BIRDS OF PARADISE a novel collaboration
Where we left off: It's beginning to seem as if all roads lead to Beverly Hills. Charlie is there, holding a gun on Falco. Ernesto is at Falco's door holding a gun on Charlie's wife, Genie. Two shadowy guys in a dark BMW are getting out of their car down the street. The only characters not at the party are Palmieri, who's flying up from Cabo as we speak, and Carmen the stripper, who is . . . well, you'll just have to read on and see.
Carmen watched the front of her apartment building from the corner down the street. The man and woman in the black Crown Victoria had left half an hour ago and didn't seem to be coming back. She'd recognized the man with the pockmarked face. One of the regulars down at Jumbo's. The woman, however, seemed out of place -- like a badly cast actress in a badly written cop flick.
As Carmen considered her options, the blond jerk with the crimson streak at his neck stumbled out to the sidewalk. He straddled a motorcycle, struggled into a helmet and nearly sideswiped a parked car as he sped around the corner and disappeared from sight. Carmen sprinted across the street and rushed into her apartment. Ignoring the newly stained carpet, she snatched her purse from the kitchen table and hurried into her bedroom. She changed into jeans and a sweat shirt and was back on the street at record pace.
In her car, she pulled the slip of paper from her pocket. She'd almost forgotten it during her speed change. Thank God she remembered.
"Tony, it's me, Carmen," she huffed, trying to calm her breathing.
"Tony's unavailable at the moment," the man on the other end said. "Who should I say is calling?"
Carmen swallowed. Tony had told her this was a private cellphone. That it was safe to call any time. That only he answered it.
"Please tell him Carmen called," she said.
"Carmen?" the man's tone brightened. "Well, well, well. This certainly is ironic."
"Who is this?" Carmen demanded, her left eye throbbing.
"Your friend Falco likes to call me Chuck."
Carmen felt more lost than ever. Falco? Chuck? What the hell was going on? "Who?"
"Falco. Antonio Falco, your friend the congressman. You know, the one who likes to talk."
Carmen felt lightheaded. The article in the morning paper she'd been reading about some congressman. Was that really about her Tony? Was her lonely, middle-aged businessman really Antonio Falco, chairman of the most influential committee in Congress?
Carmen disconnected the call. She had to get away. Before anything else could go wrong. Then her phone chirped. She looked down at the incoming number. It was Tony calling back. Or Chuck. Her heart pounded.
"Hello," she said.
"Carmen, it's Tony. Antonio, actually. I'm sorry I lied. I didn't want to involve you. But now you have to listen to me. Listen very carefully. It may be the only thing that saves your life."
Two-time winner Shaun Morey says that when he is "not writing, I like to surf, especially when writer's block stands in the way of the next scene."