Peter Leonard: A third excerpt from BACK FROM THE DEAD

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Back from the Dead“You look familiar,” the woman sitting to his left said. “You’re a character actor, aren’t you? Or maybe just a character.” She smiled, gliding her fingers up and down the stem of the martini glass.

“You must have me confused with someone else,” he said, glancing at her.

“What do you do?”

Hess studied her, a plain-looking brunette without a lot to work with, and yet, there was something appealing about her.

“I produce erotic films,” Hess said.

“So you’re not in front of the camera, you’re behind it,” she said, picking up her martini glass, taking her time before bringing it to her mouth, sipping the drink. “Dirty movies, huh?”

“I prefer to think of it as art.”

“Of course.” She speared an olive with a plastic sword and put it in her mouth, chewing slowly, savoring it.

“What are some of your movies?”

“Have you seen Twat’s Up Doc?”

“No, but I’ve heard of it.” She shook her head and smiled. “You did that?”

“Largest-grossing erotic film of all time,” Hess said.

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but you sure don’t look like the type.”

“Public perception is it’s a sleazy business.”

“Exactly, and you don’t look sleazy.”

She had good teeth and skin, and an outgoing personality. Late thirties, maybe forty.

“What’s another one?”

Deep Six. It was my ex, Denise’s, film debut.”

“Your ex was a porn star?”

Hess nodded, picked up his drink and took a sip.

“What’s that like? I mean watching her doing it with all those studs.”

“Why do you think I’m divorced?”

A valet in a red vest came in the bar and said something to the bartender.

“Somebody call a cab?” the bartender said, heavy New York accent.

Hess drank his single malt in a couple swallows, put the glass down on the bar top, and a $20 bill next to it. “I have to go,” he said to the brunette.

“I’ll give you a ride,” she said.

“Cab?” the bartender tried again. “Anyone?”

“I have a car right outside. I’m Lynn, by the way,” she said, offering Hess her hand. “Lynn Risdon.”

“Tony Brank,” he said, taking her hand in his.

“You don’t look like a Tony.” She finished the martini and placed it on the bar top. Hess raised his hand and the bartender moved toward him.

“Another round?”

Hess nodded.

“You get remarried?” Lynn said. “I don’t really care, but I guess it’s better if you didn’t.”

“Still single,” Hess said. “Until the right woman comes along.” He thought about Anke, his mistress. She had become demanding like a wife. Wanted a commitment, wanted children. That relationship was over as well, and Hess was relieved. “What about you?”

“Divorced,” Lynn said. “Best thing that ever happened to me.”

An hour and three martinis later, Hess escorted Lynn Risdon to the parking lot. She was drunk. He could feel her weight, the sloppiness of her stride as she clung to him. He had watched her transform to annoying from interesting, the alcohol making her stupid and clumsy. “Where’s your car?”

“It’s got to be around here somewhere,” she said, slurring her words, glassy eyes scanning the lot. “There tis.” She pointed at a white Ford Mustang.

Hess said. “Where do you live?”

“On Seabreeze.”

He had passed the street a number of times, remembered it was just north of Worth Avenue.

“Anyone in the house?”


“Do you live with someone?”

“Nooo… I told you, I’m divorced.”

“You better let me drive,” Hess said. “You can’t even stand up.”

“I drive sitting down,” Lynn said and laughed. She reached a hand into her purse, feeling around. It took a few minutes to find the keys, half a dozen on a silver ring. She handed them to Hess. He unlocked and opened the door, sat her in the front passenger seat, leaned in brushed her cheek with his, buckling the seat belt around her.

She touched his face and said, “Is Mr. Scruffy growing a beard?”

He closed the door and walked around the car and got in. “What is your address?”

“Whaaat?” She was angled in the seat, leaning back against the door, eyes closed.

He reached over on the floor in front of her, picked up the purse, opened it, found her wallet and driver’s license. He drove to Seabreeze Avenue, checking addresses. Lynn lived in a single-storey house hidden behind a sculpted wall of hedge four blocks from the ocean. Hess parked on the circular drive. The front porch light was on and there was a light on inside.

He got out, went to the front door, tried several keys until he found the right one, and opened it. Went back to the car, picked Lynn up and brought her into the house and bumped the door closed with his hip. He heard voices in another room, sat Lynn on a couch in the salon, and went to investigate. A television was on in the kitchen. He turned it off.

Adjoining the kitchen was a utility room with a washing machine and dryer. On the opposite wall built-in shelves held tools, cleaning supplies, an assortment of items, including a coil of rope which he grabbed, and a knife. Hess walked though the house. There were two bedrooms off the salon, one obviously lived in, disheveled, and the other spotless. He went back in the salon. Lynn was stretched out, sleeping on the couch. Hess bent and picked her up, carried her to her bedroom, and laid her across the double bed. He cut lengths of rope and tied her ankles and wrists while she slept.

Hess had been in the same clothes now for twenty hours. He went into the master bathroom, undressed, turned on the shower and stood under the hot water.

He dried himself with a pink bath towel, and wrapped it around his waist. Found a razor and shaving cream in the cabinet under the sink, and shaved in front of the fogged-up mirror he had to keep wiping clean with a towel.

He dressed, feeling better, checked on Lynn, still asleep. Went to the kitchen, opened the refrigerator, found sliced turkey in the meat drawer and made a turkey sandwich with Dijon mustard. He poured a glass of milk, sat at the table and watched TV, a program called McMillan & Wife, starring Rock Hudson. When he finished the sandwich, Hess turned off the TV and went to the guestroom, stretched out on the bed and fell asleep.

Lynn Risdon’s head was pounding and her mouth was dry from the vodka. She’d have to slow down, take it easy for a while. She was drinking too much, getting drunk almost every night. She was on her side, couldn’t move her arms. They were tied behind her back, and her legs were tied together at the ankles. What was going on? Was the erotic film producer into S&M? At first she thought it was a dream. But her eyes were open staring at the red numerals on the clock in her dark bedroom. She remembered being at the restaurant, sitting at the bar drinking a martini. Talking to the guy. What was his name? Brank, that was it. They’d had several drinks, having a good time. Remembered offering him a ride home, the events of the night a little hazy after that. Lynn couldn’t remember how she got home. Did she drive? Or maybe he did. Then, in a flash of memory she saw herself hanging onto him leaving the restaurant. But he was a good sport, didn’t seem to mind. She’d picked up other men in bars, and brought them home, had sex and never heard from them again. Lynn liked being in control, liked initiating things. Guys picked up girls all the time. Why couldn’t girls pick up guys? It was 1971 after all.

Now as her eyes adjusted she could see rope binding her ankles and wrists. Why would he do that? Why would he leave her like this? She was going to fuck his brains out. It didn’t make sense. She swung her legs over the side of the bed and tried to sit up. Now what? She couldn’t walk, couldn’t crawl. Lynn looked at the phone on the bedside table and slid along the bed on her knees, knocked the receiver off the cradle and it went over the side of the table and landed on the floor. She pressed the 0 button with her chin, heard the operator’s voice say, “How may I direct your call?” and went down on the carpet, trying to get closer to the phone.

“I’m in my house, tied up. Call the police?”

“Where are you calling from?”

“Palm Beach.”

“What’s the address?”

He came in the room, standing over her, picked up the receiver, put it back and ripped the cord out of the wall. He picked her up and dropped her on the bed. It was the porno-movie guy from the bar.

“What’re you doing?” Lynn was afraid now. “What’s with the rope? You into bondage? I’ll try anything once. What the hell. It might be fun.”

He pushed her on her back, arms under her.”

“Stop it. You’re hurting me.”

He reached for the pillow. She thought he was going to put it under her head.

“How’d we get here? You must’ve driven, right?” she said, trying to reconnect with him, but he didn’t respond. And now he put the pillow over her face, pressing down and she couldn’t breathe. Fought to get out from under him with everything she had, but he was sitting on her. Lynn thought about Larry, her ex, wondering why she’d wasted twenty years of her life with him. She pictured his face when he found out she was dead and he wouldn’t have to pay alimony. She thought about her parents and her brother, Chris. Would anyone miss her when she was gone? And then she was floating, looking down at herself, Brank, the porno-movie guy still holding the pillow over her face. He didn’t know yet.


Pete LeonardPeter Leonard is The Story Plant’s Author of the Month. This means we are offering sensational deals on all of his books. You can learn more at our website.

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On September 10, 2013
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