The hired killer watched his target leave the driveway of the gated mansion; he followed as the country superstar exited Belle Meade and plunged uneasily into the frantic traffic of West End Avenue. His lovely quarry skirted Vanderbilt University and sped through Hillsboro village entering Music Row. The sexy songbird paused the massive SUV with a grinding halt in front of a gingerbread-laced Victorian fronted by an ostentatious sign proclaiming it to be THE THOMAS BLONDALL AGENCY. A pimply-faced minion raced out the front door and barely caught the fat manila envelope the blonde tossed to him. The massive auto jerked forward and headed south into Green Hills; the dodgy driver turned sharply and entered the back parking lot of The Davidson Professional Plaza. Exiting the mammoth SUV, the platinum tressed beauty threw a mink coat around her shoulders and raced to Building F. It was after five o’clock and she was late for her appointment with Dr. Myron Shankman, psychiatric guru to Nashville’s superstars. Her’s was always the final appointment of the good doctor’s day and after stalking the superstar for a month, the highly paid hitman figured the shrink was schtuping his patient. Shankman was known for mixing business with his pleasures and watching the fine filly’s ass as she raced into the building, the gunman figured screwing that would be one helluva pleasure. The office staff left at five on-the-dot and Dr. Myron’s last session never ended before seven. There would be no one in the parking lot when the doc’s sexy patient left his couch for the final time. Tonight the professional killer would earn his enormous fee, flee the scene and unwind for the next month on the sandy beaches of St. Croix.
The hired gun drove to the Baptist church next door and parked his nondescript white Bronco beside the huge metal trash bin so as to appear that he was one of the unfortunates who dumpster dived in the oversized receptacle. He took a plastic draw-string trash bag, an identical match to the sacks used by the church cleaning staff, and walked up the tree covered hill to the vacant lot overlooking the Doc’s parking spaces. The hitman donned a camouflage jacket, a gray knit cap and dark wrap-around glasses; he hunkered down behind a clump of bushes to await his target. The camp stool was comfortable and he was relaxed. The AK-9 was loaded and ready for action and the professional killer was more than ready to flee the cold autumn damp of middle Tennessee.
Shankman must have been exceptionally horny because it was almost eight when the blonde left his private entrance and ran to her car. As she reached the massive auto, a cell phone rang; she stopped and dug inside her handbag – giving the gunman his “money shot”. The hitman raised his weapon and fired repeatedly.
He had missed, the mark had dropped the phone and bent down to retrieve it. Once the first round ricocheted from the armor-plated vehicle, his quarry rolled under the auto and activated her personal panic alarm. A loud distress signal pierced the sylvan silence; the SUV’s burglar alarm joined the fray. The hitman hauled ass.
As he raced back to his car, the shooter wrapped the firearm in the camo jacket, put the bundle into the white plastic bag along with the cap and dark glasses, added some old newspapers that had blown from the dumpster into the woods and pushed the sack into the middle of the pile of bags filling the bin. The foiled killer was exiting the church parking lot when he heard the wailing sirens of police cars responding to his botched hit; blue lights were flashing through the trees as he sped to safety.
“You lucky bitch!” The enraged shooter pounded his steering wheel; dialed the airlines, cancelled his flight and drove downtown to a dingy bar where no one would pay attention to a man drowning his sorrows. He planned to get shitfaced... and laid ... by the first hooker he found that resembled his quarry.
“I shot him, he’s dead, I’m a widow.”
The number of origin proclaimed the call from my housekeeper but the caller’s cool, calm and collected voice belied this and I did not believe her claim of extreme domestic violence.
“What kind of sick joke is this?” I put down the engaging mystery set in a national park in Alaska and returned to the plains of New Mexico. The grandfather clock in the hallway announced it was the witching hour, too damned late for silly phone pranks!
Delia Herrera, domestic diva extraordinaire, sobbed a Lucille Ball sob into the phone, “Don’t talk to me like that – I’ve murdered my husband.”
“No you haven’t, you’re not married – are your drunk?”
“Stone cold sober, just like the corpse on my dining room table. I think it would be a good idea if you came over.”
Personally I thought it would be a terrible idea if I went over. But the midnight caller confessing spousal extermination was my employee. Whatever the hell she had done, Ted Morley the Fool, would be the one left to clean up whatever mess Delia, Warrior Housekeeper, had wrought.
I dressed and drove across town.
The body playing centerpiece on Delia’s dining room table was cold to the touch and rigor mortis had begun to set in, my housekeeper’s victim had been dead for several hours. The portly man was dressed in black leather and wore a black suede Zorro mask tied across his eyes. The target of Ms. Herrera’s Glock was well-under six feet, pug nosed and running to fat. Most of his hair was facial and that was a suspicious red which hinted of henna. “Who was that masked man?”
“My husband.” Delia appeared to be in shock and if she were not, she would be and completely unable to entertain questions, once I got her story. I would coach Ms. Herrera well before I alerted the authorities. My domestic director was not going to say one word to the coppers without a bulldog legal advocate at her side; a crafty lawyer who could spin a plausible tale that might save her big booty from incarceration in The Big House. Experience, unfortunately this was not my first brush with murder, had taught me to never play the interrogation game with the cops unless there was a really expensive attorney on my team.
“Since when have you been married? Who is he, besides being your spouse, and why is he on the table?” When I entered the dining room I had to step over a huge red puddle in the doorway and I assumed that was where the unfortunate man had been plugged.
“We were hitched five years ago in Laughlin; his name is Aleksander Oseku-Kongoli – Al is or rather was a long haul trucker in Eastern Europe. He lived in Albania but he was Romanian and Turkish. Poor Al was no Einstein – his mental growth stopped at an early age but in other areas Aleksander was a giant among men. Now Nirmala’s baby will never know its papa. I hoisted Al onto the table to try to perform CPR, you know my back goes out if I bend over too long, but my dear husband never responded. I could have saved myself that wasted effort!”
“Who is Normala?”
“Nirmala: N-i-r-m-a-l-a; she’s Al’s first wife.”
“They’re divorced and she’s having his kid?” Aleksander Whatzit must have been something extraordinary between the sheets for his former spouse to bear his lovechild.
“No, they’re not divorced. Al was Moslem, I’m his third wife; Anouk is his second – she lives in Paris – they married in Las Vegas ten years ago. She’ll want to be here for the funeral, I doubt Nirmala can make it in her delicate condition. I guess we will have to share the funeral costs, Al didn’t have a burial policy – he was too big of a tightwad to pay insurance premiums. Mr. Stingy only had health insurance because Anouk got it for him through her work; she’s got some big government job in Paris. It’s a chintzy French insurance company – they wouldn’t cover Nirmala’s prenatal care and are still refusing to cover the birth but Al was suing them.”
“Funeral! You won’t be holding any memorial service if you’re locked up for murder! Tell me what happened, and spare the detail, please; you’ve waited too long as it is to notify the police about the shooting. I’m surprised none of your neighbors heard the shot.”
“Oh several did, when they called I told them it was the television that there was a problem with the sound and I had the volume turned high trying to fix it. Do you want a drink – I could use a belt.”
Ms. Herrera poured triple shots of tequila into two of her treasured Mickey Mouse commemorative glasses, apparently post-murder cocktails merited her best crystal; we sat down on the living room couch and Delia told her tale. “It’s not my fault – Al didn’t let me know he was in the country—this would never have happened if he hadn’t been too cheap to reach out and call me! We enjoyed role play and burglar-studmuffin ravaging the innocent virgin was one of our favorites, I heard someone in the dining room and didn’t recognize the man so I shot him. Aleksander had put on weight, lost some more hair and dyed what he had left – how was I to know it was him – especially with a mask – he never wore one before – a shame he didn’t because he looked damned sexy...” Miss Herrera paused to ruminate over her disguised spouse’s increased sexual attractiveness; I bolted my drink and helped myself to another. “When I turned on the light and saw I had shot Aleksander and that he was D-E-A-D, I guess I went into a traumatic trance. I telephoned you as soon as I came to – what are we going to do?”
I didn’t like this “we” business and had the situation been reversed, I was sure Delia would have objected to her inclusion in my crime. “First we call the best criminal attorney in the state, then we call Marta to come take care of the distraught widow that being you and then I call Ron Baca. You say nada to Chief Baca; your legal mouthpiece will do all the talking.”
“You can skip the second call Ms. Sanchez is on her way to Barcelona, she’s going to shack up with a no-account count she met on our trip to Spain. He’s only after her for her money; she knows that and doesn’t care because he’s young and hot. Marts says she doesn’t mind paying the freight if Leo gives her a good ride, if he fails to deliver, she’s going to cruise Spain and find a real man who can.”
“What? Marta doesn’t have the kind of money it takes to keep a titled gigolo.”
“Wrong! She won two million dollars on the roulette wheel in Monte Carlo, we took a day trip to Monaco on our grand tour and Marts won big, I lost my ass.”
I looked at my housekeeper’s double-dipped derriere and clearly this was not the case. It was now past one o’clock in the morning and Al was getting stiffer by the minute. I called Yolanda Torres in Santa Fe. Ms. Torres is the legal eagle who saved Ms. Herrera’s blood and my adopted nephew’s neck when he was erroneously charged with murder. I left a message with her twenty-four hour service and was assured they would relay the situation to the attorney as soon as possible. I then dialed Police Chief Baca, woke the father of my two youngest godchildren, and told him the bare facts of the shooting. Yolanda’s call coincided with the arrival of Ronaldo Baca.
The chief was thoroughly pissed that Delia could not, on advice of counsel, answer a single question and that I too was unable to shed any light on the situation having been unable to coax Ms. Herrera to tell me anything about the incident due to her confused state of mind.
“It appears to be a burglary gone wrong for the perpetrator; Delia was in shock, she finally managed to call me but couldn’t tell me what happened, by the time I got here she was totally incoherent.” Ron knew I was lying but the copper didn’t try to break me – he didn’t want me to tattle to his son that his Dad had abused his favorite godparent. I am the favorite, it costs me an arm and leg in pricey presents but it’s worth it. Ron gave me a dry look and I feigned total innocence. That was our story and we were sticking to it until Lawyer Torres met with her client. I had lied to one of my best friends for Delia’s sake, not a good thing to do and I was sure my fabricated tale would come back to bite me in the ass, big time. Chief Baca took Ms. Herrera into custody and sent me home. I gladly fled the crime scene and as soon as I arrived at Mansion Morley, I doped myself to oblivion with a couple of sleeping pills I had purloined from Delia’s medicine chest.
I was entering Morpheus’s sweet embrace when my cell phone buzzed, the number was unfamiliar – perhaps it was Yolanda – it was not. The excited voice of my ex-wife entered my ear, “Teddy, someone is trying to kill me.” I shut off my phone, smiled and sank back into my comfy bed – no matter how gray the sky there is always a silver lined cloud.