Monday, August 11, 2014


Here's a brief excerpt from my second Shalan Adventure novel, Kisses and Lies, in which Harry meets a new client.

It was almost too hot to breathe. There was but one window, making for absolutely no cross ventilation, despite having left the office door standing open. Perched high on a file cabinet behind my left shoulder in the corner, an ancient powder coated green metal oscillating fan, left over from the ark, moved the air sluggishly around the room, but the only thing that did was make it feel like the bowels of Hell were being belched forth. Well, that and make it nearly impossible to read the newspaper. This didn’t really matter much, since it was Monday and everyone who’s ever been in Parkersburg for any length of time knows Monday’s News and Sentinel is little more than a flyer, especially in the summer when there are no local sports events over the weekend.         My dog Eddie, a fawn boxer with a white diamond on his chest, white feet, and a head like a cinder block, was sprawled on the couch in the far corner.  He was snoring on his back with all four feet in the air and his head lulling off the edge of the brown microfiber sofa sleeper. Huge black rubber jowly lips hung down creating wings on either side of his snout. My wife Deanna was out of town visiting family, so Eddie was hanging around with me. She would not be happy if she heard that I was subjecting the baby to such harsh conditions, but in my defense, the AC was supposed to have been fixed by now. Besides, he didn’t seem to be suffering nearly as badly as I was, considering how quickly he had fallen asleep.
I anchored one corner of the paper with my sweating water bottle and the other with a replica of a Cass Scenic Railroad Shay Locomotive carved from coal that I used, appropriately enough, as a paper weight. The headline shouted the exciting news that Vienna was getting yet another national chain restaurant. It seemed no matter how many came in, they all managed to do a brisk business. I thought about how this probably meant no one cooked at home anymore, but I didn't think very hard because it just took too much effort. Is it possible for your brain to sweat? The article was continued on page 7a, meaning there was a car dealership ad on the back of the section—one of my biggest pet peeves. The continued articles should be on the back of the section. It’s a rule. Not that it actually affected me this day. I’d learned more than I wanted to from the headline about the latest reason for traffic to be impossible in Vienna.
I thought about going out for lunch, but decided it was probably not a good idea, since it wasn't even 9:30AM yet. I thought about sending out a couple bills, the main reason I had come in that morning, but that would involve getting up to go to the file cabinet and I was pretty sure I was hermetically sealed to the chair with sweat. All that was left to me was skipping to the only part of the paper I could read without moving my lips—the comics. I started, as I always do, at the top of the left column, read all the way down, then made my way up the right column. Being a detective, I am pretty good at detecting things, so I can say without much fear of contradiction that there was no evidence of anything remotely comic anywhere on the page. I longed for the days of Bloom County. There have just never been characters to compare with Opus the Penguin and Bill the Cat. “Gag, ack, barf.”  
          I checked my watch in hopes that I had maybe fallen asleep and it was somehow late enough to go to lunch and still preserve some level of social propriety. Not even 9:45. No dice. I was out of options, so I downed the last half of my water bottle, fired it into the recycle bin by the sink, and started to get up to see if I could catch the building superintendent in his office to ask about the air conditioning AGAIN. But before I could get a ruler out of the desk drawer to break the seal between my tuchus and the seat, she walked in.
Probably in her early twenties, almost ten years younger than I, she was just a shade under six feet tall, not nearly three-quarters of that being legs, which were bare below her gauzy pink slip dress that stopped just above what might have been the best pair of knees I’d seen in my adult life. When she accepted my invitation to sit, she turned nearly profile in her seat and threw her left leg over her right to reveal black patent leather strappy sandals and long, slim, straight toes with soft pink French manicured nails that matched her fingernails and coordinated quite well with the understated pink of her sleeveless dress. The sleeveless thing was working out quite well for us both. She was obviously in good shape without looking like a weightlifter. Almost certainly an athlete—probably volleyball and/or basketball considering her height. I was hoping for volleyball. Volleyball is the greatest women’s sport. It’s a rule.
Her hair, the color of corn silk, was perfectly straight, parted on the right, and hanging down to just above her shoulders. She took off oversized sunglasses and placed them on the desk. I was glad because they made her look a bit like a bug. She looked straight at me with her sky-blue eyes flecked with gold. Her eyelashes were surely artificially long, but they were so artfully done that no makeup was evident. The same was true of her entire face. Her complexion was flawless and showed no evidence of cosmetics, with the exception of a slight sheen of what I guessed was clear gloss on her mouth. Speaking of which, she boasted the kind of full, voluptuous lips that many women have paid way too much money to plastic surgeons to unsuccessfully imitate. All in all, I was half convinced I was in the presence of a Greek goddess. A goddess who liked dogs, apparently. She was affectionately tugging on the ears of Eddie who had awakened and moseyed over to greet her. He wasn’t so strong on the guard dog front, but he clearly had taste in women.