Larry sat down at his laptop and logged in as Barry Undermine to complete another chapter of his serial novel, Illusion of Luck. He jittered with excitement at the realization of what he had just done. His clothing reeked of smoke from Erin’s incineration. Hopefully by morning her remains would fit in an urn. But she didn’t deserve one. So instead, he would dump her ashes into the rusty 55-gallon garbage drum on the other side of the dirt road.
His brain articulated the scene at hyper-speed, overloading his sixty-words-per-minute hands. It was so easy—just like the murder.
Wait. Not that easy, he thought. It wasn’t as though he was simply taking dictation. No, not at all. He was a craftsman, an artist. He had six novels worth of experience under his belt. This time his writing was much better—but only because he had a better story idea. It was still fiction.
He was taking a different approach to his writing—making it up as he went along instead of preparing a detailed story outline and following it to the letter. For this book, lucky number seven, he only had a rough sketch of the plot.
His original plot had called for his main character to confront his girlfriend about her affairs, and get into a nasty court battle over money. Then he would murder her and somehow get away with it and live happily ever after in Tahiti. Until the girlfriend’s father, an ex-Navy Seal, tracked him down and killed him in the final scene.
But now the original plot would never make it into the book. Real life had given him better ideas.
He typed the last word of the chapter and clicked ‘Publish.’ Let’s see how they like this one, he thought. Some of his readers had already signed up for instant email notification. So, it wouldn’t be long before they’d be reading about the girlfriend’s terrible demise.
He minimized the web page and went back to the Marshall News Messenger site. He stared at the picture, ignoring the man standing next to her. The beautiful redhead had been the unknowing object of his nightly pleasures throughout his junior and senior high school years.
He’d been much too shy to approach her—even after being crowned the big football hero of the game against their archrival, Longview. His incredible last-second catch in the end zone had won the game. And his Marshall Mavericks had gone on to be Bi-District Champions that year.
But Larry was no longer shy. He was a man of considerable wisdom, charm, and wealth. Actually, not so much wealth currently. He had $35,000 in an account his girlfriend was never aware of. She had spent all the rest.
But he was not overly concerned about his dwindling fortune. The inheritance and his lottery winnings had kept him afloat so far. Maybe he would start playing the lottery again, he thought. Larry had been kind enough to refrain from buying tickets so other people could win. But he didn’t care about being rich anyway. A million or two was all he needed.
Erin was gone, but the $65,000 convertible was not. And it could not be sitting in front of his cabin the next morning for Jim to gawk at.
Cool car. Belong to the Mrs.? When can we meet her? Why don’t y’all come join us for dinner tonight?
Larry clicked back over to see if any readers had commented on his latest chapter posting. Yes—there were already three comments praising his work. The one from the guy in Sidney, Australia was his favorite.
Your characters practically leap off the page. I’m an avid mystery reader, but have never before read anything sounding so real, so genuine. The killer is creepy, brutal and sick. I love it! Hurry up and post the next chapter—please!
He read it aloud, over and over. Yes! Soon agents would be begging to represent him.
Sandy slid his chair back and stood up. “Could I have your attention, everyone?” After polishing off several baskets of bread and a couple of huge plates of spaghetti, Sandy was ready to make his speech.
Greg and Cynthia were sitting directly across from him.
Beverly, the pastor and his wife, the organist, the flower girl and her mother stopped talking and looked at Sandy.
“In my capacity as Best Man, I feel I need to say a few words about the groom.”
Uh-oh, thought Greg.
Cynthia was interested in learning more about her future husband. And she knew Sandy probably had some funny stories from their college days.
“As most of you know, Greg and I were roommates in college. We were both music majors. And I remember the day we met as freshman. I was thrilled to meet him because I thinking, ‘this guy is even nerdier than me.’”
“Gee, thanks, Sandy,” said Greg, grinning.
“And one of the most memorable conversations we had that first year was about sex.”
The mother of the flower girl suddenly jumped up and took her young daughter to the restroom.
“But I don’t need to go, Mommy.”
“Yes, you do.”
Sandy went on. “So, Greg was telling me about when he was 13 and started having feelings for girls…”
Cynthia smiled at Greg—imagining how cute he must have looked as a 13 year-old.
Greg blushed. Not because of what Sandy had just said, but because of what might be coming.
“He had very special feelings for one particular classmate named Cindy. And back then he didn’t know squat about sex. But he spent a lot of time thinking about her—especially at night. He’d think about touching her and holding her and kissing her and then—he’d sneeze. He explained how the excitement would build, poco a poco, to a grand fortissimo. Oops, sorry. There I go—talking in music notation. Let me translate. In English it means—well, in English it means he had a big ole—”
“—Sandy!” Greg couldn’t even bring himself to look down at the end of the table where Dr. Huff was sitting.
“And when Greg told me that, it made me think. A really good sneeze is a lot like…” he saw the look on Greg’s face, “…you know. It starts off with a little tickle in your nose. Then it gets stronger and stronger, and everything inside your head starts to buzz and finally, when you can’t stand it any longer—Bam! And then you go ‘Aah.’”
“That’s more than enough, Sandy,” said Greg.
But Sandy was not quite finished. “So, you see, Cynthia. The teenage Greg was a pure young man. He wasn’t having any sex.”
“Okay,” said Cynthia, hoping Sandy would stop.
“No, he wasn’t having any sex. He was just sneezing his brains out.”
“Thank you so much, Sandy,” said Greg. “Now, be a good best man and know when to shut up.”
“But I’ve got another great story. Remember when you lost your balance on the risers and fell on top of two of the altos? One of them wanted to date you after that. Remember?”
Sandy could see Greg was getting seriously annoyed.
“Okay. I’m done. Anyway—he’s a great guy. Congrats, Cynthia.”
Larry decided to drive Erin’s BMW down to Sherman, leave it in a parking lot, and take a taxi back to Denison. From there it would take a couple of hours to walk to the cabin.
He would tell the police she came to visit him, they argued, and she decided to go home.
He grabbed a flashlight, a pair of cheap garden gloves, and Erin’s purse, and walked out the door and locked it. As soon as he got into her shiny new convertible, he raised the top and began to manipulate the buttons to adjust the electric seat. He was tall, but Erin was a mere 5’1”. Or, that’s what she used to be, he thought. Now she’s 0’0”. Ashes aren’t very tall. He laughed to himself. How witty he was.
After the driver’s seat had moved as far as it would go, he used his foot to lift his butt and move himself further back against the seat. But the heel of his shoe slipped on something. Yuck, he thought—a slimy frog must have hopped into the car while the top was down.
He shined the flashlight on the floorboard. Disgusting. It was a used condom. He wondered how much bribe money it would take to discover the owner of the gooey DNA.
Why had he let Erin use him for so long? She thought she could get away with anything—just because she had a hot body. How appropriate that it had finally gone up in flames. He chuckled softly.
Erin had been alive and well earlier in the evening, thinking she could treat him like dirt, as she always did. But this time it was different. Because Larry had learned a valuable lesson: that he could accomplish anything he had the will to do.
So, he willed that she no longer exist.
And his will was done.
End of Excerpt
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