Thursday, August 23, 2012

Rigor Mortis

My new book Rigor Mortis is available today in e-book format, so I thought I'd post the first chapter here so you guys can take a look. Kindle also offers the entire first chapter as a free sample.

Rigor Mortis is available at Amazon and at Barnes & Noble.

And I don't want to speak out of turn, but I have it on strict authority that Greg Crites is narrating the audio book as we speak. This book was written with his particular narration skills in mind, and I am extremely excited he's taken time out of his busy schedule to do it for me. If you're an audio book freak, go over and peruse his offerings on I suggest starting with Crusade, one of my favorite books of all time, and that's on a list that includes Christopher Moore's Fool and the amazing Confederacy of Dunces.

And now, without further ado, Chapter One of Rigor Mortis.


The human body demurring to death is never pretty.

Rigor mortis had long ago set in and receded, great gouts of seeping fluid taking the place of the muscle fibers which had ratcheted shorter and shorter until fully contracted, eventually succumbing to the swell of decomposition.

"Oh, fuck me in the ass, she's oozing all over a real Persian rug. What a waste." The buxom bane of my existence hitched up her slacks and crouched next to the putrefying body.

I gnawed on my unlit cigar, still unaccustomed to the foul epithets that consistently slide from between the pretty lips of my secretary-cum-assistant-cum-stalker. Six months ago, Carla Danning sauntered into my life, all tits, temperament and testicular torture, and she's been an invective-spewing shackle around my tackle ever since. Also, I have reason to believe that is not the name she was given at birth.

But let me introduce myself before we go any further.

My name is Declan Morneau - Dex for short. If I look in the mirror, what stares back is a long-haired heap of sinew and gristle, with too few clients and too much drinking time on his hands. He's comfortable in his own skin, uncomfortable around anyone else's - tired, apathetic, and generally resigned to both, due to his propensity toward circumspection.

As a consequence of the aforementioned lack of clients, I supplement my private detective work as a process server. Thanks to the generosity of our slave-owning forbearers, all citizens of these fine United States have the right to be duly informed of being summoned. Sounds good on paper, but you can't sprinkle powdered sugar on that steaming pile and expect it to go down any easier.

From as far back as I can remember, I've had this weird quirk where I see people and emotions in color. I have no idea why, and frankly I don't care. Sometimes it helps me figure people out, sometimes it just confuses things.

Carla Danning is yellow. Which is interesting, since yellow is a universally accepted signal for caution. Sometimes she takes on an amber resonance, a bit of brown filters in just below the yellow, which to me indicates an underlying darkness. She's short of stature with an incongruously large presence and a tendency toward crassness at inopportune moments. It's hard to ignore the woman, even if you want to.

I squatted down next to Carla, my knees and ankles popping a painful symphony of regret.

"See these inconsistencies?" Carla fingered the knots at the base of the tassels running along the edge of the rug. "These are hand-knotted, for sure. And the fringe isn't fixed with machine stitches."

That's the thing. Carla's smart, which was why I grudgingly agreed to hire her, despite the fact that I'd taken out two restraining orders on her in the past six months; restraining orders that had nothing to do with the questions I now have about her past.

The restraining orders had been much like spraying Raid at a scurrying cockroach; you know it isn't going to do much, but at least you're making an effort to establish some boundaries. The background check - that's something else. A more direct assault, one I'm not so sure I can justify.

The heavy feet clomping through the front door are going to belong to Sergeant Lash, a squat sparkplug of a man, weeks from retirement. Lash is all meat with a bulldog square jaw, cleft chin and a bald head. He and I will go through the standard, "How'd you get in, Morneau?" followed by my typical response: "Door was open, Sarge. Had a lead on a client, landed me here."

If I get hired to track someone down and they're dead when I find them, I like to check things out before the cops come in and make my life more difficult. I have my job to do just like them. So I do it, then I call it in.

"Crime scene's on the way." Lash looked down at us and shook his head. "Carla, your perfumery assault on this space, coupled with the stench of decomposition, is a dual nasal assault no man or beast should have to bear."

I placed both hands on my knees and stood, my joints repeating their earlier protest. I tried to cover the chuckle, coughed it out, but the maneuver was unsuccessful.

Our close proximity, on top of my encouragement of the Sergeant's dig, begged retaliatory action. Carla glanced at Officer Murkowski - much younger, more lithe and generally less grumpy than his superior. He walked around the house scribbling in a small notebook. Carla took the opportunity to stick her tongue in my ear while both officers had their backs to us.

I batted her away and continued to scan the room. As far as the body, the homicide in question was a foregone conclusion, considering the knife embedded in the neck of the bloated body, with its blade buried to the hilt. When pondering suicide, pretty young ladies rarely take a kitchen knife to their own necks if options like razor blades, pills and all manner of household chemicals are available.

A cursory check of the tiny house had revealed razors in the bathroom, plenty of prescription sleeping pills and anti-depressants in the medicine cabinet, two boxes of rat poison, and enough lilac-scented Fabuloso under the kitchen sink to take down a water buffalo, should the need have arisen.

"Family hire you?" Lash eyed Carla, who was adjusting her low-cut blouse as she stood up. But his question was for me.

"Yeah, you know the drill," I said.

I'd received the call two days earlier; a concerned woman wanted me to check into the disappearance of a cousin she'd expected to hear from a few days ago, but hadn't. The woman said she thought her cousin had gotten in over her head with something, but she had no idea what that was. Just a feeling she had. Must have been some feeling for her to fork over a five-hundred dollar retainer, which she deposited that same night through my website.

Forty-eight hours and a few background checks later, Carla and I found ourselves at the residence of one Ward Deckard, the owner of the house we now occupied.

Crystal Bell was the name of the woman liquefying on the floor nearby. So far I'd ascertained that Ms. Bell worked as an independent contractor for Deckard's cleaning company. Their personal relationship was still in question, though it might prove difficult to determine since Ward Deckard was presently in the hospital hooked up to all manner of life-support devices, having succumbed to a massive stroke one week ago.

One of the guys from county morgue entered and immediately set upon the body. I squatted down for the third time that day, knowing I'd regret it later, and watched him pull open his medical bag.

"Cavalry is on its way, Morneau. Finish getting what you need and head out," Lash grumbled. He gave me a bit of latitude at crime scenes, but from what I've heard, his replacement won't be so easily managed.

Carla bent over and whispered in my ear, "And startling finds of science allied with beautiful tools to spawn a plethora of pleasures. As I sucked the very pith of such sweet reveries, then you appear, to make these splendors meager by compare."

"Woman, stop with the exclamations of lust over the stench of death. It's unseemly."

Murkowski grinned, tapping the tip of his pen on his chin. "Shakespeare?" When Carla shook her head, he tried again. "Shelley?"

Carla winked at him. "You got it, sweet-pea."

I stood and stretched out the kinks. "You two are grating on my nerves. Take that higher literary learnin' somewhere it'll be appreciated. Preferably another hemisphere."

"Jealous?" Carla asked.

The sound that came out of me is what's generally referred to as a harrumph. "Officer Smiley is welcome to partake of your foul intentions. I've no patience for an overly libidinous female with a mouth like a longshoreman."

"That's not the impression I got last night." Carla wandered over to a stack of books on a table and used a pencil to slide them around as she perused the titles in between looking up to gauge my reaction.

Both cops stared at me, hoping for some elaboration. I had no intention of sharing the events in question; namely Ms. Danning cornering me in our office late into a night spent pouring through old case files, after what even I had to admit was an unfortunate amount of Johnnie Walker.

"Wretched wench, probably the spawn of some otherworldly sea siren and one of those aforementioned longshoremen," I grumbled, heading outside to light my stogie.

I took a long puff and pondered my insufferable assistant. If she'd just stop talking. . . if she were mute, that'd be half the problem solved right there. Much as I hate to admit it - and I'd never admit it to her - the cringe-worthy stuff that drips like honey from her possibly-forked tongue inspires that same gut-burn I usually have right before I guzzle antacid straight from the bottle. Stuff like that isn't supposed to come from a mouth that I now know is glossed with peach-flavored tint. How are you supposed to ignore someone when you know they taste like your favorite fruit? How do you to erase that kind of assault from your sensory processing center?

I kicked a small rock from the gravel driveway and watched it skitter into the grass and come to rest at the base of a stake with a For Sale sign on it. Vale Realty; I made a mental note to contact them.

Damn woman. I'd been minding my own business, trying to track down a lead, something I remembered from an old case file, and there she was in the doorway of my office, holding a pizza out in one hand and a new bottle of scotch in the other, as the buttons of her blouse strained against the maneuver I knew was not inadvertent.

Opening that second bottle hadn't helped matters.

By the time I could even begin to start processing what was happening, she'd straddled me in my office chair and commenced a slow-grinding assault. Add to that the incessant nibbling on my ear, and the result was a perfect storm of unbridled tension that required immediate release.

I shoved her off my lap and onto the floor at my feet, but that had done nothing to dissuade her. She'd popped up like a Jack-in-the-Box, her top three buttons popping at the same time. She leaned over me, her unencumbered and extremely bourgeoning décolletage aligned with my  nose. Which was just below my eyes, which were planted on her neck, and damned if I was going to look left, right, up or down into the widening chasm that would suck me in like the goddamned Bermuda Triangle.

"We done here?" Carla asked, coming around to plant herself in front of me.

"Woman, I'm gonna get a cow bell for around your neck so you can't sneak up on me like that." I backed up few steps and took a long tug on my cigar, blowing the smoke into the empty space between us, hoping it would act as a buffer.

Carla moved through the haze with the steely smile I'd expect Medusa to be wearing just prior to turning someone into stone and dry-humping them into a pile of dust.

"For the moment, we too must be twain, but your moment is almost up, Detective." Carla walked to my sedan and opened the passenger door, sliding in with all the grace of a predatory cat about to make a meal out of something. Namely me.

My ass clenched, my sack shriveled, and my pecker stiffened, in unison. I marveled at how that was physically possible as I tried to unclench, un-shrivel and un-stiffen so I could join her in the car.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Consensual Infidelity

So, what do you think when you hear the term "swinging?"

I immediately think of the movie Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, or 1970s style key parties as depicted in the movie The Ice Storm. Then, naturally, my mind progresses to sordid scenes with arms and legs akimbo, naughty bits all tangled together in one squished up delightfully debauched—

Ahem. Excuse me, I'm going to need a moment—

Oh, who am I kidding. I get frazzled with one person eyeing me naked. Add one or two more people to the mix and I'd be in full-on panic attack mode before anyone could scream Muskrat!

Note: Muskrat is the safe-word I've chosen in case I should ever need a safe-word during my lifetime. I like to plan ahead, even for eventualities that aren't likely to transpire. I've also written my Academy Award speech, in the event I somehow end up co-starring opposite Morgan Freeman in a romantic comedy.

Anyway, I think I could be a voyeur, if I were allowed to watch the goings-on from behind my hands, occasionally peeking between my fingers - the same way I watch tampon commercials and rated-R sex scenes.

Don't get me wrong, there's no judgment here. I think consenting adults should be able to do whatever they want, and shouldn't have to explain themselves to the moral majority. Let your freak flag fly, people. Just be sure to write about it once your finished so I can live vicariously through you.

Which brings me to today's interview. The book is called Consensual Infidelity: The True Story of One Ordinary Couple's Experiment with Swinging, by Kaysee Smart.

Here's how Wikipedia defines swinging: (What? Your immediate impulse when you need to consult an authority on sex isn't Wikipedia?):

Swinging or (rarely) partner swapping is a non-monogamous behavior, in which singles or partners in a committed relationship engage in sexual activities with others as a recreational or social activity. Swinging can take place in a number of contexts, ranging from spontaneous sexual activity at informal gatherings of friends to planned regular social meetings to hooking up with like-minded people at a swingers' club. It can also involve Internet-based swinger social networking services online.

As I scroll down the Wikipedia page, I'm reminded of the All in the Family episode where Edith meets a couple whose names she finds in a "friendship" magazine. Cut to her inviting them over for coffee, only to learn they expect her and Archie to partner-swap.

Archie: Swinging! Is that what you call it?

Male Swinger: Yeah, what do you call it?

Archie: Communism!

Consensual Infidelity has its own humorous moments. At the outset, Kaysee is invited to one of those Tupperware-like parties for sex toys, and her utter mortification with regard to the objects for sale made me wonder how a woman who didn't even own a vibrator ended up in a "swinging" situation.

Then, there are lines like this:

"I hadn't even had my husband's tongue down there until after we'd been married for five years."

Suffice it to say that if you spew iced mocha in the vicinity of your e-reader, that goo isn't coming out of those little crevices around the keys very easily. My Kindle is still sticky.

Consensual Infidelity was such an enlightening read, I asked the author and her husband if they would do a blog interview. Since the book is written from "Kaysee's" perspective, I wanted to put "Justin" in the hot-seat first. Which is where he now sits - bound, with his wrists behind his back. Kidding! I'm kidding… He's answering these questions from safety of his home, with the exact amount of distance most men in this situation would want between themselves and an inquisitive interviewer.

So "Justin," here's the question you posed to your wife one night, which eventually led to your swinging experience: "Have you ever thought about having sex with a woman?" I'm wondering if, at any point, you said to yourself: "I never thought she'd say yes! What have I done?"

JUSTIN: I didn’t have any expectations of a yes or no.

Where did the initial question come from?

JUSTIN: If you ask any guy, they’re going to tell you that a threesome is a sexual fantasy of theirs. Guys talk about it, you hear about it. So I wondered about it in my own life. I thought I might as well take a shot with asking.

In the book, we learn that at some point, while scanning a swingers website, you learned that you might have an easier time finding "couples" rather than just adding one other person to the mix. Was that a segue you were immediately comfortable with? Take us through the thought process, as well as any apprehensions you might have had about that.

JUSTIN: I was pretty comfortable with it. I realized that it made sense. Apprehensions would be eased if both the husband and wife were involved. When I got to know how that world operates, it made sense.

There is a part in the book, a very poignant moment actually, where the swinging relationship takes a more serious turn. It is at the point that all four members of the couple get together, when previously you separated as couples to have sex. I wondered what the difference was for you, specifically, being in the room, and in hindsight, was it something you were prepared for?

JUSTIN: Separate rooms were comfortable, like going on a date. When it went to the four person thing, I thought I would be okay, but it was more emotionally powerful than I was ready for at the time.

When you finally read the book, what did you think?

JUSTIN: The book was good. It accurately depicted what happened. There were a few little things that I saw differently, but I understand how Kaysee saw it through her eyes.

Now for some questions for both "Kaysee" and "Justin."

What was the most positive experience you had during your swinging experience?

KAYSEE: Two answers come to mind immediately: the effect on my marriage and the feeling that somebody “gets me.” Throughout the swinging experience, I felt like Justin was not only my husband, but my confidante and my partner-in-crime. I couldn’t share this enormous secret with anyone but him, so my focus shifted from girlfriend talk time to husband talk time. We had so much to talk about!

The other terrific outcome was the relationship I had with Leslie. She and I got to talk about the frustrations of keeping secrets because our beliefs were so different from mainstream society. She was also the only girlfriend I could talk to about my unusual sexual experiences. Yes, it’s bizarre that I would talk to her about sex with her husband, but her enjoyment of the discussion is what gave us such a close bond. I loved the time she and I spent together.

JUSTIN: It made my relationship with my wife better.

What was the most negative experience you had during your swinging experience?

KAYSEE: Chapters 29-35. It’s so painful to think about, I’d rather not rehash it here.

JUSTIN: I was disappointed with the lack of understand from the other couple. When things got tough, the relationship changed. I think they immediately started planning their exit strategy. It would have been better if there was better communication from them.

How did swinging affect your marital relationship?

KAYSEE: I mentioned earlier how Justin and I connected through our secret conversations. We also reconnected sexually. Having sex as a focus in our social life translated into more sex between the two of us. As I mention in the book, I walked around town with sex on the brain, finally understanding what most men must feel like every day! While the sexual experiences with other people were great, the sex between the two of us was the best.

JUSTIN: I think it made it better.

During my research, I came across a website where a swinger defined swinging as "a way to experience the bodies of people besides your partner, while not having relationships with them." But that wasn't exactly the case with you two. Was yours more of a version of an "open relationship"? Do you think a swinging relationship would be better or worse if the actual "relationship" bit were left out, and it was only concerned with the physical? Why or why not?

KAYSEE: The thought of sex with strangers is scary. I don’t think I would feel safe. The fact that we knew our partners on a social level made the sex easy and fun. We had an open line of communication, so I knew I could say what I needed at any time. I think sex with strangers would be more awkward for me.

I didn’t see our situation as an open relationship because it had such strict boundaries. We weren’t open to sex with just anyone, we were only open to sex with Mark and Leslie. Our arrangement doesn’t fit any of the nice categories: open relationship, polyamory, orgy. Honestly, I don’t even like to call it swinging because there were no parties, no seducing, no clubs. I suppose if I have to define it, it was the couple version of “friends with benefits.”

JUSTIN: Our relationship with the other couple was a friendship relationship. That’s what worked for us. The quick and dirty version isn’t any “worse,” it just depends on the feelings of the people involved. Some people don’t want to get to know people they’re having sex with and that’s fine for them. Ours was not an “open relationship” because it wasn’t random. It was more of a closed setting with just the one other couple and us.

In what ways, if at all, do you think that swinging is different from simple promiscuity? Is being promiscuous as a couple different than being promiscuous as a single person? Is one moral, but not the other? I ask this to sort of get a "starting point" to your thought process and if morality comes into the equation for either of you.

KAYSEE: Morality does come into play. Justin and I discussed it at length before ever meeting anyone. We define “faithfulness” as a loyalty to one another. We are in love and we have each other’s back no matter what. Having sex with someone else does not make us unfaithful because it’s an experience that we’re sharing together. The strengthening of the marital bond that we experienced cannot be immoral.

I believe that promiscuity is considered immoral only by convention. Somewhere along the way, society decided it was a bad idea to have sex with multiple partners. And it is a bad idea if you’re not smart about it. Promiscuous people having loads of babies they don’t want and can’t care for is immoral. Using multiple sex partners for acceptance or revenge or power is immoral. When a single person or a couple has sex because it’s fun and feels good and brings them closer together, how can that be immoral?

JUSTIN: It’s similar. But in the swinging world, there are rules and structure. With a single person having a one night stand, anything goes. Morally, it’s up to the people involved. In the swinging world, no one is trying to impress their morals upon anyone else. Also, if you’re participating, you’ve had that talk with your partner, you’re on the same page.

The book outlines your relationship with one other couple. Is this something you'd consider doing again? Why or why not?

KAYSEE: I’m so glad we had what we had. Unfortunately, there are a lot of down sides. This lifestyle is simply not acceptable to most of society, so it’s stressful to be secretive about it. The process of searching for a great couple is emotionally demanding. If someone handed me an awesome couple and nobody cared what I was doing, I would pick it up again in a heartbeat.

JUSTIN: Yes, I probably would consider doing it again.

Do you have any advice for people considering trying swinging on for size?

KAYSEE: Yes! Start with a strong, stable relationship. Talk about all your wishes, expectations, and boundaries. Be ready for a wild ride. Remember that your relationship with your partner is much more important than anything else. Have fun!

JUSTIN: You have to start with a strong marriage and good communication. There’s no owner’s manual. You just have to have your own experiences and work through them with good communication. Consensual Infidelity is a real life experience that people could read to get a feel for what it might really be like. Even though everybody’s experience is going to be different, it’s helpful to learn what other people have gone through.

I want to thank "Kaysee" and "Justin" for taking the time to do this interview and I recommend the book. I found it very interesting.

Finally, for all of you Archie Bunker fans out there, here's a clip from the Archie and the Swingers episode. It's one of my all-time favorites.