Monday, March 9, 2015
The Master Baiter
(We have an Adult Content label now. I’m going to have fun with it.)
A hiss is a hiss is a hiss, you’d think. Jamie Robineau, who loved and lived with a snake shifter, knew better. His man Lamar had enough different hisses to fill up a pickle barrel. There was that angry hiss of his that could steam off wallpaper, the staccato frustrated hisses he shot out when he was at work and the words weren’t coming, the high-pitched one that passed for a laugh, the quick whistly one when he was scared or upset, and that long, low one that signaled satisfaction after they made love. Right now he was using the laugh hiss, but with a nasty edge in it. Jamie decided somebody somewhere was in for a mess of trouble.
He strolled into the kitchen. “Mornin’, honey. Up to something?”
“Justice.” Lamar had his legs coiled beneath him on his favorite chair in the breakfast nook, with his laptop on the table before him. His hiss shifted to a take on the angry one before it rose up the scale to laughter again. “Join me. We need to plot.”
Jamie poured and prepped coffee for both of them before he settled into the nook. He sipped his coffee and watched Lamar’s expression. Oh Lordy, that was his scheming face. Somebody was in for it for sure. “Who we plotting against? Please don’t say Nick. I need that job.”
“Nick’s married with children. He’s suffering enough. It’s our amigo Ralph.” Lamar turned the laptop’s screen to face Jamie. “He’s gone too far this time. He must be stopped.”
Jamie squinted at the screen. It took a moment for his morning-bleary eyes to focus on what he was reading. “Tell me the boy didn’t write a book. No. Just no.”
“He’s done something. I wouldn’t call it writing or a book.” Lamar’s angry hiss briefly leaked out again. “I can feel my brain cells dying just from looking at this.”
“Least it ain’t a romance. Looks like he’s going for hard-boiled dick. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.”
“I’m with you there whole-heartedly, querido. This, however—Ay! This is a travesty. He’s not only insulting the entire mystery genre, he’s damaging writing in general. Nobody does that in my town.”
Uh-oh, Jamie thought. Snakes lived for subterfuge. Being a constrictor, Lamar was never happier than when he could put the squeeze on someone. That usually ended up with both their tails in a sling. “You’ve got a few notions already, don’t you?”
“I’ve been considering the problem," Lamar confessed. "He’s already up to Chapter 2. We can’t let this go any further. I believe a distraction’s in order.” Lamar’s grin radiated pure evil. “I know just who to call.”
# # #
It was another crappy day on my crappy case. All my leads had shut the door in my face and were pretending they weren’t home. Looked like it was time for Plan B: find some lowlife and punch him in the gut. There wasn’t any shortage of those in this cellpool. All I needed was one who might know something.
I headed down to the docks and the Rusty Bucket, a dive bar where the lowlife quotient was a healthy five to one. If nobody knew shit about Alabaster’s brother, least I could still get a drink.
With my gun in my pocket I—
Ralph wrenched his eyes away from his deathless prose and up to meet the visitor standing before his desk. Hell-o. Nice tits occurred to him first. Then he took in the rest of her. Big brown eyes, wavy auburn hair, simple skirt-and-blouse outfit with a pretty pink sweater, curves in all the right places. She smiled and showed off big white teeth, heavy on the canines. Predator. Good morning, Monday.
“Mr. Ralph Bruin?” she said again. “Hello. I’m Cinnamon Baer.”
“Yeah, sure you are. Pull the other one, it’s got jingle bells.”
“Maybe you’d like to take it up with my sisters, Honey and Pooh.”
“Whatever. Can I do you? I mean, what can I do for you?”
“I’m having a problem with my brother.”
“Lemme guess. Teddy.”
“Malcolm. Mother only got cute with us girls. Malcolm’s in college right now, studying journalism.”
“Poor kid. Tell him to switch to a profession that pays.”
“He wants to be a movie reviewer.”
That got Ralph’s attention. “Yeah?”
“Yeah,” she echoed snidely. “I still don’t know whether I should support him or try to discourage him. Since you’re the local expert on the subject, I was hoping you could help me out.” She slipped her sweater off her rounded arms. “You mind if I take this off? It’s warm in here.”
Oh geezum, there they were, Mount Humpty and Mount Dumpty in all their D-cup glory. Ralph lurched to his feet. That wasn’t the only part of him lurching. Lucky the desk was there.
He discovered Miz Cinnamon Baer was three inches taller than he was. So who wasn’t?
“Tell you what,” he said. “I could do with a break. Waddaya say we go have a coffee and I’ll tell you all about the reviewer biz? Then you can pass it on to your brother. The good, the bad and the ugly.” He shut off his computer without bothering to hit Save. “That’s a movie, y’know.”
“That’s awfully generous of you,” Cinnamon simpered. She tossed her sweater gracefully over her shoulder and allowed Ralph to take her arm.
Across the newsroom, Lamar watched it all through half-lidded eyes, and puffed soft little hisses of wicked laughter.