Lust Busters is a dynamic tale of sex and runaway libidos, unparalleled orgies on a grand scale, exorcism and mysterious strangers, FBI Special Squads, and all branches of the armed forces engaged in a dramatic clash with good against evil and much more. It's also a love story...depending on how you define love, of course. It's even alleged to be funny.
And it has more sex in it by actual count than any book ever written!
It was pitch dark in a war zone. Parked cars loomed into view as darker smudges against the inky blackness of the night. I was huddled in a lump of humanity along with eight other guys all of whom were wearing bulky vests and helmets and carrying shotguns and licking dry lips in anticipation of some trauma or other waiting in the dark for them.
"Scared, Grogan?" a grizzled sergeant said.
"Why should I be scared?" I said, as I squirmed to stop my camera from gouging my ribs. "We're knocking over a dope den full of guys with Uzis. What could possibly happen?"
"'Atta boy. Stay close. I'll make you look like Ansel Adams."
All of a sudden the doors popped open and everybody leapt from the van and raced toward a decrepit Victorian house with a long porch across its front and a lot of shrubbery around it. Whistles sounded and shouts of "Police!" rang out as they stormed the place.
I followed close on the heels of the sergeant in a mad, confused run in the dark when I heard loud popping sounds as the dope dealers opened fire on the cops and the cops returned fire. I looked toward the house and when I looked back the sergeant was gone and I was alone.
Bullets were flying everywhere. Some ricocheted off the sidewalk and sailed off in crazy directions and I knew precipitous action was called for so I dove around the corner of the porch and rolled to my feet in a single, fluid motion and looked wildly around for sanctuary. There wasn't any sanctuary but there was huge guy wearing a backwards baseball cap and a scowl that would intimidate Hulk Hogan. He also had a sawed-off shotgun.
Calling on all my years' experience as a quick-thinking big city news reporter, I though fast and shouted, "Hold it!" I raised my camera, fired off a shot and the flash blinded the guy and gave me time to duck and run the other way. I took about four steps when something hit me in the back and knocked me ass over applecart into the shrubbery. I grimaced in pain and struggled out of my bulletproof vest and held it up to examine the three rips where the slugs struck it.
"Holy shit!" I said. Then, "I gotta get some pictures!"
I held the camera up above porch level and fired off a series of quick shots in half-a-dozen directions and was greeted by a hail of bullets from the dope dealers in reply. I lowered the camera and looked for a way out.
"Strike two!" I said. "That does it. I quit!"
I ran like a steeplechase runner for about three blocks and leaped over trashcans and debris as I went. I hailed a cab and made it back to the station where I retrieved my car and went home to reflect on things.
The next day I sent my stuff in to the paper and had a leisurely breakfast and enjoyed a cigar on a park bench in the next block. I headed for the Trib about 10:30 and once arrived I marched across the city room and entered the glass-enclosed office with the word EDITOR on the door.
"Good work, Grogan," Pete said. "You've got some great pictures here and a bang-up story. We're givin' it a three column spread and..."
"I said I quit."
"Some other time, eh, Grogan? I got a paper to run here."
"I mean it. I'm going to write a book."
"You're quittin' to write a book? Are you nuts?"
"Yeah, like that wily fox. I could've been killed last night, Pete. Think about it. That's a helluva concept, isn't it? Well, I don't need it. I'm heading for some nice, quiet little town where nothing ever happens and I'm going to write a real book and win the Pulitzer Prize. So, I quit."
I started for the door and Pete shouted, "You are nuts! You'll starve out there! You'll be crawlin' back here before the week is out!"
As I rode the elevator down and out of the Trib building for the very last time, I spoke out in a voice so loud I startled myself. "Fuck you, Pete," I said, "I'm gonna get myself a Pulitzer Prize."
A Nice, Quiet, Little Town
Midvale wasn't much of a town but it was just what I was looking for. If a man couldn't concentrate on his work in a place as dull and ordinary as this burg, why, he'd have to be afflicted with some sort of attention-deficit disorder-or so I remember thinking at the time. Little did I know that Midvale would enjoy worldwide infamy in the next few months and change my own and thousands (millions?) of other lives forever.
I stood on the sidewalk in front of the Midvale Beacon and studied its facade in the warm April sun while inhaling the delicate aroma of ink and newsprint that filled the air for yards in every direction. It was a familiar smell, one I'd breathed for fifteen years in widely scattered ports of call, and it was made all the more familiar by equal parts of cigar smoke, stale beer, and half-eaten bologna sandwiches. It was a smell found nowhere else in Christendom and one I truly loved.
I went in and found a long counter separating the work area from the common rabble that might wander in with business to conduct. A few scattered wooden chairs, a table, and a very old cat made up the furniture of the lobby. A hallway led off toward the rear of the place and a stairway behind the counter rose to the second floor. There was a hum of machinery that I could feel more than actually hear and I knew the presses were rolling.
A woman in the neighborhood of seventy or so was crouched behind the counter and she looked up when I entered. "Yes?" she said. She made it sound more like an interrogation than an offer to help.
"Name's Grogan," I said, "Jack Grogan. I have an appointment with Mr. Zeckerdorf." She seemed dubious so I added, "For nine-thirty."
"You're the new reporter."
"Mr. Zeckerdorf isn't in. Here. He said you should go cover Ed Beckett's auction. It's out on Mill Road."
She tossed a scrap of yellow legal pad on the counter and returned to her work. I picked up the paper and saw the name Ed Beckett and an address on it.
"Uh, can you tell me exactly where Ed's place is?" I said.
"Just ask anybody," she said without looking up.
"I thought I was," I said. She looked up and I shrugged and started for the door.
Outside on the sidewalk I saw a freckle-faced kid coming along and I asked him for directions to Ed's place.
"Second right and then left," he said. "Go eight miles out Plank Road and right on Mill. It's half-a-mile down Mill."
Twenty minutes later I turned on Mill as instructed and drove past acres of green stuff about ten inches high. I didn't recognize it but knew it wasn't an orchard since I knew fruit trees were usually a bit taller than ten inches. The green stuff ran smack up against an enormous barn, and about twenty pickups that were parked nearby. There were more trucks parked along the road itself and I pulled in behind them, climbed out, and joined the men assembled in the barnyard.
These guys all wore striped overalls, the kind with the bibs. Flannel shirts, heavy work shoes, and baseball caps with words like John Deere and Pennzoil on them completed their ensembles and informed the uninitiated that he was dealing with genuine farmers. They stood about in knots and spat tobacco juice this way and that and looked knowingly out at the fields of green stuff and stole covetous glances at the pile of rusted metal that was to be auctioned.
Never having seen actual farmers so close up before, I was duly impressed. Here was the real article, husbandmen of the soil; the guys who put my bran flakes on the table every morning; the last bastion of real America against the relentless inroads of technology and modernism. It was a stirring moment for me, one that I wouldn't soon forget.
But I was here as a reporter and reporting was what I'd do, so I decided to eavesdrop on some of them to get the drift of their opinions and measure the cut of their jibs, so to speak. I sidled up to one group standing in large patches of what even I recognized as manure and looked out knowingly at the green stuff. I overheard the following conversation.
"He says it was Edie Hawkins, all right."
"Edie? You sure, Duke?"
"Damn right I'm sure," Duke said. "Jake says Pete saw 'em with his own eyes."
"Who would a thought Edie Hawkins'd get mixed up with a guy like Sims?"
Another guy shook his head and said, "You never know. Women do a lot
of crazy things. 'Member Sarah Waters and that dentist over in Elkind? Now there was a strange pair."
"Well, she only went with him 'cause he was makin' her a free bridge."
"'Member the school teacher an' Dick Beckman's hired hand?" another wit chimed in. "She was engaged to marry that lawyer over in Tonapah an' she was layin' the hired hand in Dick's barn right up to the day of the wedding."
Duke shook his head. "Oh, she was no good, all right."
"Well, the guy was a lawyer, wasn't he?" another said. "Serves the bastard right, I say. How many innocent people has he screwed?"
The others muttered and murmured agreement and spat tobacco juice and gazed out on the green stuff and I moseyed off in search of a place to stand sans tobacco juice and bullshit.
A few minutes later the auctioneer pulled up in his own pickup and clambered out. He sauntered out among the rusted machinery scattered around the farmyard and made an on-the-spot analysis of its probable worth and asking price. A gaggle of farmers trailed along behind feigning indifference in these same items even as they mentally calculated how little they could steal them for.
The whole thing was depressing as hell; at least it was at first. I mean, watching some poor bastard lose his farm and sell off his equipment had become a modern American tragedy and I remarked as much to a local standing next to me.
"Ed ain't losin' no farm," he said indignantly. "Shit, Ed's got more'n a thousand acres right here an' he owns another farm just like this'n over in Gogebic county." He pointed off to his left. "That's his car over there by the chicken coop."
I looked in the direction indicated and saw the front end of a sleek black Mercedes glistening in the morning sunlight. So much for my depression over the plight of the poor American farmer.
Anyway, Ed and the auctioneer took up their places and the sale was underway. The auctioneer filled the air with nonsense syllables and the farmers spat and coveted and piece-by-piece the pile of rusted machinery was sold for astonishing prices. I mean, the stuff must have had some intrinsic value that was quite hidden to the layman but was obvious to a farmer or they'd never have paid such prices, but I swear I know rust when I see it and they sure as hell were buying rust.
For instance, there was a big iron gadget with a lot of little steel wheels on it that looked like the round blades of a meat-cutter's saw and the damned thing went for almost three grand. I looked to see if the guy who bought it had a look in his eye that might indicate he was the town half-wit but he seemed at least as smart as the rest of them. As I said, the value was probably intrinsic.
After the last item was sold, a lot of bottles were produced from various back pockets and the farmers proceeded to get half smashed while a lot of farm animals cackled, mooed, grunted, and belched and the green stuff steadily advanced on the farmhouse from all sides. One of them offered me a swig but the thought of a whiskey bottle passed among a lot of guys still chewing tobacco was aesthetically unappetizing so I declined on the grounds that it was only ten-thirty and I hadn't had breakfast yet.
"Ten-thirty an' you ain't had breakfast?" the old coot said incredulously. He laughed and others nearby joined him in sharing a good time at my expense. I learned later that these guys routinely ate breakfast at five a.m. sharp and thought everybody else did, too. Isn't that amazing?
I stopped and chatted with Ed Beckett for a minute and made a few suggestions as to how he might improve the overall quality of life on his farm and I must say he was so grateful he was actually speechless. I assured him it was nothing and thanked him for not becoming effusive in his appreciation and headed back to town.
Back at the Beacon I learned Mr. Zeckerdorf hadn't returned yet so I commandeered an idle computer and wrote up my story on Ed Beckett's auction. It was a real zinger of a story, too, with lots of pep and color I knew would appeal to the townsfolk. I finished it just in time for inclusion in the Thursday edition as they were locking in the presses when I handed it in.
I went out for an early lunch (or a late breakfast) and strolled down Main Street to Lola's cafe, a local eatery with lots of rural atmosphere including red-and white-checkered plastic tablecloths and a long lunch counter with stools that always seemed to be occupied by the same guys. Cigarette smoke filled the air and a country n' western tune of indistinguishable origin emanated from a jukebox in a corner.
I sat down at a table and Lola herself approached with a coffee pot and a menu. She poured coffee and said, "You're the new reporter Bert hired over at the Beacon, right?"
"Right," I said. "How'd you know that?"
"News travels fast around here. By the time the Beacon gets it, it isn't news any longer."
"I guess you heard about Ed Beckett's auction, then?" I said.
"You mean about Edie Hawkins and that Sims fella?" she said. "Sure. Whole town knows about them."
"Do Edie and Sims know the whole town knows?" I asked.
"Well, everybody except Pete Hawkins and Janie Sims. 'Course, nobody tells them about it. We aren't troublemakers, you know."
Feeling somewhat redundant, I ordered Lola's special fat-free breakfast that consisted of a four-egg omelet, four links of sausage, biscuits and gravy, and a side order of hashed browns washed down with a tankard of hot coffee. Thus fortified, I wandered off along Main Street to look the town over and get my bearings.
Midvale had its pool hall, several gas stations, a firehouse, two supermarkets, a City Hall, a department store, three or four strip malls with drugstores, cleaners, and whatnot interspersed here and there, and a population of about 10,000 souls who used the services provided by the aforementioned. It was largely clean and tidy and without crime or violence, on the whole an altogether pleasant little burg situated nearly eighty miles from the nearest mid-sized city.
It was also an old town with a shaky economy based on cows, fields of green stuff, and Saturday night truck rodeos. Young people instinctively lit out for the big city as soon as they could and the population declined steadily as a result.
It was, in fact, an unlikely place for a world traveler like me. I'd practiced the trade of journalism in cities as large as Chicago and L.A. and even did a stint as a foreign correspondent in Central America. I was an old pro who'd experienced the best and worst of the profession, and I loved its traditions and never regretted my choice of professions. Still, there was that unwritten novel…
I chanced across a real estate office on the corner of Elm and Main and stepped inside to see if they had something I might rent. A woman about thirty or so was working at a desk and I saw at once that she was pretty, nicely dressed, and that her short skirt was riding high enough on her shapely thigh to attract the notice of all but the totally blind. She looked up and saw me watching her thighs and she vainly tugged her skirt downward.
"May I help you?" she said.
"You already have," I said, smiling.
"Oh. You're the new man at the Beacon."
I shook my head and sighed. "Yeah, but it's plain they didn't need me. People around here get the news before it even happens."
She smiled and said, "I guess we do at that. And I also guess you need a place to stay."
"Right again. Something cheap. Journalism is one of the least rewarding professions, you know."
"Furnished or unfurnished?"
"Furnished. I never stay long enough to acquire furniture."
"No wife? Family?"
"Nope. Just me and my computer."
"I think I have just the thing," she said, opening a file cabinet and rummaging through it. "It's right here in town, it's clean and it's furnished. Three rooms. It's above the town pool hall."
"There must be a catch," I said. "Apartments over pool halls don't come cheap."
"I thought the pool hall might make it undesirable," she said.
"Are you kidding? I thought I'd have to pay extra. I love pool halls. You meet great people in pool halls."
"Good. The rent's only $400 a month. First and last month in advance. Would you like to see it?"
"No, I'll take it. If it's got a pool hall, how can I go wrong?"
She stood up and her skirt dropped until it was only about four inches above her knee and broad expanses of flashing nylon-clad thigh showed as she moved. She crossed to a cabinet and got a set of keys. "You can make the check out to Krogh's real estate. I'm Ellen Krogh."
She extended her hand and I took it. "Jack Grogan," I said. "The pleasure's mine."
And so I acquired not only a place to stay during my sojourn in Midvale, but also the acquaintance of a refreshingly attractive young lady who was probably married to some bruiser who's hobby was maiming guys who looked askance at his wife. Ah, well.
I stopped by the apartment and examined my new digs. The lady was as good as her word. The place was clean, it had a living room, kitchen, and bedroom, and it did have a pool hall under it. I went in the pool hall on my way out and felt I'd stepped back twenty-five years through a time warp of some kind to my sadly misspent youth. I half expected to hear the Twilight Zone theme song and Rod Serling setting the scene for another episode.
There were six tables and they were actually covered with green felt instead of pastel blues and pinks. There were cuspidors against the walls and old-fashioned green-shaded light bulbs over the tables with the light falling in such a way that the rest of the room was clothed in near darkness. Figures stepping into and out of the light seemed to appear and disappear magically. Tobacco smoke hung in layers and the click of pool balls striking each other sounded lightly.
High stools standing along the walls and a beer cooler next to the glass counter made up the furniture. An old guy wearing tattoos and a stiff straw boater sat hunched over the counter smoking a cigar and scanning a Racing Form.
The name Andy's was spelled out in backward neon letters on the window with Billiards below it. Two guys were playing nine-ball on the first table. I approached the counter.
"You must be Andy," I said.
The old guy looked at me. "Nope. Andy's dead. I'm Nick."
"I'm sorry about Andy..." I started to say.
"It's okay. He died in '58. Folks around here stop grievin' after forty years."
"Well," I said, buoyed by this news, "I'm glad Andy's been dead so long then. My name's..."
"Grogan. You're the new man over at the Beacon."
"Yeah, right. Anyway, I just rented the place upstairs so I guess we'll be neighbors."
"Try to keep the noise down, will ya?" Nick said. "We run a quiet place here an' people will get pissed-off if you go jumpin' around up there an' carryin' on."
"What?" I said. "Disturb a pool hall? Never. You can trust me. I'm a gentleman of the old school when it comes to proper behavior in and around pool halls. Why, I regard a well-run pool hall as I do a well-run cathedral, a place due man's respect, even awe. The pool hall is the only place you can find the few remaining individualists left out there and I'd be the last to disturb one of 'em."
Nick eyed me narrowly for a moment then he grinned and stuck out his hand. "If you write like you talk, you're gonna be okay, Grogan."
"Good, because I write exactly as I talk," I said. "And speaking of writing, I'd better get back to the Beacon. I still haven't met the boss yet."
"Here, have a cigar," Nick said as I started out.
"Is it like the one you're smoking?" I asked.
"Then no thanks. I prefer my cigars made with real tobacco."
I headed back to the Beacon and congratulated myself on a very successful first day. I'd already covered my first story, rented an apartment, met a pretty woman, and befriended the proprietor of the town's leading pool hall. Not bad at all.
Mr. Zeckerdorf still hadn't returned when I got there about one o'clock so I decided to hang around and meet some of my fellow employees. A few minutes later a young kid about nineteen came in and stopped short when he saw me. "Oh," he said. Then, "Are you Mr. Grogan?"
"You mean you don't know?" I said. "If not, you're the only guy in town who doesn't know my pedigree in its entirety."
"I'm Amos Cooper," he said. "Copy boy. I'm a journalism major at State."
"Great career choice, Amos-if you're inured to poverty. Who else you got on staff?"
"Well, there's Tom and Al, they work in the print shop. And Marti, she's part-time, goes to Midvale High. Ada Hasp runs the office and our other reporter is Art Fazer, he's over in Tonowah covering Dick Oster's funeral."
"And Dick Oster was...?"
"He owned the McDonald's over there."
"I see." I looked at my watch. "When's the paper come out?"
"Any minute now. Come on, you can meet Tom and Al and we'll see if the paper's ready."
He headed for the back and I followed him.
Tom and Al wore baseball caps, T-shirts, and about a gallon of ink each.
"Hey, you guys, this is Jack Grogan," Amos said. "He's the new reporter. Jack, this is Tom and Al."
"My pleasure, boys," I said, shaking hands and then looking for a rag to wipe off the ink.
"Got your piece in today's paper," Tom said. He handed me a copy of the Beacon opened to the second page and there it was just as I'd written it. "Good job."
"Thanks," I said, "but it isn't so much, really. Just a routine story, nothing special."
"Bert hasn't seen it yet, has he?" Al asked.
"Mr. Zeckerdorf," Amos said. "Everybody calls him Bert."
"I guess not. He wasn't in when I got here."
"He'll probably mention it when he gets in," Tom said, and he grinned at Al who grinned back.
I found out what was so funny an hour later when Bert finally showed up and invited me into his office for a chat. He was about seventy and he wore a cheap suit with red suspenders over a dress shirt with a clip-on bow tie. I had a feeling he'd worn the suspenders a lot of years before they became fashionable again since he looked like the kind of guy who'd welcome change about like a colony of Shakers.
"Saw your story," he said. "Nice piece of writin,' too."
"Thanks," I said. "First time out I wasn't sure I'd get everything just right, but I guess I did."
"Oh, you did fine, just fine. 'Course, there are a couple of things to look out for next time." He picked up the paper from his desk and looked at it. "For example, that 'green stuff' you mention bein' all around Ed's farm. That's alfalfa, you know."
"It is? I mean, it is. Sure. And as nice a crop as I've ever seen, too."
"And another thing. Ed wasn't sellin' antiques; it was farm machinery."
"What? Why, I'd of sworn it was a lot of modern art. Most of that stuff looked like it was designed by Picasso on a bad day. I've seen sculptures just like those in every farmer's fields for miles around."
Bert shook his head. "They're not sculptures, just farm machinery. Farmers leave them in the fields until they need them again and they get a little rusty."
The old guy reached into a desk drawer and came up with a bottle of bourbon and a couple of glasses and proceeded to fill them up. He handed me one and picked up the other one. "To alfalfa and modern art," he said.
"Salud," I said, and tossed it down.
"I like it, Grogan," he said. "Keep it up."
"Keep what up?"
"The naive city slicker stuff. You know, pretending to be ignorant about country things like calling alfalfa 'green stuff' and mistaking farm machinery for modern art. It'll get people buying' papers just to see what dumb thing you might say next."
"Oh, that," I said. "I'm a pro, Mr. Zeckerdorf. I'm always thinking of ways to increase circulation. After all, isn't that what journalism's all about?"
"Call me Bert," he said, grinning. "I like your style, Grogan."
"And I yours, Bert," I said.
And so it was that I settled into the daily routine of Midvale for what I thought was going to be an idyllic period of my life during which I'd write that big novel-or a reasonable facsimile thereof. As I said, it was going to be something more than that before this saga ended and I didn't have to wait long for things to heat up.
The Rolls-Royce Woman
In the next few weeks I met all of the town's dignitaries and came to be regarded almost as a regular at the places where the power brokers of Midvale held forth such as the firehouse, City Hall, Lola's, and a bar called Brady's that had moose heads and stuffed fish on the walls with pre-Spanish-American War dust all over them. I numbered the chief of police, the mayor, all six councilmen, the city attorney, assorted cops and local businessmen and various hangers-on among my personal acquaintances.
I even gained notoriety with my writing. After each edition of the Beacon farmers would gather in groups and have a laugh at the expense of 'that Grogan fella'. Circulation actually did go up after my arrival, a fact that wasn't lost on Bert. He regularly encouraged me to continue the 'ruse' and I took credit for it even though none of it was really feigned ignorance. I mean, what the hell was I supposed to know about esoteric things like alfalfa and the inner-workings of silos, hen houses, haymows, and animal husbandry?
Anyway, after I'd been in town about a month or so, I was supervising a checker game at the firehouse during one of the frequent lulls that befell Midvale when a white Rolls-Royce turned the corner and sailed past like some gliding ghost caught inadvertently in daylight and anxious to find sanctuary in a dark corner somewhere.
"Hey, that's a Rolls-Royce," I said.
Everybody looked up and watched the elegant car pass the firehouse and turn the corner.
"A Rolls-Royce?" Phil Botts said.
"What's a Rolls doin' in Midvale?" Zack Oates said.
"Passin' through, I reckon," Sy Mellers said. "Must be 'cause this town don't have no Rolls-Royces."
I stared absently after the car and uttered what later would be recalled as prophetic words. "I'll bet there's a story in a car like that."
"Yeah," Zack said, "an' I'll bet it's got somethin' to do with the Devil. Regular people don't drive Rolls-Royces."
"If it's the Devil he must be female, then," I said. "That was a woman driving it."
"A woman?" Sy said. "What's a woman doin' in a car like that?"
"Humph," Phil said, "must be some rich guy's floozie. How else'd she get herself a Rolls-Royce, for Christ's sake?"
"Spoken like a true troglodyte, Phil," I said. "Did it ever occur to you she might have earned it?"
"Yeah, that's what I said," he replied. "She must be some rich guy's floozie."
Everybody laughed at that and went back to the checker game but I decided I'd had enough firehouse humor for the nonce and headed down Oak Street and around the corner to Main to see if I could learn what happened to the Rolls.
I found it at Bud's gas station where Bud himself was pumping gas into it and his two helpers were busily washing the car's windows and flicking imaginary dust from its already immaculate finish while shooing away a lot of kids who gaped in awe at the sight and hesitantly leaned in to touch a cautious finger to the car. The windows were opaque on the sides and rear and it was impossible to see who was driving it from that vantage point so I ambled on past to the corner and looked back through the windshield. A woman wearing a wide-brimmed hat that nearly covered her face searched through her purse with head bent so I couldn't get a good look at her.
Bud replaced the hose and went to the driver's window. The woman paid him and started the car and drove off. Bud stood there with his outstretched hand holding the money and stared after her with a vacant look on his mug and his mouth hanging open like a sprung trap door.
The car went to the corner and pulled in to the curb in front of the Midvale Manor, the town's leading hotel that stood just across from the Beacon. A crowd of gawkers quickly formed up and gaped in reverential silence at the spectacle before them. Since it was only half-a-block away, I managed to reach the hotel when the car door opened and I found myself gazing into the sexiest pair of eyes ever beheld by man.
Her eyes locked briefly on mine and I felt my knees buckle and a flush suffuse my cheeks. I stood transfixed as her skirt rode high on her thigh when she swung a long, imperially slim leg out of the car and placed a delicately shod high heel on the pavement. A hushed murmur rose from the men and boys who stood around me and it was accompanied by a hissing sound as the women and girls involuntarily drew in their collective breath in a reaction one might expect if they'd seen Satan himself climb out.
There was a momentary pause before the other leg joined its mate and the view provided in the interim was enough to inflame a eunuch on pension. A moment more and she emerged from the car and stood up while her skirt slid back down in place and an even louder murmur swept the crowd and the hissing intensified at the sight of her.
She was strikingly, astonishingly beautiful. Everything was perfect. Cheek bones. Nose. Full mouth. Hair. All perfect. Her eyes seemed an affront, challenging and daring and sardonic at once; eyes that snapped and sparkled and laughed out loud and suggested intrigue and wonder.
She was beautiful, all right, but more than that she was sexy. I mean, the woman looked like she bathed in liquid hormones and she filled the air with sultry gusts of pheromones that shot into every male brain like a jolt of electricity and caused eyes to bulge and nostrils to flare. She was tall and slim, elegantly dressed and coiffed, and possessed of incredible breasts that pressed perky nipples against a thin silk blouse, but there was something more about her that stirred atavistic desires in every man who laid eyes on her. The woman was sex personified, a walking monument to things carnal and forbidden-and irresistible.
Every man there, including small boys not yet men who knew instinctively they were beholding something remarkable, gazed rapturously at her and followed her every move with unwavering attention. Even the women were struck by her beauty and blinding sexuality but for very different reasons and with different reactions. To them she was evil incarnate, dangerous and threatening and sinister, and they watched her with fear and loathing and continued the low hissing sounds like a lot of cats warily eyeing a newcomer to the neighborhood.
A moment later the Rolls-Royce woman, as she came to be called, disappeared into the hotel and left us gawking on the sidewalk after her like a lot of school boys mesmerized in front of the fan dancer's tent at a carnival. The women came to their senses first and rudely jerked the rest of us back to reality.
"Well, I never!" one woman said.
"Me neither, but I'll bet she has!" another remarked.
One woman grabbed her husband by the arm and gave him a good shake. "What the hell are you lookin' at?" she demanded. "Go on, get along there!" She gave the hapless guy a shot that propelled him headlong down the sidewalk and nearly into police Chief Hawes who'd just arrived on the scene.
Hawes saw the assembled gawkers and said, "What's goin' on, Grogan?"
"I don't know for sure, Chief," I said, "but either I've just seen the sexiest creature in the whole world or I've gone over the edge at last."
"You ain't batty," a farmer said. "Look."
He pointed at the other guys in the vicinity and every man present looked like he had a gun in his pocket and a quick glance assured me I was similarly armed. One old guy in his eighties studied his nether parts with a happy grin plastered on his face and sang out, "It's up! The dang thing's up! Hey, Martha! I got it up again!"
"Shit, this I gotta see," the Chief said, and he started into the hotel to look for our visitor.
I saw Ellen Krogh coming toward me and I turned away and reached into my pocket to reorient things before I had to face her and expose my delicate condition. I mean, how does one tactfully explain a full-blown erection at high noon on a public thoroughfare?
"Hi, Jack" she said. "Who owns the Rolls?"
I looked at the car and said absently, "Aphrodite."
"Oh. I mean, I don't know. Just some woman. I think she's new in town."
"She must be. That's got to be the only Rolls in Midvale."
"Anyway, how's the real estate business?"
"Slow, but it always is here. Had lunch yet? I was just going to Lola's for a sandwich. I hate to eat alone and I seem to do a lot of that lately."
"Well, you'll not eat alone today, fair lady. Let's go."
We started for Lola's and I kept one hand in my pocket to make sure things didn't get out of hand, as it were. We were just crossing the street when I looked back and saw Chief Hawes emerging from the hotel with his hat held strategically in front of him. He caught my eye and blinked in disbelief.
We ran into Eli Grimes in Lola's. Eli, about fifty or so, owned the town lumber yard and served as Midvale's mayor. Eli had the crafty look of the politician, the same shifty eyes and phony smile and oily, ingratiating manner that stamps all politicians and he was no intellectual power house, but he was likable enough and probably no more crooked than the average man in the street-which is to say he should be serving time somewhere.
"I liked your story on the council meetin,' Grogan," he said. "It was fair and accurate."
"I just report the facts, Mr. Mayor," I said.
"Eli," he said with a broad smile, "call me Eli. We don't stand on ceremony in Midvale, we're all just one big happy family around here. Isn't that right, Ellen? We've got the best little town in the whole country right here in Midvale, a town where every man knows his neighbor and everybody knows him and we're damn proud of it."
"And well you should be," I said. "People in big cities like L.A. or New York don't know what they're missing. Why, they think art museums and theatres and trendy bars and major league ballgames and anonymity can provide as good a lifestyle as having lunch at Lola's, hanging around the firehouse, and everybody in town knowing everybody else on sight."
"Damn right," Eli said. "Listen, you stop by my office and we'll have lunch, you hear? I always like to keep a good workin' relationship with the press, know what I mean?"
"I always say we need each other, Eli," I grinned at him. "Know what I mean?"
He grinned back. "I sure do. Don't forget now."
He moved on to some old codgers ensconced on stools at the counter and was soon laughing heartily at some rustic witticism. Ellen smiled her own smile then.
"I've noticed you're rather fond of wry humor," she said.
"Wry? Me? What do you mean?"
"You know what I mean. Comparing this town to L.A. You ought to be ashamed of yourself."
"I'm only half wry. Don't forget, L.A. also has rampant drug use and drive-by shootings and smog and a lot of other things people can do without."
"We may not have all that but people die of boredom every day around here. Sometimes I'm not sure if dying of boredom is any worse than dying in a drive-by shooting."
"Good point. It is slow around here, isn't it?"
"Too slow. We need some excitement, anything. The biggest event all last year was when Jake McAllister's barn burned down and Barney Hoke drove the fire truck into Paint Creek. The Beacon ran stories on that for three weeks straight."
"But that's why I came here in the first place," I said. "I've got the time to work on my novel now. No distractions."
"You're writing a novel? How's it coming along?"
"Great. I'm all the way up to chapter one. At this rate I'll have it finished in a decade or two if I'm lucky."
Lola showed up then and said, "Hear that Rolls-Royce woman raised quite a fuss over at the hotel. Ed Bower said she vamped every man who saw her."
"Well, I saw her and she didn't vamp me," I said defensively.
Lola shrugged. "Ed said the Chief saw her and when he came out he tripped and almost pole-vaulted over the flower boxes they got there."
"What's this?" Ellen said, smiling. "A mystery woman in a Rolls? Maybe this is just what we needed to add a little excitement to our town."
"She's probably just passing through," I said. "Be on her way out of town tomorrow."
"What'll it be?" Lola asked.
"Two tuna sandwiches on toast and coffee," I said.
"Make mine no caffeine," Ellen said.
Lola left and Ellen looked at me. "Was she really that sexy?" she said.
I sighed and said, "All I can say is, I'm glad I didn't trip. I'd have set an outdoor record with room to spare."
"I think I'd like to meet her."
"No, you wouldn't. Take my word for it."
She smiled and didn't say anything and Lola brought our coffee.
So, I found out Ellen didn't have a bruiser of a husband and a light began to flicker in my eyes, the same one I thought I saw flickering in hers. Well. Maybe Midvale wouldn't be as dull as I thought.
All rights reserved, no part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic or mechanical including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from the author except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review.
Evan Keliher ©1989
Rev. Ed. 2009
Library of Congress Catalog
Card Number: 2009930521
Cover Design by Steve Lopez, Hemet, CA