Blurb: In 1565, a dwarf conquistador sired a daughter with a Timucuan princess. Four centuries later, ancestral ghosts unleashed by a genetic memory drug possess Alice, a dwarf member of a fertility cult. The ghosts wreak havoc on Alice’s personality, but they also help her machine gun her way through rival cult factions and succeed her mother as the cult leader.

Note: I use an experimental technique for text to speech readers — the colon, in my text, would be replaced by a voice code (possibly the color code of the colon) and indicates speakers other than the main character. Ereaders ignore the colon, as is.

Chapter 1 (excerpt)

dWARf’s log— Whoredate XX-XXX

A portrait of light and shadow hangs on the wall and while I slept, someone hung the lady. She was framed. Mom said she had a surprise for me today; before she and Vane tramped off to The Castle, Ybor’s cyber-gothic dance club. One must surmise, the painting pertains to the surprise. Smoke graces the beauty built for noir as it rises from the gun and my thoughts shoot to Vane, forty-five caliber thoughts.

Only the glint in the portrait’s eyes reminds me of me. I’m no beauty. Girls like me can’t dream of being Snow White; we’re stuck being the dwarf. On a silver screen, Vane could pass for a Golden Age queen of noir. Me… I’m built more for another role 🙂 Lumpy Footstool.

I should wake Mom and ask her about the painting, but I rather poke digits into my digital diary. The painting can wait. Mom wants her little fish to nibble at the bait, but I’m reluctant to give her the satisfaction. Her trap tangles me in a no-win situation. She’s evil and I bet she’ll make me dangle on the hook until I ask. Mom!

I hope Vane left you with a hangover and I hope she’s got a worse one.

:She did, and she probably does.

Who had the privilege of driving you two boozy floozies home?

:The Blonde Manatee.

The who?

:Daryl Hannah, on steroids.

You must mean Lil, the giant blonde who wrote an essay about mermaids.

:Yes, and she’s just one of my students at my beck and call and if you don’t keep your voice down, I’ll call up my legion of coeds to come squash you. Why did you wake me up?

I know all about your mutant warriors, Professor Z, but who’s the woman in the picture?

:Oh, I forgot.

Ow! Why did you smack me in the nose?

:I mistook it for your snooze alarm, let me sleep.

‘Til when?

:Nine.

It’s six minutes past that hour, now.

:Dick weasels, Alice! Why didn’t you wake me up earlier? I expect a guest. She said, she’d arrive at ten.

Now, that you’re up, tell me about the painting. I sensed you set a curiosity trap, so I considered not asking. After my morning chow and my morning chores, I changed my mind and put faith in you having a hangover. Who’s coming?

:You’ll obtain an answer upon time of her arrival. Let’s talk, while I eat. Grab me a banana, perc my coffee and I’ll meet you in the dining room. Make extra coffee. Our guest may wish for a cup and I may need a double. Don’t forget the water and the aspirin. We can discuss the portrait after you serve me a jizz of joe. Hop to it.

Yes, Master, lowly daughter bring Queen Mom emergency hangover kit. Night after Vane, standard issue.

Will you keep it here?

:No Alice, treasures belong in safer places, not an unguarded house. I’ll sit. You can stand and examine. Give me the banana.

Okay. You gonna dawdle, or tell me who the portrait portrays?

:She’s the Russian Belle, and she taught Tampa’s mafia boss, Charlie Wall, how to pimp. Charlie had a head for numbers, but he lacked insight on the rube. Madams turn rubes into rubies.

I can’t imagine why you’ve told me this whale of a tale, but many girls can cast a stupidity spell and transform geniuses into witless penises.

:You perceive the key to men, but a Madame must also hold keys to her whores. Own the store, whores owe, and you own the whores. The warehouse can hold drugs, but a smart Madame utilizes safer wares. Examine Belle’s dress and tell me what resides on her left breast.

A spider web stitch.

:You begin college, next week; you will join my sorority soon, but Lambda Lambda Pi differs from the other Greeks—it has roots to an ancient cult.

Belching baloney. Vane’s just a foot short of being Rasputin and she’s suspicious enough to belong to a cult, but I don’t consider you cult member material. Dwarfs don’t belong in cults.

:Forget Vane and remember dwarfs can walk in line with the norm; a short stride still reaches the same destination. For centuries, many cultures considered dwarfs as sacred and magical. Cults often feature a dwarf.

Even if that’s true, I still sense a prank and I’m expecting a sucker punch, not a punchline.

:How can I make you believe me? I showed you the stitch and you’ve seen what Dahlia sews onto her dresses. Dahlia tailors gowns for the Red Carpets of Hollywood and Broadway; consequently, you should ask why she also designs for someone such as myself.

Dahlia showed me her stitch, but I still expect a hoax.

:I predicted your disbelief, so I called a celebrity in whom you could trust.

Who?

:You’ll find out when she arrives, but I’ll give you a hint. She’s a famous movie star and you admire her.

I don’t admire many if any, movie stars.

:You mistake starlets for bimbos and forget many possess a brain.

Not many.

:While we wait for her to arrive, we’ll talk in greater length, on the subject, of Belle Orloff and Charlie Wall.

I saw a documentary on the Tampa mafia, so I heard about Wall.

:Let me familiarize you with the Russian Belle and then I’ll expound further upon their connection.

She’s either a hooker or a Madame; inasmuch you mentioned how she taught Charlie how to pimp.

:Yes, and she owned a brothel in Jacksonville.

She must have done well; those clothes didn’t come cheap.

:We call that a Widowmaker dress. All proper for a funeral parlor or a saloon.

The gun makes a nice accessory for murder.

:Yes, it does, but let us move on to what links Charlie to Belle. After a night, in Belle’s brothel, Charlie got the boot from his military school. Belle recognized Charlie’s potential and taught him tricks of her trade.

The documentary said he ran a gambling operation.

:Numbers made Charlie—the Bolito King, but the Russian Belle taught him how to rule the underworld. You need more than sluts, slots, and suds to run a Black Market; big winners bring in the rubes and you need a slick whore to work the winners. That’s where the stitch and Lambda Lambda Pi comes into play.

So the slick whores belong to Lambda Lambda Pi and they all where the spider web stitch. A slick slut society.

:Close enough. We prefer to call ourselves the Hands of Fate and we rock the cradle of history. The sister of Constantine the Great and his wife acted as our first founders. Both tried to poison—doorbell. Go see. I’m sure you will trust a famous woman more than your own mother.

Hedy Lam—-

:Yes, and you’re Alice; the dwarf I’ve heard so much about. She may have you beaten you by an inch, Zinka.

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