It took Erin an hour and forty-five minutes to drive from their half-million dollar home in Plano to the small rented cabin at Lake Texoma, near the Oklahoma state line. It was Thursday night, and she could have been in their backyard, sitting by the pool in an ultra-skimpy bikini, drinking and laughing with her friends. Like every other night.
She walked in and slammed the door. “Okay, I’m here. Now, will you please tell me why it was so important for me to drive all the way up here tonight? You know I hate this place. And I had to cancel my party.”
Larry glanced over at his super-hot 25-year-old girlfriend. Her body could still blow away most of the competition at a Miss America Pageant. “I’ll explain. Just sit down and chill.”
He looked back at his laptop. Larry wasn’t a bad-looking 30-year old, if you could see past the scruffy beard and the long stringy hair.
She walked up behind him. “Who’s that?”
“It’s a girl I went to high school with.”
“What about the guy?”
Larry didn’t answer. He just puffed on his pipe.
Erin backed away. She hated his smoking, but he didn’t care. “Why am I here, Larry? This place stinks like dead fish.”
Larry kept his eyes on his laptop screen. “Well, this is a fish camp. But I do my best writing up here.”
“Fine. But I don’t need to be here. And let’s face it, Honey—your best writing is just not good enough. When are you going to give it up? You’ve written six books—and you still don’t have a publishing contract. You’ve got hundreds of rejection letters, and—“
“—thousands, actually. And each rejection brings me closer to a contract. You know that’s what I always say. Each failure brings me closer to success.”
“Yeah. I know that’s what you say. But what’s the lucky number? One million? Do you have to get a million rejections before you get a contract?”
“Hey, there’s a reason they call me ‘Lucky Larry.’”
“Yeah, yeah, I know the story. You got the big inheritance right when you dropped out of college. Then you won $3 million in the Texas Lottery. And then you got me. It’s true—you are a lucky guy. You’re lucky at everything—except writing.”
“Publishing. I don’t need luck with my writing. I’m an gifted novelist.” He held his pipe with dignity as he puffed. “I just need a lucky break with a publisher.” He began typing at full speed.
Erin sat down at the small table and poured herself a glass of Merlot. At least he brought along my favorite, she thought. She just hoped he had more than one bottle.
“For book seven, I’m taking a totally different approach. I signed up for a free account on this new website, DirectFromTheAuthor.com, using the name ‘Barry Undermine.’”
“Okay…that’s a strange name. But it’s about time you started using a pseudonym. It’s no wonder you get rejected, with a name like Larry Luzor.”
He had always been proud of the Luzor family name. His grandfather was a successful industrialist, Joseph Alfred Luzor, who named his son Philip Karl Luzor, who named his son Lawrence Igby Luzor.
But he had finally decided Erin was right. Besides, after six books, agents were probably rejecting his work before they even read it. They probably saw the name of the author and immediately stamp the manuscript REJECTED.
“I’m publishing each chapter on that site, as I write it. And I’m already getting some great comments from my readers. So, maybe an agent or a publisher will take notice and offer me a contract.”
“What’s the name of this one?”
“Illusion of Luck. It’s about this guy who’s been very lucky in life. But when his luck finally runs out, he decides to impose his will and make his own luck, so to speak. And everybody thinks he’s still lucky. But in truth, he’s doing whatever it takes to get his way. So, it’s not luck anymore—it’s the illusion of luck.”
“Gee, that character sounds a lot like you, Larry—except the part about him having the balls to make his own luck. The only luck you have is whatever drops in your lap.” She poured herself another glass of wine. She thought it tasted a little funny, but she continued to drink it anyway. “Now, I would appreciate it if you’d stop typing for a minute and tell me why I’m here!”
Larry completed the paragraph, and then turned his chair around to face her. He knew Erin wouldn’t be able to resist the wine. She was a border-line alcoholic. “It’s about money, Erin.”
“Look, I really needed the new BMW. Surely you didn’t expect me to keep driving the old one. I’d had it for nearly two years.”
“Funny.” She sneered at him.
“I’m serious. In the five years we’ve been together, you’ve been spending money like there’s no tomorrow. Well, guess what, Baby? You’re right—there really is no tomorrow. Cause there’s no more money.”
“Oh—I see what you’re trying to do. Now that you’ve used up my best years you want to trade me in for a younger model. Well, you’re not gonna get away with it, Larry. I’ll take you for all you’re worth. You’re gonna be sorry you tried to dump me.”
Larry wondered why he had put up with her. He had long suspected she was doing the pool boy. Or one of the neighbors. Or all the neighbors. Because he knew she was not going without. Yet he was paying for everything. The spoiled brat had never worked a day in her life.
Meanwhile, Larry had cranked out six top-notch mystery novels. Sure—they hadn’t been published. But he had worked hard to make them great pieces of literature. “You’re not hearing me. There’s nothing left. The bank is about to foreclose on the house.”
“Liar! When my lawyer gets finished with you…”
“Yes? Go on.”
“I’m feeling kinda weird.”
“Really? Are you dizzy and nauseated?”
“Yeah. And my heart’s beating like crazy.”
“And your throat feels sore?”
“My mouth too. Larry, what have you done to me? Did you put something in the wine? I thought it smelled funny.”
“Ever heard of potassium cyanide?”
“You poisoned me?” Erin threw her glass at him.
He deflected it to the wooden floor. “Yeah. I pretty much knew how you would react when I told you I was broke. I figured you’d threaten to sue me and take me for all I’m worth.”
“But I was already drinking the wine before you told me about the money. What if I had been kind and understanding?”
“Then I would have used this.” He picked up the box that was sitting beside his laptop and held it up.
“What’s that? The antidote? Give it to me!”
She stood and tried to walk toward him, but fell to the floor. “Please, Larry…”
He opened the box, studied the contents and read the labels in no particular hurry. “Let’s see…we have two bags: one is a 3% solution of sodium nitrate…and the other is a 25% solution of sodium thiosulfate.”
“Please, Honey, save me. I promise I won’t sue you. I’ll just walk away if that’s what you want. I won’t even take the car.” She started choking. “Just send me away on a bus.”
“I don’t believe you.” He walked over to the kitchenette and dropped the two bags into the sink and reached into a drawer for a steak knife.
He stabbed the bags repeatedly.
She gasped for air as the antidote, and her life, gurgled down the drain.
He walked back to his laptop, sat down, and began to type, ignoring Erin’s convulsing body just behind his chair.
Her family had long ago disowned her when she slipped away during the night at the age of 18. She had caused her parents considerable heartache over the years. And if the little tramp thought she could make it on her own, then more power to her.
Her Miss Bikini title was just the beginning of her fame and fortune according to the smooth-talking photographer from Dallas. She gave him all the sex he could handle before realizing she would get nothing in return.
But then she met a writer at a party. He seemed sort of odd. But when she found out he was loaded, she decided to latch onto him and never let go.
Now all his money was gone. And so was she.
Larry finished the paragraph and clicked the ‘Publish’ button. They’ll love this chapter, he thought.
Larry was more like his new character than Erin could have imagined. She just didn’t understand the true power of his luck, because she had never seen it in action. He himself had lost the faith. For ten years, he had been sitting safely on the edge of the freeway, watching the cars go by. Now it was time to jump in front of an 18-wheeler and force his God of Luck to save him.
He couldn’t just wait around for the things he wanted. He needed to be proactive—and just go for it. Because, where is the faith if he didn’t step out blindly, believing?
He checked for Erin’s pulse and felt nothing.
His cabin was at the end of the road. It was a fishing cabin. But he had come there to write a mystery novel—not to fish. He had never come there to fish. And he had never used the barbecue pit. Until tonight.
It would be dark soon.
He eyed her body. Good thing she was short.