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Authors: Lawrence de Maria

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Killerfest

BOOK: Killerfest
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KILLERFEST

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Novel By

 

Lawrence De Maria

 

Killerfest,
a novel by Lawrence De Maria

 

 

Copyright
© Lawrence De Maria 2013

 

 

All
rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this

 book
or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.

 For
information, email
[email protected]
.

 

 

This
book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either
products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

 Any
resemblance to actual persons, living or dead,

 events
or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

Published
by St. Austin’s Press

(305-409-0900)

www.lawrencedemaria.com

 

Special
thanks to my website designer,
Nancy Kreisler
, and to two editors,

 
Maryellen
Alvarez
and
Deborah Thompson
,

 whose
sharp eyes and insights have improved this and other novels.

 

 

 

 

Dedicated to
Patti
,
without whose love, support and faith this book

 – and others –

 would not have been
possible,

and to my sons,

Lawrence and
Christopher
.

Good men, both.

 

What Media Critics Are Saying

 

JANET EVANOVICH (New York Times No. 1 Best-Selling
Author):
“Real women, real villains and real heroes make Lawrence De
Maria’s SOUND OF BLOOD a terrific read. As with JAWS, you won’t want to go near
the ocean – but the land isn’t much safer.”

 

WASHINGTON INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF BOOKS:
“SOUND OF BLOOD
is
a rollicking good adventure mystery with all the essential ingredients: an
intrepid private eye, bizarre murders, international intrigue, missing
documents, gorgeous women and slippery financial dealings

 

FLORIDA WEEKLY:
"Suspense,
gritty scenes, clever banter, the visceral rendering of Staten Island and a
dogged private eye combine to make MADMAN'S THIRST and Jake Scarne a strong
contribution to the tough guy tradition."

 

JOHN CRUDELE (NEW YORK POST):
CAPRIATI'S BLOOD is a "taut, contemporary
chiller" spiced with "a touch of Bourne, a dash of Bond and a sprig
of Spenser."

 

What Readers Are Saying in Unsolicited Reviews

 

SOUND OF BLOOD
:
“I'd give this book more stars if I could. A
well-written, good read. Characters fit well together. Storyline flows and time
flies while you are reading. You won't want to put it down.”

 

CAPRIATI’S BLOOD
:
“De Maria has written another fantastic read. His
written style using humor along with his serious side is very entertaining.”

 

MADMAN’S THIRST
: “A
captivating novel on several fronts. Readers of
many persuasions will enjoy this one. (And yes, they are thrillers, joy rides
even veteran escapist readers won't want to put down.)

 

LAURA LEE

“I never know if I will find the mystery genre
interesting since there is always a basic premise where you know there will be
a killer in the group of characters. This one kept me guessing. Enjoyed
thoroughly.”

HURRICANE FATS
:
“Slick as a whistle suspense, with a cast of familiar
demons (vicious mobsters and their torpid minions, Ponzi scheming financiers)
together with unexpected heroes and a plot with enough twists and turns to
dizzy a race car driver. One heck of a lot of fun as the plot unfolds and you
watch Cole Sudden's character enlarge with revelations that bend and stretch
the concept of moral justification to paint a picture of a protagonist whose
complexity far surpasses the one dimensional (if beloved) James Bond. I can't
wait for the movie.”

 

 

 

CHAPTER 1

SHISH KEBOBS

 

The first
thing Ralph Arhaut did after depositing the royalty check from Schuster House
was buy a new car. Or rather, a new used car. He understood, of course, that
the three-year-old Audi wasn’t going to truly impress anyone at the Haverford
Country Club. But the metallic blue A5 sports coupe was a vast improvement over
the tan 1995 Chevy Caprice in which he arrived at the club for his last book
signing. Back then, the kid at the valet station under the portico of the
175-year-old clubhouse looked at that relic, with its smoking exhaust pipe and
peeling paint, with disbelief and ill-concealed disdain. Taking Arhaut’s keys
as if they were coated with the West Nile virus, the snotty bastard quickly
drove the Caprice to the far reaches of the club parking lot before it could
contaminate any BMW or Mercedes that might pull up.

That earlier
book gig had been humiliating in other respects. Arhaut still cringed at the
memory. The Haverford Ladies Book Society traditionally invited only
“established” authors to their once-a-month meetings. They were, after all, in
John O’Hara country, on the Main Line west of Philadelphia. (Not that Arhaut
believed any of the vapid women he met at the club had ever read John O’Hara.)

Only the
intercession of a college friend had secured Arhaut’s first invite. The friend,
whose name was Perry Wells, was now a rich Philly lawyer living in Bryn Mawr
with a wife named Buffy and two adorable children whose names also ended with a
“y” – although for the life of him Arhaut couldn’t remember what those names
were or whether the brats were male or female. He and Perry hadn’t seen each
other since graduating from Villanova University. But they got stinking drunk
together at their 10-year reunion the previous October during Homecoming Week.

Actually,
Arhaut knew that “friend” might be too strong a word for Perry. In college,
they were not that close. Perry belonged to a fraternity, while Arhaut, even
then artistically inclined, was shunned. But Perry, who had trouble stringing
two sentences together even when sober, latched on to Ralph in freshman English
with the grip of a Titanic passenger coming upon a floating deck chair. Ralph
helped Perry earn a gentleman’s “C” in the course. And a gentleman always
repays his debts.

When he
learned that his old pal was a struggling novelist living in a row-house
apartment in South Philadelphia, Perry strong-armed the marbled-mouth Buffy
into tendering an invitation to one of the book club luncheons. In January.
When half the club members with any brains were in Florida or the Caribbean.

But Arhaut
couldn’t complain. His first novel, published, miraculously, by a small
regional Southern press after 59 rejections, was a heavily researched literary
tome whose main characters lived in a small Polish town in 1939 just after the
Nazi invasion. Beset on one side by the onrushing Wehrmacht and on the other by
the Red Army, just about everyone in the book died horribly, if nobly. It was,
Arhaut believed, an important slice of history that had to be told.
Life and
Death in Polgradsky
garnered solid reviews, but few sales.

Buffy and most
of the other 30 or so ladies had listened politely to Arhaut’s impassioned
renderings of rapine and pillaging, but one old biddy, who had to be 90, kept
asking him to speak louder. By the end of his presentation the author was
shouting like a German tank commander. Finally, the torture ended and the women
applauded politely.

Afterwards, he
sat at a table and signed and sold copies of his books, which he’d lugged in
himself in a cardboard box. One of the women who purchased a copy was the old
lady with the hearing problem.

“If you want
my opinion,” she brayed loudly as she forked over $20, “I think the Poles and
the Jews got what they deserved.”

Her perfume
was overpowering, a tear-inducing citrus smell with a woody subtext. The
middle-aged woman who stood beside the old lady rolled her eyes.

“Come along,
Mother. We’re holding up the line.”

The elderly
crone wouldn’t be deterred.

“Your father
was right,” she snapped. “That damn Roosevelt ruined this country.”

In truth, they
weren’t holding up much of a line. Arhaut sold 17 books, none of which, he
assumed, would ever be opened. They were mostly “pity purchases” made by women
with too much money and time on their hands. They brought his total book sales,
worldwide, to 458.

A light snow
had fallen during his presentation and Arhaut ruined his only pair of Italian
leather loafers stepping into a slush puddle while getting into his car. He
suspected the valet had positioned the vehicle with the puddle in mind.

Arhaut’s
publisher dropped him a month later and he became resigned to putting his next
work, a half-finished World War II novel about an affair between an Italian
Army nurse and a German officer in Rommel’s Afrika Corps, out as an e-book on
Amazon.

Then,
unbelievably, good old Perry came through again.

During a break
in a deposition in New York City, several lawyers who were comparing the
advantages of their respective Kindles, Nooks, iPads and other reading devices
asked Perry what books he was currently reading. Perry, whose non-legal
literary tastes ran to the sports pages, drew a blank until he remembered
Life
and Death in Polgradsky,
which was still taking up room, unread, on his
night table. But his friend’s novel sounded erudite and he lavishly praised it,
as well as its “genius” author. When asked what the novel was about, Perry,
whose quick thinking often justified his $750-an-hour billing rate, said that
describing the remarkable plot would “give too much away” and thus bordered on
the “unethical.”

Suitably
impressed, the other lawyers quickly downloaded the e-book version of
Life
and Death in Polgradsky
, which had been discounted to $4.99. One of them
just happened to work for a white-shoe firm that also represented Sebastian
Quimper, the best-selling mega-author who had sold more than 155 million books
worldwide and was just then adding several more co-authors to his stable of
fiction writers. As boring and as off-putting as its theme was,
Life and
Death in Polgradsky
achieved a kind of literary cachet in the law firm. A
partner even bought a hard copy of the novel, just to let it lie around the
office as a cultural symbol.

When Arhaut
first got the call from one of Quimper’s literary representatives suggesting
that he was being considered as a co-author, his first instinct was to take the
high road and point out that he wasn’t a writing hack. But, facing imminent
eviction and mounting car repair bills, he wisely kept his mouth shut. Then the
rep described the standard Quimper co-author royalty split and the average book
sales of the last 15 collaborations. Arhaut did the math. Twenty-five percent
of a lot of money was a hell of a lot better than 100 percent of no money.

Did Arhaut
have anything in development that might fit Quimper’s audience? Perhaps a
thriller?

Arhaut knew
and despised Quimper’s audience. But he quickly said he was in the early stages
of polishing his C.I.A. spy novel.

Great. When
could Mr. Quimper see a chapter?

Arhaut, his
phone hand shaking, said that he was heading to Europe and the Middle East for
a week  of “final research.” Would that be a problem?

Of course not,
the rep said as the desperate writer struggled to control his bladder.

After ringing off,
Arhaut immediately downloaded some recently co-authored Quimpers for style
guidance and spent the week holed up in his apartment dashing off a chapter
containing as much sex and bloody mayhem as he could imagine. It wasn’t that
hard, considering how grounded he was in the activities of the German and
Russian armies in Poland. He also plugged in scenes from his Afrika Corps love
story and just changed nationalities, names, dates and locales. The resulting
chapter was presumably a lead-in to a book about America’s battle against
Middle Eastern terrorists.

This will be a
cinch, Arhaut realized when he’d finished the chapter. It’s really not that
hard to write badly. I just won’t edit or rewrite. But in one small rebellious
act, he called the still-to-be-written book
From Here to Tehranity,
knowing
the publisher would undoubtedly change the title.

Arhaut
realized the “novel” was a total sell-out of his talent, but he also believed
it was superior to most of those penned by his rival hack co-authors. He sent the
chapter off, and only a week later was invited to New York to meet the great
Sebastian Quimper. Not for breakfast, or lunch or dinner. For five minutes, in
a conference room at the Park Avenue headquarters of Schuster House, Quimper’s
publisher.

The great man
didn’t even sit down. He breezed in, shook hands and wished Arhaut well in “his
new career” and then was gone. The nitty-gritty of finishing and editing his
book was left to Arhaut and some Schuster representatives. To Arhaut’s
amazement and chagrin, no one even bothered to change the title and six months
later
From Here to Tehranity
rose as high as No. 4 in
The New York
Times
list of bestsellers. It would have gone higher but for the fact that
other Quimper books occupied the three top spots.

Yes, a lot had
changed in the 15 months since Arhaut threw his car keys to the valet. Same
little twerp, but no sneer this time. Wait until next year, you piss ant,
Arhaut thought. You’ll be parking my Bentley. That’s if I even deign to come
back here.

It was a
glorious late April day, and Ralph Arhaut, bestselling author, was speaking,
not before 30 bored women, but a full room of a hundred or more “fans” at the
Haverford Country Club at what was now billed as a “lecture.”

He didn’t even
have to bring any books. Schuster House had arranged for an assistant to fetch
boxes of them from a nearby Barnes & Noble to meet the expected demand for
signed copies of
From Here to Tehranity.
The assistant, ensconced in a
nearby room, had already stamped Sebastian Quimper’s signature in the books.
After the luncheon, Arhaut would add his own, along with a suitably
personalized comment.

Buffy Wells
greeted Arhaut like a long-lost brother, kissing him on both cheeks. Sitting
next to him on the dais, she explained that after lunch she would formally
introduce him, using biographical material provided by his publisher. The bio
material was perhaps even more fictional than his book. For his part, Arhaut
was told by Schuster House to extol Sebastian Quimper’s literary genius and describe
the extensive mentoring and collaborative process that, after many excruciating
months, produced
From Here to Tehranity.
Since his entire collaboration
with Quimper had taken up all of five minutes, Arhaut would have been lost
without the script provided by the Schuster flunkies back in New York. Some of
them should write novels, he thought after digesting it.

For all of
that, Arhaut was having a very good time and was on his second gin and tonic.
Unlike the last time, everyone treated him like royalty. He was dressed for the
part, and was in uniform. With a rumpled corduroy jacket, black turtleneck and
jeans – cowboy boots, of course – he even felt like a successful writer.

And he knew he
was about to be even more successful, and richer. Just that morning his new agent,
selected from dozens who beat their way to his row house after the news got out
about his Quimper connection, informed him that Schuster House wanted another
thriller featuring his indestructible C.I.A. agent, ex-Navy Seal Rick Torrent.
It wouldn’t be long before he was financially secure enough to go back to real
writing.

Arhaut just
knew there was another
Life and Death in Polgradsky
in him.

He looked out
at the tables of women eating shrimp cocktails and drinking white wine. He didn’t
see the deaf anti-Semitic old lady. Perhaps she’d died. Too bad. He’d prepared
a stern moral riposte in case she, or anyone else, voiced another ethnic slur.
He still regretted not saying anything the year before, when he needed the old
crone’s $20. Now, as a bestselling author, he could afford to take the high
road, damn it. 

Waiters were
beginning to serve the lunch entrée. It was shish kebob, which didn’t thrill
Arhaut. It looked and smelled delicious as it went on nearby plates, but he was
afraid his hands would get sticky when he ate. That might present a problem
when turning the pages during the damn book reading. He started to think of a
funny line he could use to charm his audience if that happened.

For he had
scouted some of the guests. A couple of very attractive women were giving him
looks that he suspected were meant to secure an invitation to perhaps a private
literary session. Arhaut, recently returned from a book tour, had quickly
learned the erotic power of bestselling success, and was anxious for more
experience. One woman, in particular, a tall patrician brunette, was
eye-fucking him so blatantly he began to get a hard on. That wouldn’t do when I
stand up to read, he thought. Then he laughed. Hell, in this crowd maybe it
would.

“What are you
laughing about?”

It was Bunny
Wells, who laid a warm hand on his leg, just inches from his firming organ.
Jesus! Not her, too. He wouldn’t go there. Perry had done too much for him.

“Oh, nothing,”
he said, quickly. “Oh, good, here’s our food. I’m starving.”

Arhaut turned
in relief to smile at a waiter who was thoughtfully stripping the meat and
vegetable kebobs off his skewer. He noticed that no one else was getting such
dedicated service. Another perk of fame. Maybe I won’t get that messy, he
thought gratefully.

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