwash. This is worse than ugly. I’m watching a real murder.

On screen, Gina’s image hops through the sliding glass door onto Talbot’s hotel-room balcony. She comes back seconds later carrying a small hibachi, one of those Japanese-style cast-iron grillers. The barbecue coals already glow white hot.

Watching this video, I’m panting like I'm in childbirth, trying to keep my stomach right side up. I’m thinking the hibachi was never mentioned in the newspapers, but I must have been subconsciously wondering since Franny showed me the autopsy report. I remember asking myself what a “charcoal burner” was doing in Talbot’s hotel room. Sounds like a basic and serious violation of fire codes, not to mention common logic.

“Franny was having a barbecue?” I say.

Gina gazes intently at her own image on the computer screen. “Steaks for her and my husband. Although Tony didn’t stick around for dinner.”

I suppose my plan is to delay Gina for as long as I can, pray for the cavalry.

“Tony knew he was going to see her that evening? And you followed him to the Martha Washington?” I say.

“I heard them humping through the door, then fighting over whether or not he should stay. When Tony left her room, I hid so he wouldn’t see me, then went back. You should have seen her face when she saw it was me, not Tony changing his mind about dinner.”

“Jealous rage, huh?”

“Anne Marie and I are old friends. Screwing my husband was a really shitty thing to do.”

I feel my forehead bunch into a wrinkled mess. “Old friends? You mean that story you told me about Franny being a mob party girl with Ann Marie was really your story? It was you and Ann Marie?”

“All three of us,” Gina says. “The Poker Pals, Tony and his his guys called us. We were popular. Serving drinks. Bathroom blow jobs. For years and years, even after a couple of us tried marriage. Tony’s guys knew us so well, trusted us, one night they decided all three of us should get jobs aiding and abetting Tony’s businesses. Later, he rented our services to other...organizations.”

“Ingenious,” I say. “Worthy of Arthur Conan Doyle, a Moriarty scheme. Anne Marie took accounting classes, earned her C.P.A. and went to work for the A.A.S.D.. Franny went with the New Jersey State Troopers. But how about you, Gina? Where did you hook up?”

Her mouth twists into something only resembling a smile. “Tony decided I’d be best suited for something else.”

“Like what?”

Gina’s finger slides back to the shotgun’s trigger. “Keep asking questions, you might find out.”

“You’re a hit man--I mean, hit woman?”

Gina shrugs. “More odd jobs than anything else. A little procurement, or carrying weapons into places men can’t. Once and a while I surprise people who need surprising. Sometimes a combination.”

I need to line up an inventory of questions like icy bombs for a snowball fight. Keep’em coming. Although I still can’t figure exactly which calvary’s going to ride to my rescue.

“Where did the DVD come from?” I say. “How did Franny get it?”

“I’m tired of the questions. Stand up.”

“Oh, come on, Gina. What’s your hurry. Who was bugging Anne Marie’s room?”

Her big almond-shaped eyes stare at me. She shrugs. “Bluefish put in the recording equipment. Talbot was working for him. They were hoping to catch you in there humping her.”

“But I’m single.”

“Yeah, but she’s an A.A.S.D. official investigating your firm. The potential scandal would’ve made you think about cooperating.”

“So after the murder, Franny got the DVD from who, Detective Mallory?”

Gina smiles. “Whom...”

I shrug.

“I don’t know,” she says. “Mallory, or Bluefish. I just told her to get it for me.”

I’m almost out of snowballs. “But wasn’t Franny working for Bluefish? Pretending to be after him, indicting him, but really setting it all up so he’d be acquitted? Why would she give you the DVD?”

“With Bluefish dead, she didn’t have many options. Franny and Anne Marie were always freelance, this time working for Bluefish. I work for Tony’s family. My family. They’re the kind of people Franny knows she can’t refuse. Especially with Bluefish gone.”

Gina pushes the shotgun closer to my face. “Now stand up. We’re going to walk slowly through the kitchen and then down into the basement. I need you to help me carry something upstairs.”

I shake my head. “You mean that shotgun’s too messy to use in the living room.”

She shows me a real smile this time. Nasty and cold, but real. “Stand up.”

I stagger to my feet and head for her kitchen. I can walk but I can’t swallow.

There’s a live boa around my neck.

The conclusion of BIG MONEY continues next week.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Good Luck, Mr. President

Barack Obama, the junior U. S. Senator from Illinois, has been elected President of the United States of America. We hope his shoulders are made of steel. He's inherited quite a load.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Redhead of the Week

Laura Leighton (born Laurie Miller) is a forty-year-old American actress. Born and raised in Iowa City, Laura Leighton is probably best known for starring on Melrose Place from 1993 to 1997 as Jane Mancini's sister, Sydney Andrews.

She originally appeared in a one-off guest appearance during the show's first season and was asked back for the second season. During breaks on filming of Melrose, Laura starred in the movie, In the Name of Love: A Texas Tragedy as Laurette Wilder, a woman from the wrong side of the tracks.

Leighton left the show in 1997, after what was believed to be a pay dispute. In 1999, she married another Melrose Place costar, Doug Savant. They have two children named Jack and Lucy. She eventually returned to work for Aaron Spelling in his other hit nighttime soap, Beverly Hills 90210. Aaron created the role of actress wannabe Sophie Burns for her.

Where is she now?

Thanks to Laurie and Wikipedia.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

He Predicted This Financial Mess

No kidding. Corkface saw this mortgage collapse coming. All of it. He talked of "subprime" and "Alt-A" before anyone on television or the financial press.

Fourteen months ago, in September, 2007, this successful and respected mortgage broker told The Famous Author and me that the normal housing cycle of boom and bust would crash like never before this time. We scoffed. TFA has seen nine housing cycles. Corkface said there were so many bad loans written over the past three years, the loan standards so poor this time, the default rate would skyrocket. And he said Wall Street had so leveraged the mortgages as collateral for new and untested securities, the default rate and dropping home prices could sink the whole system.

Right, we said. What's next, the end of the world?

Paulson, Bernacke, and the U.S. Taxpayer may have partially resurrected the stock market, but the financial system did indeed sink. There is no real bid on corporate bonds, even those with A and better credit ratings. Wall Street is virtually closed. Banks won't lend. The whole economy fell off a cliff in four days last month while Congress debated the need for assistance.

Needless to say, unlike most investors, Corkface pocketed some nice cash over the past year, shorting financials and accurately predicting the demise of Indy Mac, Lehman Brothers, Fannie Mae, Washington Mutual, and AIG.

We have signed up Corkface as our new financial consigliare. His reports and opinions will appear exclusively on this blog as America attempts to recover from the worst financial threat since The Great Depression.

Threat? What threat?

When unemployment reaches 25% or 30%, as it did in the U.S. during the mid-1930s, revolutions start. Enough people can't feed their children, roving bands begin attacking those who do have food and heat. And the rich hire armed guards to catch the hungry thieves and hang them. Sound crazy? Think it could never happen here? It did. In Seattle and other big cities in 1934 and 1935.

Unemployment recently topped 6% in the U.S., and most economists -- and Corkface -- don't think the rate will go higher than 9% before the economy starts adding jobs again. Let's hope they're right.