Wednesday, February 1, 2012

ALL ABOUT VILLAINS ~ KILL FEE by Julie Eberhart Painter

After all there is something utterly captivating about those we love to hate. Just like never knowing when a nasty little scoundrel will appear in a novel, you'll never know when a villain will appear here...but keep watching...they are all around us...maybe even right behind you! Angelica Hart and Zi ~

In the form of excerpts, we’d like to introduce you to Ishmael Merlin Dickey, poet and poser from KILL FEE by Julie Eberhart Painter.

Ishmael hung over, under suspicion for murder and in jail.

“Mr. Martin, Cole Martin, the lawyer? He there?”

“Mr. Martin, Cole Martin, the lawyer?”

“Yes, he’s here, but—”

“ I need to talk to him.”

“Ishmael?” Penny asked and when he said nothing, she extended the phone to Cole, who took it, puzzled

“Cole Martin, here. What can I—”

“This is Ishmael Merlin Dickey. Ms. Olsen mentioned that you were an attorney. I'm in trouble, man. The cops want to fry me for that agent's murder. I'm bein' held down here for questioning, and I got a head on me… and I need a lawyer… of course, when I heard you were coming’ here I thought of

“Who in the hell is this, did you say?”

“Ishmael Merlin Dickey, the environmentalist poet. They don't like me, man. Get down here and bring me a gallon a tomato juice.”

“Mr. Dickey, what makes you think I would want anything to do with you? And where is here. I’m not licensed to practice wherever here is.”

“Support your local writer. You're from Florida; I'm from Florida.” Ishmael slurred his words. “We're stuck in Georgia…”

Cole watched Penny take the ice bucket to the bathroom to rinse it out before heading to the ice machine down the hall. He turned from the phone, shaking his head, felt himself weakening, and reached for his jacket.

“I can't actually take your case, Mr. Dickey. I'm a Probate Estate Administrator, but I will come down to the jail while the police question you. Do you have anything that would constitute a retainer? I'll get someone I know here in town to talk with you tomorrow. He’ll do a good job for you if I asked.”

“The cops said that they would release a dollar for me to give to you as a retainer. I'm here on a drunk and disorderly.”

When Penny came back with the ice, Cole said, “How do I get myself into these things? Where’s the jail in this town?”

Penny pinched Cole’s cheek. “You're one of the good guys, that's how. Ask at the desk for the nearest jail.”

Later Ishmael is “the Man who came to dinner”

True to type, Ishmael told his lawyer he was too upset to write, and that he needed a change of scenery. He decided to honor Penny with a visitation and thank his benefactors in person for their help. Of course, this required him to cross state lines illegally. He had been arraigned in Georgia. When he voiced this to his lawyer, Buff was adamant.

“You can’t. You’ll jeopardize your case. Anyway would they really welcome you?”

“Yeah, they'll be glad to have me. I'm gonna be famous some day. They can tell everybody that Ishmael Merlin Dickey slept here, or there—like Washington.” He chuckled.

Buff shook his head at the display of the massive ego. “I’m never sure when you’re kidding, Dickey.”

And so, the-soon-to-be-famous poet took off for Summerville to see his old friends.

Penny couldn't believe her eyes when she opened the door that blistering Wednesday and saw the smiling black Ishmael, dreadlocks swinging, suitcase in hand, standing on her porch.

“Mr. Dickey, whatever are you—?”

“Hey, Ms. Penny. Thought I'd pay y'all a visit, so to speak. I wanna thank your boyfriend personally for all he's done for me. Is he home?” Ishmael peeked beyond the door into the darkened room, looking for Cole.

“He's at the office today. I'll tell him you stopped by.”

“That's okay,” he said cheerily stepping over the threshold, “I'll wait here and tell him myself. Man, it's hot. Ya got any iced tea?”

Before Penny could stop him, he was through the door and making himself at home.

“Who's that? Mr. Arnold?” Bilgewater was still waiting for Mr. Arnold, his natural father.

“What the…” Ishmael leaped from the chair he'd just claimed and dashed toward the noise in the kitchen. Penny followed as fast as her short legs would take her, her hair curling under the hairspray streamed perspiration.

“That's my pet mynah bird, Bilgewater.” Penny explained, grabbing the teakettle before Ishmael could do it. She filled it half-full, and peeked at her watch, 3:35 p.m. The housekeeper would be back in thirty minutes. Cole wouldn't arrive until close to six. She'd have to entertain the pushy poet and accused murderer until Cole could rescue the situation.

“So, you been writin' anything new for the magazine?” he asked, folding up his angular body and tucking it around one of the kitchen chairs.

“No, I've had a hard time concentrating.”

“Yeah, me too. I'm startin' to worry. I was pretty mad when Ms. Kern wrote those nasty comments all over my manuscript. She didn't like my stuff. She laughed at the idea that I fancied myself another Derek Walcott. I guess I touched some things in her room while I was trying to make my point. The police are gonna nail my black ass to the wall if they can.”

A ripple of fear sped up Penny's spine, “How long were you with her?” Cole had said that Ishmael claimed she was dead when he arrived for the interview.

“Oh, she had a written critique just waiting for me. I had to thumb through all those damn folders to find it. I wasn't gonna leave without it. It's always the last place ya look, huh?” He laughed under his breath. “Ya know what I don't understand, there were lots of fingerprints in that room. Why me, why mine?”

“Do you think the police homed in on you because you're black?” Penny was very uncomfortable talking race with someone so different. She'd never been a bigot, but she didn't know many black people, and she feared offending him.

Ishmael, however, seemed perfectly comfortable. “I don't know, I didn't used to think so, but now, I wonder. I am originally from the ghetto—can't ya tell? He didn't wait for an answer. “Y'all know the ghetto, where old Chevies go to die.”

Penny couldn't help laughing. It seemed a perfect description.

“Too sad. This whole Kern thing doesn't make sense, but they sure were in a hurry to nail me.”

“It does look that way.”

“There's been so much new evidence . . . about Jessie’s checkered past . . . I can't understand why they are going ahead with this. Did Mr. Martin tell you, she was four months’ pregnant?”

Penny almost dropped the pitcher of tea. She set it down at the table. “Jessie was pregnant?”

“Yeah, ain't that a kick? She wasn't married, either. Had a roommate. Come on cops, let's do some thinking here.”

“That certainly puts a new perspective on the case,” Penny said. “Where did you hear that?”

“Mister Blackburn said it was in the autopsy report. She was smacked around, hit from pillar to post, died of a blow to the back of the head, but her stomach wasn't touched . . . not a mark.”

“The father. You think the father murdered her?”

“It makes sense.” Ishmael concluded, folding his arms across his flat stomach.

They sat drinking their tea, Penny's mind racing. Who could be the father of Jessie's baby? The police had all of New York to choose from. She couldn't wait to ask Cole if he knew about the autopsy report.

“So, what does the bird say?” Ishmael asked.

“Bilgie? His vocabulary is quite broad.”

“Really? Would he talk to me?”

“Probably. Try it. I'm going to run upstairs a minute.

“Take your time, Bilgie and I will be fine, won't we boy?”

“Do what!” squawked the bird.

“Mum, I see what you mean.” He laughed and reached into his briefcase to take out a small book. Penny left the room.

Mr. Dickey looked at the bird. “I know about you. Mr. Ogden Nash once said: ‘The grackle's voice is less than mellow, His heart is black, his eye is yellow. He bullies more attractive birds
With hoodlum deeds and vulgar words…’ ”

“You got me.”

“Now Bilgie, let's get down to cases.” Dickey began to recite aloud from his favorite poet, Edgar Allan Poe.

When Penny came back into the room a few minutes later, she saw Ishmael looking like the proud teacher of a favorite student. He lifted his hand as if he were conducting a full orchestra and said, “Bilgie?”

Bilgie leaned onto his left foot and said, “Quote the Raven, 'Nevermore.' ”

“How about that, Penny? Today Poe tomorrow Shakespeare!”

“I'm impressed.”

Ishmael had made himself completely at home.

An hour later when Cole came into the kitchen, Penny watched, amused as his jaw dropped.

He quickly recovered his composure. “Well, Mr. Dickey, I presume. What are you doing out-of-state?”

“Nothing to worry about. The presumption is all mine.”

Penny believed that.

“Your girlfriend, here, and I were discussing the case.”


“Yeah, she didn't know the victim was pregnant.”

“I just learned that when I talked to Buff this afternoon. He says the investigation is turning up a lot of new evidence. Not only was she pregnant, but she'd had . . . relations . . . within the last twenty-four hours of her life. DNA should prove your innocence. You may be exonerated soon.” Cole kissed Penny on the forehead.

“Too late smart. What a farce. I should sue 'em.”

“They were in a hurry, all right. They're looking for the father of the victim's child now. They may be able to do a DNA match. That would be helpful. All the blood at the scene was the victim's.”

“You know, Cole, something that has always bothered me?”

“What, Pen?” Cole poured iced tea, dropping the ice cubes into the glass one at a time.

“Ishmael says when he was with her—”

“I wasn't with her, exactly. I had an appointment with her but I was late, and when I got there—”

“She was wearing a kimono,” Penny continued.


“I remember that, too. If she was expecting Ishmael and Mary Perkins why wasn't she dressed?

“That's right,” Ishmael chimed in, “If she was expecting Mary, she'd have been dressed. Mary's name was on her schedule there on the desk.”

“She might have overslept between appointments.”

Ishmael shook his head, “But she only had a half hour of down time between me and Mary. Not enough to get undressed, have a nap and get redressed. It sounds like she had an assignation planned.”

“An assignation? Ishmael, that's so archaic,” Cole said.

“So she was meetin' a lover, plannin' a quickie.”

“It makes sense,” Penny agreed.

“Wonder who she was bangin'? The father? The lover? Any-old-body?”

Before Ishmael could get any more graphic, Cole interrupted, “Will you be staying for supper?”

“Thanks, man, I'd love to.”

Penny cringed, The Man Who Came to Dinner.

After dinner, Ishmael walked into the living room, picked up the TV remote from the coffee table and plunked himself down in Penny's chair. “Y'all ever watch Jeopardy? It's my favorite show.”

Penny mouthed the words, “Get him out of here.”

Cole quickly walked to his large winged recliner and sat on the edge of the seat. “So, where are you staying tonight, Ishmael?”

“Well, I'm low on money, the trial and all. I was hoping y'all would let me stay around here a few days.”

Penny's heart sank.

Cole tried to look stern. “I would think you'd rather be in a hotel where you’d have more privacy.”

“This is perfect, man.” Ishmael put his feet on Penny's ottoman and leaned back. “Just perfect.”

Cole glowered, pulling himself up to his full, five-feet seven. “Mr. Dickey, by all means stay the night, but please find somewhere else to stay tomorrow.”

“Okay, okay, I'll think of something. I guess I could camp on the beach or something.”

“How about your own place in Atlanta? It’s in Georgia where you’re supposed to be. Does the court know about your crossing the state line?” Penny asked “Doesn’t this make us guilty of harboring a fugitive?”

“Yeah, well, if the case breaks, maybe I'll leave you two and go back to see Mr. Blackburn tomorrow.”

“Great idea!” Cole said resisting the urge to applaud.

Penny breathed a tentative sigh of relief. “If you gentlemen will excuse me, I'm tired. I have a good book. I'm going upstairs.” She had made up her mind that she was not going to admit defeat, but the interloper had stolen her chair.


Julie Eberhart Painter

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