The nature of GOODBYE – a poem

good-byeGOODBYE starts as a word
shot from the lip
penetrating reluctant ears
ripping through soft tissues
creating internal wounds
more felt than seen
leaving a bloody splatter of rejection
upon the soul

GOODBYE registers in the brain
as an alien thought
a foreign invasion
a disruptor of dreams

GOODBYE leaves a residue of grief which
pollutes the present
sullies the past and
relegates the future to a
rubbish heap of
broken promises

GOODBYE repels all attempts to
breach its impregnable walls
with reason or
understanding or
new beginnings

GOODBYE remains dormant
a chronic infection
that lurks in every cell
waiting to break out into
tears and wailing

GOODBYE has no antidote
nor immunization
to protect humanity
from its sting
but fade it can
and fade it will
as seconds tick away to
minutes
hours
days
weeks
years
until a new hello
seems possible

Good and Evil on my dresser top

14590405_10106873760480710_7791093641878332179_nFaces not so different
Both gnarled with age
My fairy godmother and my necromancer
Posed in uncomfortable juxtaposition on my dresser top

Meticulously carved expressions
Wide-eyed rosy-cheeked Good14657444_10106873760800070_322077144382564574_n
Dark-lipped deceptively malevolent Evil

14494784_10106873760685300_8403029407292149811_n

Both in exquisite garb
Good in pink paisley leggings
Evil with spangled bloomers tucked stylishly into ebony boots
Nevermore perched in a cage upon her arm14650664_10106873760590490_6177776904577473120_n
Good a flutter of diaphanous wings
Evil awash in a black veil with silvery spider clasp

Both reminding me that I have grown old with them
That this very day marks my seventy-third year of dancing between the two

At times inhabiting a world of pink froth—helping others, bringing children into the world, trying to be a loving mother and grandmother, a faithful friend

At other times donning a darker habit, thinking myself quite justified in self-centered pettiness, harboring hateful, revengeful thoughts over what I consider life’s injustices

And so, they sit in judgment upon my dresser, looking down on me
Reminding me that each moment of each day
I have a choice between good and evil

Chateaux of the Loire – Day Four: Chenonceau

Of all the beautiful chateaux along the Loire, Chenonceau, built in 1513, is the one I have visited and loved the most. Which is why I can always go back again to walk that grand gallery over the Cher river, delight in the exquisite floral arrangements in each room, and read about the rivalry of Catherine de Medici and Diane de Poitiers and visit their competing gardens.Their iron, but very feminine, fists in their velvet gloves always preserved Chenonceau in times of conflict and war.

This year with my six-year-old granddaughter as my tour guide, I visited places in the 70 hectares that I had never seen before–the Maze, the extensive greenhouses and gardens where the flowers for those beautiful displays are grown and arranged (did I think they call 1-800-FLOWERS ??), the stables, the XVI century farm, and the historic display of the chateau’s use as a military hospital during World War I.

img_2197img_2180

The castle chef's at work

The castle chef’s at work

One of the many beautiful bouquets designed for each room

One of the many beautiful bouquets designed for each room

This lily pad display even mimicking the pond scum

This lily pad display even mimicking the pond scum

img_2199

The photo display of WWI as a military hospital

The photo display of WWI as a military hospital

One of many garden areas

One of many garden areas

img_2170

Enjoying the tour

Mormon Meteor at Blackhawk Museum

I enjoyed learning about the Mormon Meteor III (video by Jay Leno) and hearing historian David Fetherston’s speak (video of lecture) about “Bonneville Then and Now” last Saturday September 10th as part of the Blackhawk Museum’s Speaker Series. Took Meteor will be there for only a few more days before returning to the Price Museum of Speed in Salt Lake City, Utah.

224343_10101824926848780_1538848895_nNext Sunday is annual trek to the Go Pro Grand Prix at Sonoma Raceway. It is the final of this year’s Indy series.and my last chance to see my favorite driver Helio Castroneves race this year.

img_2674 img_2675 img_2676 img_2677

 

Chateaux of the Loire – Day Two: Chateau Sully-sur-Loire

Gallery

This gallery contains 17 photos.

Now THIS is what a castle is supposed to be! Visit the Chateau’s website and be sure to play the Presentation Clip and you too can experience what we did, traipsing up and down endless spiral stone staircases (hanging on … Continue reading

Valentine’s revisited 2016

Lonely-heart-miss-you-3D-wide-300x250now is the only time to
create a state of mind
a joyful moment
that will carry me to the next hour
travel with me though my morning
thread its way into my afternoon
trickle down to my tomorrow
spill over into next month
next year
to color all the days of my life

I always fantasized that that joyful moment
the one that becomes a contented hour
then turns into an afternoon of delight
could only come if my hand were held
my face caressed
my yearnings satisfied
by a man—a mythic prince.

but my prince is not here
not present in this valentine moment of mine
he is off smiling that shy little-boy smile
the one with the dimples and the heavy-lidded longing
for someone else
or so I imagine.

I could as easily imagine
that he is asleep at this moment
or lost in the shadow of a frown
perhaps his jaw is clenched in anger
his lower lip quivering with grief

yes…he could be sharing a blissful moment
with the woman he now loves
but they could also be sitting apart
hearts aching
in a dark place edged with uncertainty

will our paths ever cross again
will we need or desire each other if that moment comes

silly questions that beg to be left unanswered
I have only now
only this valentine moment of mine

what shall I do with my moment on this red-letter day
I will breathe in my solitary pain
I will breathe in the pain of all those who find themselves alone this day
I will breathe in the poison of lost dreams—mine, theirs
I will breathe out a measure of loving kindness,
that soft breath out will soothe me
and flow out in endless ripples
to comfort all the solitary souls

heartscould a moment in a lover’s embrace
with its uncertainty
its impermanence
ever produce such a melody
such a true and clear harmony
as the symphony of a thousand lonely hearts
connected by a single breath out

An ode to life as it is

cheeriosticking items off my list
picking popcorn from aging teeth
polishing up health policies
affecting thousands
popping cheerios into hungry mouths
cleaning up spilt milk
plopping exhausted on my couch

 

cameliasfinding joy in life as it is
winter camellias in rosy bloom
carried to school in pudgy hands
a warm sun drying sidewalks slippery from drenching rain
friends doing more than expected
kind words here
good thoughts when needed
even when not

crocusthankful for hints of prayers answered
before they are even lifted up
a new relationship springing up
like a purple crocus breaking through
freezing snow
bringing forth the hope of
spring as my life slides into
its own winter

wisdomallowing each moment to elapse
with no regret and
few expectations
asking only for
willingness
a sense of wonder and
wisdom

TOMORROW is the DAY! Countdown to New Year’s FREE PROMOTION for MOTHER TONGUE and DEGREES OF OBSESSION

glasses Jacqueline Tramoni

Photo Credit – Fabulous Corsican photographer Jacqueline Tramoni http://www.facebook.com/jacqueline.tramoni

NEW YEAR’S EVE TOAST ~ TO MY READERS

PHOTOS OF REAL-LIFE LOCATIONS THAT INSPIRED MY NOVELS

(Scroll Down to view photos)

For an exciting start to 2016 and a thank you to the hundreds of fans and followers of my Doc Flamingo’s Blog, my Facebook Page, and my @docflamingo Twitter page, I am offering a FREE KINDLE PROMOTION for BOTH of my suspense novels. The Kindle versions of DEGREES OF OBSESSION and MOTHER TONGUE: LINGUA CORSA will be FREE on Amazon worldwide on January 1st through 3rd.

book trailersCan’t wait? View the heart-pounding DEGREES OF OBSESSION trailer and the suspenseful MOTHER TONGUE trailer.

unknowncrew_jpg_w300h228

A photo of the Skipper and crew of the Wigeon of Fearn in Portofino in 1963. This wild adventure I took at nineteen provided the back story to MOTHER TONGUE. We were stranded by a mistral storm in Bonifacio, Corsica for 5 days and tried to sneak two Foreign Legionnaires off the island!

Harbor Bonifacio hotel on quay

My return trip to Bonifacio in 2006 as part of my visit to many of the locations in MOTHER TONGUE, some of which I had only seen in books. We had docked in this exact spot in 1963–but less people and fewer boats.

LE FLNC REVENDIQUE UNE TRENTAINE D'ATTENTATS COMMIS EN CORSE AU MOIS DE MAI

Photo found as part of my research on the Nationalist movement in Corsica, this a photo of members of the FLNC.

DSC02582

The home I discovered in Point Richmond that became the inspiration for the home of Danny Shapiro, the man whom Charlie Pederson pursues to her detriment in DEGREES OF OBSESSION

DSC02626

A corner of San Francisco Bay that became the site where Charlie is held hostage and fights for her life.

DSC02601

The old deserted winery at Point Molate and the ladder to the top of the parapet that became the focus of the final battle scene of DEGREES OF OBSESSION

2 days to GO! Countdown to New Year’s FREE PROMOTION for MOTHER TONGUE and DEGREES OF OBSESSION

free kindle ebooksWEDNESDAY APPETIZER-

FIRST CHAPTER OF MOTHER TONGUE: LINGUA CORSA

(Scroll Down)

For an exciting start to 2016 and a thank you to the hundreds of fans and followers of my Doc Flamingo’s Blog, my Facebook Page, and my @docflamingo Twitter page, I am offering a FREE KINDLE PROMOTION for BOTH of my suspense novels. The Kindle versions of DEGREES OF OBSESSION and MOTHER TONGUE: LINGUA CORSA will be FREE on Amazon worldwide on January 1st through 3rd.

book trailersCan’t wait? View the heart-pounding DEGREES OF OBSESSION trailer and the suspenseful MOTHER TONGUE trailer.

mother tongue kindleMOTHER TONGUE: Lingua Corsa
Chapter One 

FRESNES

I peered down at the beacon of light flickering off the bald spot dividing Pierre Benatar’s hair into two frizzy black clumps and half-heartedly hustled to keep stride with his churning legs. The sun scorched the back of my neck as he forged ahead, as oblivious to me as to the threats against his life by collaborators of the Corsican terrorist we were about to interview. Correction. That he was about to interview. I would only translate. Lagging behind, I felt like a leashed dog refusing to be brought to heel. Recent events had reduced the aggressive legal Beagle side of me to the petulance of a disobedient spaniel.

The last of the nondescript homes in the leafy Val-de-Marne suburb south of Paris gave way to the menacing sprawl of Fresnes prison as we rounded the last corner. The sight of its ancient stone walls turned my knees to jelly and congealed my stomach contents into a nauseous lump. My legs started to buckle, but I regained my balance with an awkward stutter step, saved by the Birkenstocks that completed my prison couture outfit of loose-fitting slacks and a long-sleeved blouse buttoned up Puritan style. To add to the demure look, I had corralled my wiry brunette hair into a bun instead of letting it snake down my back in its usual thick braid. And nary a hint of make-up. Not that I wore much anyway.

Two months earlier I’d had to fight off the same queasy feeling on my way to Marin for lunch with a friend. As I rounded the last curve on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, the sight of the pale stucco walls of San Quentin caused me to slam on the brakes, veer off the road, stick my head out the window, and puke. What in hell could have prompted the Governor’s parole Commissioner to release a repeat offender from this hell-hole? A monster who had gone on to murder his ex-wife and kidnap their own daughter?

But blaming Pete Wilson’s hack did little to assuage my own guilt. Assigned by Alameda County as Kassandra Jackson’s attorney in a routine dependency hearing, I had offered a vehement and unfortunately convincing argument for returning her spunky eight-year-old daughter, Briana, to her custody. I had done my due diligence. I had ticked off each and every required duty on the list—home visit, social services for the mother, even an action plan to protect the child in case her paternal grandparents tried to bodily interfere and take Briana to visit their incarcerated son. A trusted colleague assured me that the brutal ex-husband would be denied parole. In my opinion, there was no substantial risk, per the requirements of the Welfare and Institutions Code of California, that the child would suffer serious physical harm as a result of the parent’s inability to supervise or protect her. The spanking on the buttocks reported by Briana’s teacher to Child Protective Services fell within the legal definition of age-appropriate and reasonable, although I personally opposed any form of corporal punishment. The code too closely resembled the idiotic cautions in liquor ads to drink responsibly. Spank responsibly. Right!

And then there was the clincher. The mother, unlike most of my clients at dependency hearings, had brought a snack of gummy bears for Briana and cuddled her as we sat in the hall awaiting her hearing. Most of these derelict parents could care less about whether their child is either fed or comforted, even under these stressful circumstances.

I should have double-checked on the outcome of the father’s parole board hearing but had been swallowed up by my caseload of over three hundred other parents fighting to keep or regain custody of their children in Alameda County. Within two days of the ex-husband’s release, Kassandra lay dead in a pool of blood and Briana was nowhere to be seen. A week later her tiny body, bloated beyond recognition, washed up on the muddy banks of the Oakland estuary. I’d only seen the crime photos, thank God, but even those had quite literally brought me to my knees and eventually to this self-imposed exile in France.

Weeks of knocking back more Jack Daniels than usual had done jack shit to eradicate the memory of Briana’s sweet black face, framed in bead-dressed pigtails and cushioned, not against her favorite Disney princess pillow that she clutched during our visits, but against the cruel white satin of a coffin. I’d made a valiant effort to return to my duties but found myself stammering in front of the judges as I second guessed myself on every word, court documents spilling from my tremulous hands onto the floor. Given the level of understaffing in the Public Defender’s office, I must have appeared a bloody mess to warrant being put off on an indeterminate personal leave of absence instead of fired.

I tried to push the memories away as I trundled after Benatar in silence. Friends and foes both in and out of court had always found it hard to shut me up. But it was almost as if a mute button had been pushed in my brain as I sat that dreary Saturday afternoon in the last pew of Allen Temple Baptist Church eyeing the throng of mourners celebrating two lives taken too way too soon.

Feeling ill-prepared only reinforced my reluctance to speak. Benatar had dropped the assignment on my desk less than 24 hours before, along with a foot-thick stack of reports he had filed on the Corsican situation. I had stayed up after midnight skimming through the materials. But time enough to confirm that his no-holds-barred reporting style jibed with the newsroom gossip I’d heard about this diminutive Moroccan Jew who had been targeted by just about every faction of Corsica’s Nationalist movement.

As we passed through the metal detectors at the prison’s entrance, I wondered how much Benatar knew about me beyond the fact that I was the rare American who spoke fluent French and certainly the only one who spoke lingua corsa. When his regular translator’s heart healed, would I be shuttled off to Charles De Gaulle airport with a one-way ticket back to San Francisco? I felt a nagging urge to explain that back in the States, before I’d gone bonkers and got sent off to a shrink’s office and eventually urged by my mother to take this hiatus to France, my investigatory skills as a child advocate attorney may well have outshone his as a journalist.

My ruminations came to an abrupt halt when a paunchy guard, sweat staining the underarms of his starched blue shirt, snatched the Liberation staff credentials out of my hand with the insolence bred into French functionaries. “Lisabetta Falcucci. Ce n’est pas un nom américain. Corse, n’est-ce pas?

A denial was pointless. My decision to officially revert to my Corsican birth name was there in black and white, although I’d almost forgotten the shrewd tactic I’d used to nab a translator position on France’s most radical newspaper. It hadn’t taken long after my arrival for me to insist that everyone use my Americanized name, Liz Fallon. But now my ploy felt like a curse. Benatar glowered up at me above his rimless glasses. I felt thirty-two going on a doddering ninety-three with my life swirling down a French toilette. Benatar’s probably wondering how the fuck I can translate for him if I can barely remember my own name.

fresnes interiorI had little patience for lapses, particularly my own. Annoyed that I even cared about Benatar’s opinion, I rattled off a few rapid-fire phrases in French, adding a healthy dose of the vernacular, which worked as well on Benatar and the smug guard as it did on sneering Parisian waiters. But as we passed through the first set of iron gates, my bravado ebbed, smothered by the odor of corroded iron bars and the sickly fumes of disinfectant rising from the green-speckled linoleum underfoot.

* * *

The subject of Benatar’s interview, with the exception of his skin color and accent, looked no different than the dozens of other criminals I had had the misfortune to meet in the line of duty. I found myself running through my usual assessment, looking for tells, those small unconscious movements that exposed the vulnerabilities of men who don’t think they have any. Signs that would give me ammunition to bar them from their children’s lives forever.

My appraisal started with the rash of gray stubble on his chin and moved up to the matching shorn growth on his head which was split asunder by a quarter inch swath of bare scalp at the hairline, the telltale signature of a grazing bullet. His slouch and up-yours stare had as much swag as any member of the Imperial Gangsta Thuggz back in Oakland. The only surprise came when he started to speak.

Lingua corsa, with its elisions and muted consonants had always seemed soft and seductive to me, regardless of my complaints about always having to be my mother’s translator, but out of Yves Gordi’s mouth, it came across smart-ass and strident, with that cocky defensiveness of the guilty pleading innocent. With no time to fret about whether my facility with the language was up to snuff, I fell into the rhythmic cadence of my mother’s tongue as Benatar started firing questions.

“If you were simply buying groceries,” Benatar asked, “why did you have a mini Uzi submachine gun with bullets in the barrel as well as several ammo magazines in the trunk of your car?”

Gordi was quick to retort. “So you think we should be killed like rabbits? Yes, we hide. Yes, we wear bulletproof vests. Yes, we are armed. We are under surveillance for weeks. We are not arrested for robbing the place, only getting food to eat. Who knows where the gendarmes found those weapons? They say what they please.”

The louder and more aggressive Gordi became, the more Benatar leaned into him. At first I found myself intimidated. I desperately wanted to become the proverbial fly on the wall, existing unnoticed among the splatters of jailhouse graffiti. But as I relaxed and eased into the tempo of the exchange, questions began clicking into place in my own brain, ones I would have asked had this man been the incarcerated father of one of my charges. When Benatar paused to jot down a note, a rush of adrenaline loosened my tongue. “What do you make of the fact that the police didn’t believe you?” I asked.

The prisoner and Benatar snapped their heads in my direction. Benatar nodded to Gordi to answer but not before shooting a scathing look of disapproval my way. A hot flush rose up the back of my neck and sweat dampened the armpits of my blouse. I felt like I had been whacked by a giant flyswatter. I gave Benatar a sidewise glance that was as close to saying sorry as I could manage. Admission of guilt was never my strong suit.

“You are like all the rest,” Gordi said, aiming his accusation at Benatar. “Your stories are filled with lies. You forget the past murders by the FLNC. You report mainly what harm their opponents do. In the meantime, the Cuncolta, their supposed legal arm, sucks up to the government, puts on some phony act about peace agreements, and you fall over backward making them into some kind of heroes. The price of your mistake will be more blood, more bombings like the three in Haute Corse today and the one in Corse Sud two days ago.”

His words struck home. I knew how important it was to assess a situation correctly, regardless of appearances. A child’s life could be at stake. I pushed away the sickening image of a quilted lid being lowered on a child-size coffin.

* * *

An hour later, I twitched under Benatar’s harsh silence as he drove the fifteen kilometers back to Libé, as the newspaper Liberation was affectionately called. I had overstepped my bounds and derailed his interview, spurring the prisoner to spout more rhetoric than revelation. I felt damn sure Libé’s founder, Jean Paul Sartre, would have offered up a few choice words about my freedom to be an idiot. But embarrassment aside, the thoroughbred attorney in me stomped with impatience as we arrived at our rue Beranger headquarters. Accepting this temporary assignment as a translator, safe as it might be, felt like being relegated to the barn. The nightmares might never end. My hands might keep trembling for the rest of my life. What guarantee was there that a couple of months in Paris would settle my nerves and give me the courage to get back in the game? Wait too long and I might be in worse straits.

3 days to GO! Countdown to New Year’s FREE PROMOTION for MOTHER TONGUE and DEGREES OF OBSESSION

free kindle ebooksTUESDAY TEASER –

FIRST CHAPTER OF DEGREES OF OBSESSION

(Scroll Down)

For an exciting start to 2016 and a thank you to the hundreds of fans and followers of my Doc Flamingo’s Blog, my Facebook Page, and my @docflamingo Twitter page, I am offering a FREE KINDLE PROMOTION for BOTH of my suspense novels. The Kindle versions of DEGREES OF OBSESSION and MOTHER TONGUE: LINGUA CORSA will be FREE on Amazon worldwide on January 1st through 3rd.

book trailersCan’t wait? View the heart-pounding DEGREES OF OBSESSION trailer and the suspenseful MOTHER TONGUE trailer.

degrees kindleChapter One

DEVILISH DELIGHT

Peering into the rear view mirror, I scrubbed a fleck of lipstick off my front tooth, then ran my little finger over my lower lip to even out the color.  I wiped the residue on a Jack-in-the-Box napkin stuffed between the bucket seats.

I hadn’t thought of it at the time of purchase, but this Devilish Delight lipstick complemented my devil-may-care mood.

As luck would have it, the color was an exact match for the scarlet streaks in the très cher Hermes scarf I’d tucked under the lapels of my equally out-of-budget black Jones New York suit.

My justification for overspending?  The no-brand lipstick was under two bucks, and even sitting down I could appreciate the elegant cut of the Jones New York jacket.  More importantly, the tailored pleats in the silk-lined slacks disguised the few extra pounds I’d added over the years.

The result?  Dressed to kill.  How could Danny resist?

I checked the mirror one last time, rearranging a stray hair and dabbing with the napkin at the beads of moisture collecting on my upper lip.

Sucking in a lungful of air and determination, I swung open the door of my new baby, a gleaming white Lexus sport coupe with gold alloy wheels.  I adored my jazzy, totally impractical present to myself for my fiftieth birthday the month before.  It fit the Charlie side of me.  I had vetoed my husband’s more conservative choice of the Honda sedan.  But then again, Harold, along with my mother and my boss, were the only people in the world who insisted on calling me Charlene.

Head erect, I headed across the parking lot to the entrance of Danny’s office building, placing each foot a measured distance in front of the other, that smooth glide I’d mastered at modeling school back in my teens.

I had reached my five-foot-nine height in the eighth grade, towering over my peers and awkward as hell.  So Mom popped for a self-improvement course at John Robert Powers after the requisite begging on my part.  But she drew the line at my going on to professional modeling.  Her official explanation had to do with saving money for college, although I suspected that Mom didn’t think I had the body for it.  At the time, I didn’t think I had the body for much of anything.

I detoured around tufts of grass sprouting up through the asphalt in the parking lot, almost tripping over a discarded Budweiser can.  Given the condition of        the lot, perhaps Danny Shapiro’s life hadn’t turned out as upscale as I had imagined. But the sleek glass exterior of the fifteen-story building looming up in front of me belied that, even with its current shell of scaffolding–added, no doubt, to repair damage from the recent Northridge earthquake.

It had all seemed so natural, so innocent on the drive over from our hotel, near the Los Angeles convention center. Tooling along the Ventura freeway as it sliced through the San Fernando Valley, I had found myself laughing out loud. Ahead of me, a grime-encrusted Pontiac, spotted with gray primer, had been jockeying for position with a chauffeur-driven Rolls.  Only in Los Angeles.

My eyes had been on the traffic, but my mind had been filled with visions of Daniel Hirschborn Shapiro, my first love and, I’d begun to think lately, my only love.  I kept seeing myself as the shy, naive college freshman seduced, with her full and utter cooperation, by the mature, or so I had thought at the time, and handsome Jewish junior.

Even after the passage of more years than I cared to remember, body memories of our lovemaking steamed to the surface.  The touch of his fingers threading through my hair…the smooth feel of the hollow above his collarbone…the small pleasure of toying with the gold Star of David nestled in the soft curls of his black chest hair.

As I approached his building, the silk lining of my slacks swished against my inner thighs, heightening the tension in my belly. Ducking under the iron scaffolding crisscrossed over the building entrance, I found myself in a dimly lit lobby.  My eyes flitted from wall to wall, searching for the building directory.  Huge cracks zigzagged through the green travertine marble covering the walls.  Missing chunks of the emerald-hued stone gave the lobby the pockmarked look of a war zone. Gaping holes at the four corners of a faded rectangular spot near the elevator revealed the directory’s last resting place.

The bile gurgling in my gut confirmed that I was up to no good.  Worse yet, my plot had been foiled.  Without the directory, I wouldn’t be able to engineer an accidental encounter with Danny.  I had counted on using it, not only to locate his office, but also to select a random name to employ as an alibi for being there. The bile ran back down my esophagus into a pool of disappointment, tinged with relief. What was I thinking? Marching into his office uninvited had been out of the question from the get-go.  At fifty, I had sufficient brainpower to avoid total humiliation.  It was a lark, I told myself, forgetting what an utter mess life had become when I had last pursued Danny.  But I had reasoned, and I use that term loosely, that an accidental meeting might fly.  I had the oh-my-God-it-can’t-be-you speech at the ready.  It could go either way.  My heart hoped he would be bowled over and swoop me up in an impetuous embrace.  My brain knew he’d dial 9-1-1.

I felt a flush creep up over my cheeks when I realized that a rent-a-cop, hunched up in the far corner, was scrutinizing my every move. His cadaverous hands hung like dead chicken feet from the billowing sleeves of his navy sateen jacket. It was highly unlikely that he was admiring my costly Jones New York suit with his beady stare. I felt like a deer caught in the headlights as he headed my way at a funereal pace.

“Can I help you, ma’am?” he asked, touching a bony finger to the brim of his hat.

“No…nothing…I mean, I left something in the car.”

I affected a nonchalant air and sauntered out the way I’d come in, chiding myself for pulling such a sophomoric prank.  A woman nearing midlife, and a therapist to boot, should have better sense. I imagined Marietta, my best friend, wagging her finger in my face and, in the background, my entire caseload of patients doing the same.

The botched encounter squelched my sexy mood.  I beat a path back to my car, the model swing to my hips transformed to a jerky retreat. As I fumbled for my keys in my pricey, but deeply discounted, Gucci bag, I knocked the pencil-thin strap from my shoulder. The bag bounced on the asphalt. Bending to retrieve it, I popped the front button off my slacks.

“Shit!” I said, to no one in particular.

Clambering back into the car, I stabbed at the ignition, ramming the key home on the third try. I squirmed in the creamy-colored leather seat as my expensive panties—the last of my extravagant purchases—now clammy, stuck where they shouldn’t.

“Shit!  Shit!”

My hand dropped from the ignition and I sank back into the seat, shoulders drooping, staring at Danny’s building, trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey in its framework of iron.  Last month’s massive earthquake had certainly taken its toll, not only on his building but on thousands of other structures in the San Fernando Valley. God must have foreseen my foolish plan to track down an old flame and arranged an appropriate natural disaster to subvert it. Seemed a shame, though, to sacrifice all that property just to get rid of one directory and keep me on the straight and narrow.

I snapped back to reality when I saw the creepy old guard crossing the tarmac toward my car.  God forbid that I had parked in Danny’s private space. I glanced at my watch. Damn, how did it get to be eleven?  Harold was going to be pissed. Turning the ignition key, I slammed down the gas pedal, nearly bowling over the ancient guard as I squealed out of the parking lot.