The January Special Guest Writer is Brent Monahan
Please feel free to visit Brent HERE
SLEIGH BELLS RING
by Brent Monahan
Bruno Cavaliero pressed the power button on the La-Z-Boy recliner and sighed at the comfort of its plush padding and "baby's-ass-soft" leather.
"Angie, throw another couple logs on the fire," the boss directed. While his right-hand man set down the instrument that swept rooms for bugs and rushed to do his bidding, Bruno looked around and told himself yet again how smart he had been in buying the Catskill vacation home three years earlier. He had only used the place six times since purchasing it with the profits from the insurance pay-off on Dan Travis, but it was more than a retreat from the Bronx; it was an investment for sale when he eventually retired to Reno, and it was an isolated venue for the annual "Keep the peace" meeting with the two other branches within the Genero syndicate.
The shape of the snow-covered house reminded Bruno of the white headpiece worn by Sally Fields in The Flying Nun, a TV show his mother watched religiously during his youth. The central area was a huge A frame, with large wings on either side. The six bedrooms could accommodate the top men of the borough's garbage collection/road construction/business protection/betting outlets/pawn shops/drugs/money laundering/loan sharking operations. Moreover, there were only three chalets...each surrounded by twenty acres...on the looping road that topped a half-mile dirt lane running through fir trees from Kelly Bridge Road. The other two properties bordered Swan Lake, which was one of dozens of such remote and isolated bodies of water created by the glacial earth scouring of the last ice age. Bruno would have preferred one of the lake views, but the feature that had "sealed the deal," as he said, was that there was no possibility for any FBI or IRS agents spying on him or his cronies from the water or the land while they were in this particular house. Especially on a manifestly inhospitable day like December 27th.
Once business was concluded and everyone pretended to be of good cheer and totally content with the division of the Bronx among them, there would be snowmobile riding and the obligatory brutal snowball fight, followed directly by gunplay on the back acres, everyone showing his deadly skills to the others by shooting beer or wine bottles and empty food tins, and by exploding with great concussion and flames several portable camping grill propane tanks. As night descended, they would eat, drink, and play cards into the night, chatting about victims they had screwed over or murdered, raps they had beaten, and who had which police captains and judges in their pockets. Then, around noon the next day, they would climb into their behemoth SUVs and head home, to gather up their families and head to Caribbean haunts.
"It's starting to come down like a sonuvabitch," Angelo Mozzani informed his boss about the snowfall. "I hope they don't turn around."
Bruno checked his Rolex and confirmed that the time was half past one in the afternoon. "Whaddaya think...they'll come all the way up 17 and turn round at the last minute? Working out our differences just before the New Year is critical. Things are tough enough from the outside without us keeping our own peace."
"They'll be here," declared Dominick Russo. Russo was Cavaliero's chief financial officer, in charge of both sets of books and of money arrangements not set down on any paper or in any computer. Protocol dictated that the guests--mob boss Carmine Pintanelli and family capo Salvatore Genero--bring only one bodyguard and their respective CFOs. Among the complete list were six "made men," although Angie and Gianni "Johnny" Ferro, Pintanelli's enforcer, had not done a "job" for four years. The other guests were Rinaldo "Skinny Ronny" Baptista, Eduardo "Eddy" Rivarosso, and Enrico "Muscles" Alito, who everyone joked was the life size model for Michelangelo's David.
"We never been up here in the middle of a snowstorm," Russo worried out loud.
"Angelo's got the name and number of that snowplow operator in Liberty," Bruno said, "so shut the fuck up and make me some hot cocoa."
"Genero's here," Angie reported from one of the chalet's front windows.
"Get the machina d'espresso going, too," Bruno directed.
The business bones of contention were concluded within two hours, just as dusk settled in around the chalet. The others watched Angie's and Muscle's macho antics as they used the chalet's pair of Ski-doos, two brooms and two garbage can lids to joust. Bruno won the shooting contest for the second year in a row. After the blanket of swirling flakes and darkness shrank their visions to the limits of their headlights and flashlights, the group retired to the formal dining table. Bruno had had his wife, Gilda, order and pick up an Italian catered banquet that needed little further preparation. As the men dined in a desultory manner and drank liberally, they debated the merits of The Godfather trilogy against that of The Sopranos while they played poker, all wishing their lives carried more of the glamour depicted on the big and little screens.
At ten o'clock, the group gathered around Cavaliero's 60" vacation HDTV and found an early news program. The lead-off item was the stalling of an Arctic vortex over New York state, with a total of eighteen inches of snow expected by early morning.
"Marone!" Sal exclaimed. "I better not miss my evenin' flight to San Juan tomorrow. You shoulda bought something closer to the City but still with a lot of land around it, Bruno. Insteada this bad news, we could be watchin' some fuckin' Feds freezin' their asses off inside their cars."
Bruno looked out the back porch windows with dismay. The thick, pinwheeling mist of snowflakes was accumulating quickly.
"Hey, Angie," he said. "I want you should call that plow guy right now and tell him to drive his truck up here at nine AM."
"Okay. No problem."
Bruno half listened to the call as he and his peers watched a serious-faced anchorman reporting on the rest of the world's mayhem.
"He said no later than ten," Angie reported.
"Yeah, well you call him back and—"
Bruno paused as the TV and the house lights went dead.
"Holy Gesu, now what?" Sal exhaled with anger. "Wires down already?"
A few seconds later, power was restored.
"Not to worry," Bruno assured. "This place has a propane-powered automatic generator in the shed out back. It'll be like toast in here right up 'til we leave."
"Yeah, but no TV, no Internet, no landline phone," Carmine pointed out.
"We're roughing it. Just like our ancestors in Sicily a hundred years ago. Except with snow," Eduardo commented.
Bruno ignored the observation. "Use your cell phone and call that plow guy again, Ang. Tell him nine AM if he knows what's good for him." He ambled to the built-in cabinet that housed the entertainment electronics and selected a seasonal CD to brighten up the mood. The first selection was an instrumental version of "Walking in a Winter Wonderland."
"I only get static," Angie reported.
The rest tried their cell phones, to equally vain results.
"Another reason not to buy a place out in Nowheresville," Sal said acerbically. "The heavy snow must be interferin' with whatever tower serves the area."
Carmine Pintanelli dug into his trouser pocket for his keys. "My Escalade is the heaviest. Johnny, see if you can make it into that little one-horse town. Tell somebody in charge that the power lines and the phone lines are out up here."
"You got it, boss."
Ferro pulled his outerwear from the hall closet, yanked it on, then used his feet and shins to plow out of the house and to the large vehicle. It roared to life. The headlights pierced the writhing white curtain of flakes no farther than thirty feet. For several moments, the wheels spun. Then the bodyguard eased up on the pedal, and the Escalade disappeared into the storm.
Bruno locked the front doors and turned to the gathering. "I never told you how I got this place, Sal," he said.
"Illegally, no doubt," the capo returned.
Bruno and the others laughed.
"Through Dan Travis," Bruno said.
"The ex-king of asphalt," Carmine broke in. "Let me guess. You broke his ass, but it was his fault."
"True. Stupidity is a fault," Bruno said. "Travis's dues were three-and-a-half percent, same as all the other construction companies. But I originally quoted him four percent and said I'd shave the half percent if he did me one small favor. Said I'd be taking out a million-dollar insurance policy on his life and using it for laundering purposes. I showed him how we would pay in monthly on his behalf and eventually borrow against the policy. I showed him the statute book that states how the law protects the identity of those involved. He went for it. But the business we were throwing his way, the labor problems we solved...weren't enough. He was undercutting us on the percentage side. He frequented Nino's Pizzeria on Coney Island Ave., whenever his crew was doing roadwork out there. The coroner's report said the dynamite only knocked him out, but he died from the smoke."
"That was you?" Dom Russo said. "Christ, that killed three people. Fucked up half a dozen others."
"Yeah, but the Russian mob took the heat, which benefitted every one of the families. And I converted the pay-off on the policy into this lovely piece of real estate."
"What was that...three years ago?" Sal asked.
"A little more," Bruno replied.
Sal shook his head and finished off his Jim Beam. "You shoulda warned me you were doin' it. At least you shoulda told that story three years ago, when we first met up here. What if me or Carmine had used the same laundering game on somebody else?"
"Yeah, you're right," Bruno said, the extent of his apology. "Mea culpa. Let's get back to the poker; I'm down fifteen hundred."
Forty minutes passed, without further incident. As a bit of whimsy, Angelo had brought along a pair of wreaths with large red bows for the chalet's front doors. Under each wreath hung a ribbon bedecked with half a dozen sleigh bells. They had jingled merrily each time the doors were opened. At 10:58, they rang once more. With no one else expected at the house, with darkness enclosing it, and with the property's considerable isolation, every man inside the house started at the clamor. The three bodyguards reached reflexively for the pistols in their holsters.
"Johnny must be back," Sal Genero said.
"Yeah. I locked the doors." As Bruno moved across the foyer, through the long, leaded-glass windows flanking the doors he noticed flickering lights in the distance. He realized they came from the direction one of the other vacation homes, at the edge of the lake.
The sleigh bells sounded again, this time jangling insistently.
Bruno pulled open one of the doors. His eyes widened as he took in the images of two teenage girls, dressed in parkas, wearing knit caps and gloves, their legs in tights and feet in boots. Their faces were drawn into masks of fear. The younger one's eyes were red. Half-frozen tears defied gravity on red cheeks. In spite of the distress that contorted their faces, Bruno noted that both were beautiful.
"Help!" the taller and older-looking of the girls cried. "Please help us!"
"Come in," Bruno invited. "What's wrong?"
The younger of the pair now burst into full sobs, struggling to catch her breath in between. Both rushed past Bruno into the foyer. The older pointed at the still-open door.
"They killed our mother and father!"
The rest of the syndicate came to their feet.
"Who did?" Bruno demanded.
"Three men. They knocked on our front door...and..." The older one was caught for a moment in her own sobs. "...when my father answered, they pushed inside and shot him and our mother." Her gloved fingers dug into the sides of her head, as if trying to squeeze the horrible sight from her memory.
"We were upstairs," the younger one managed to get out. "We grabbed some clothes and ran out the back way."
"Did you recognize these men?" Salvatore asked as he walked slowly toward the pair.
"We only heard them...three voices," the older said. "As we were leaving, I heard one of them say, ‘We got the wrong house!’"
Bruno shut the doors and locked them. He stared silently at the other members of his syndicate.
"Of course we'll help you," Bruno said to the two young women, in as soothing a tone as he could manage. He pointed to a pair of straight-back wooden chairs that faced each other from opposite sides of the foyer. "Just sit there for a moment while I speak with my friends."
"I'm pretty sure they came from the house up the road from us," the older girl reported.
"What's your name?" Bruno asked.
"I'm Roberta. This is my sister, Gigi."
"How are you sure, Roberta?"
"We know the people who own that house. The Buchanans. They don't come up here until New Year's. We saw a silver Yukon Denali parked in front. The Buchanans have a green Ford Edge."
Gigi glanced through one of the front windows and screamed. "It's on fire! They set our house on fire!"
"You hafta stay calm," Bruno counseled. "It's the only way we can help you. Do you understand?"
"Take off your coats and caps while I speak with my buddies, okay?"
Without waiting for their response, Bruno took long strides toward the other men. When he was close enough to speak under his breath, he said, "'Wrong house' can only mean one thing: one of the other families wants to take us out all at once."
"Or the Russians you gave so much trouble to," Sal said archly.
"How did they learn about this place?" Ronny Baptista demanded hotly.
"Does that really matter now, Jackass?" Bruno shot back. "There's only one other house left in the area. Either they set that fire to cover up those murders, or else they're trying to draw us down there. They probably don't know that these two girls escaped."
"So what do we do?" Dom Russo asked.
Before anyone could reply, Muscles Alito gave out an attention-getting sound and followed it with, "It's only been snowing. Ice is what brings down wires. I'll bet they took out the power, telephone and cable lines."
"Which means," Bruno said, "that by the time Johnny was driving up to Liberty, they were already going back to the girls' house. He must be safe."
"But useless to us," Sal said. "I don't know how they can assume we'll see the fire if we're all in the back of Bruno's house. Even if we did but didn't investigate, they have to figure we smelled a rat. Which means, sooner or later, they'll be up here to correct their mistake."
"Not if we take the initiative," Dom Russo said.
Sal smirked. "Said the pencil pusher."
"Hey," Russo returned sharply. "If it means my life, I'm ready to blast them. What do you think I carry a fucking gun for?"
"To show what a big, bad hoodlum you are," Sal said. He softened the remark by smiling and pinching the finance man's cheek.
"I say we take the fight to them," Pintanelli said.
Bruno looked to the girl-women sitting on the chairs, now free from their parkas and knit caps. "Let me get more out of these kids."
"They don't look like kids to me," Skinny Ronny declared, his eyes narrowed and the corner of his mouth turned into a lecherous smile.
Bruno said nothing, but he agreed wholeheartedly. As he returned to them, Roberta and Gigi stood. They both wore figure-hugging sweaters that revealed their shapely breasts. The older one was better endowed. Bruno judged that her bra size was already a C. Their knit pants were likewise skin-tight, displaying well-turned legs and taut, round rear ends. Both were poised on the threshold of full-blown womanhood. As if that were not enough, their faces were exquisite, with flawless skin, full lips, high cheekbones, huge blue eyes and shiny blond hair that the older had cut in a Flapper style and the younger had allowed to grow down to her shoulder blades.
"How old are you two?" Bruno asked.
"I'm eighteen, and Gigi is sixteen," Roberta answered.
"How terrible for you this is," he commiserated, even as he calculated how excellent they would feel lying naked under him. He determined that it would happen before the night was done. He had the benzos to drug them into a deep twilight. Then, once he and everyone else among his cronies had finished using them, they would both have to be killed and moved down to one of the other two chalets. They already knew a great deal, and within another hour...when the three hit men were dead...would know too much. "Are you certain those men didn't see you escape?"
"Nobody followed us," Gigi said. "When we got outside, we ran to the dark side of the house, where there are no windows."
"It's very dark there," Roberta added. She seemed to have regained her composure better than her sister. "Also, there are a thick bunch of fir trees only a couple yards from the house, so we ran in there. We took the long way up here. Every time we looked back, nobody had come outside."
"Good," Bruno said. "Listen: I and these other men are all FBI...undercover out of New York City. We learned that large shipments of cocaine are being smuggled into Canada through the back roads here. Those men obviously figured out we're here and decided to try to kill us. They just busted into the wrong house."
"My God!" Gigi exclaimed.
"We can't just sit here and wait for them to attack us," Bruno went on.
"We could help!" Roberta said with energy. "We know the Buchanans' house very well. They have a basement and a side door that goes down to it. There's a key hidden outside."
Bruno said, "That's good! You two should stay here and try to hold yourselves together. I can make you cocoa, and—"
"No, we'd need to come with you," Roberta insisted. "You'd never find the hiding place under all this snow."
Bruno looked at Salvatore. The capo's lids lowered ever so slightly, but Cavaliero knew precisely what the expression meant. The two girls should be disposed of as far away from Bruno's chalet as possible. Bruno took a long, disappointed survey of the two innocents' bodies, then nodded at his boss.
The decision was made to send Muscles and Angie down to the lake area, along with the three CFOs as back-up. Bruno and Sal would guard the house, and Carmine would hustle down the dark private lane as far as he could, to make sure Gianni had not gotten stuck. The six departed, with the girls leading the way toward the flaming house.
As Bruno dimmed the living room lights almost to black, he focused on the CD. Nat King Cole sang Mel Tormé's "Christmas Song." He watched the front of the house while Sal surveyed the back, both with Glock pistols in their hands. The snow fell heavily, with the wind blowing strongly enough to make the flakes fly at a forty-five degree angle.
"Can't go to San Juan now," Sal said. "What the fuck happened?"
"I don't know," Bruno returned. "I guess we should have concentrated on a Peace on Earth meeting with people outside our circle instead. You think it's the Russians?"
"Could be. They're really taking advantage of the Land of Opportunity. Brooklyn, Philadelphia."
"They don't have the legal system in their pocket like we do. I'll get a boatload of them deported back to Mother Russia."
"If...it's them," Bruno said.
Sal walked casually across the room, with his pistol leveled at Bruno's heart. "Or is this a set-up by my esteemed host?" he asked.
"Don't be absurd," Bruno said, trying to act as unconcerned as he could. Sal Genero had gotten to the head of the syndicate by trusting no one and by dealing swiftly with suspected disloyalty with bullets or ice picks in the base of the skull.
Through the wind and across the many acres, Bruno thought he heard the faint sounds of multiple gunshots.
"Something's happening," Bruno reported. He opened one of the doors and peeked cautiously outside. More sharp cracks echoed in the distance.
The crime boss peered into the snow to his left. Carmine plunged forward, his mouth open, gasping for air. He had his gun in his bare hand.
"Johnny's dead!" Carmine shouted as he neared the two large SUVs.
Sal now stood on the chalet porch as well. "How?"
Carmine's teeth chattered lightly, both from the cold and fear. "A big fir tree was lying across the lane. That's what took out the wires. Johnny must have got out to look at it. Somebody shot him from behind. Emptied a whole clip into him. The tree had been chopped down. The car's front tires are flat."
Bruno looked at Sal. "That probably means four guys were sent up here. Those girls heard three, and that must have been at the same time as—"
"I got it," Sal said. "It could be like the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral down there."
Several bursts of gunfire echoed from the direction of the lake.
"Jesus!" said Carmine. He looked imploringly at Sal Genero. "What'll we do?"
As if to help inform the capo's response, the lakeside house that was not afire exploded as if it had been hit with a blockbuster bomb. The noise was tremendous, and even through the dense curtain of falling snow, a fireball like a nuclear bomb blast turned the isolated patch of Catskill land briefly to mid-day.
"God Almighty!" Carmine screamed. "What the fuck?"
"Somebody musta hit a really big propane tank," Bruno surmised. He looked at Salvatore. "Nothing to do now but see who survived."
"Even with all this snow, that could be heard for a couple miles," Sal said, after letting out a sigh. "Christ. I hate dealin' with small-town cops and state troopers. Even though we didn't do nothin'. My cajones are tinglin'; let's get inside."
The three mob men locked the doors and turned on the lights in both wings. Then they took up posts at various parts of the great room, watching for figures to emerge through the streaming snow. Robert Goulet sang "The Little Drummer Boy" with a children's choir. None of the watchers interrupted him. As the Mormon Tabernacle Choir began the "Hallelujah Chorus," Bruno rose from his chair.
"I see two lights coming this way from the lake," he reported. He pressed himself into the shadows near one of the windows that flanked the front doors. "Flashlights."
Carmine rose and approached warily. Sal continued to watch the landscape at the rear of the chalet.
"Those two girls," Bruno said.
Two ungloved hands rapped hard on the twin front doors. The sleigh bells rang out in counterpoint.
Bruno moved to the front doors and unlocked them. The sisters hurried inside. Their clothing and hair were covered with snow. They looked less panicked than they had the first time they entered.
"What happened?" Bruno asked.
Roberta, the older, said, "I found the key to the basement, and four of your friends went down."
"Who stayed outside?"
"A guy named Dominick," Gigi said.
"Great. They left the Shakiest Gun in the West outside," Sal lamented.
"We heard firing before the explosion. What was that?" Bruno asked.
"A few seconds after the shooting started inside the house, one guy tried to escape through the front door. He and Dominick started firing at each other," Roberta reported. "Dominick killed him."
"What about the explosion?" Sal wanted to know.
Gigi shrugged. "We were hiding back in the trees. It just happened."
Gigi had a Justin Bieber book pack slung onto her back. As she slipped it off, she said, "He walked close to the house, looking at the guy he had killed. The explosion threw him backward. When we went to him, he had a sharp piece of wood through his chest."
Bruno could see that the capo's mind was working furiously on how to handle the aftermath of the bloodbath. Bruno, too, was assembling the pieces of evidence, but his mind was distracted, wondering if there was some way they could rape the young sisters and dispose of them before outside witnesses arrived.
"Where did you get that backpack from?" Carmine asked, pointing at it.
Gigi made a stereotypical teenage face, shrugged again, and said, "I was so scared by those men breaking into our house that I grabbed it without thinking when we ran away. I have a project due first thing when we go back to school."
Carmine glanced at Sal with a dubious expression. Sal reached for the revolver he had holstered behind his back.
A moment later, Sal tumbled to the floor. A dark hole between his eyes began to ooze blood. Carmine looked dumbfounded at the younger sister, who had pulled an automatic pistol from her coat pocket and fired at the crime boss. The pistol's smoke described a narrow line as she retrained the muzzle on Carmine and fired twice into his chest. He sprang backward onto the floor, striking his skull sharply on the oak flooring. In spite of the immense pain filling his upper body, he groped for the revolver he had stuck into his belt. As his fingers tightened around the grip and guard, a hole appeared in his upper cheek. He lived long enough to hear the raucous report of the bullet that had created it.
Bruno had reached for his pistol the instant he saw Gigi's gun appear. At the same time, he registered from the corner of his eye the gun in Roberta's hand, rising toward his face.
"I lied about the backpack," Gigi told Bruno in an eerily calm voice.
"But, as you now know, we've been lying ever since we met you," Roberta chimed in. The CD had finished and begun again, once more playing "Winter Wonderland."
"Sleigh bells ring, are you listenin'?" Roberta sang softly. "We're the belles, come to slay all of you. If you don't want to die right away, take out the weapon with your left thumb and pinkie and drop it on the floor."
Bruno did as he was told. Time would be his only weapon. He had to hope that the fires and explosion had alerted somebody and that the police would arrive soon.
As Gigi took one of the high-backed wooden chairs from the foyer, Roberta turned the living room lighting up full. "Walk backward toward that open space. Slowly."
"There's no dead mommy or daddy," Bruno said.
"On the contrary. My daddy's been dead for more than three years. You killed Dan Travis in a pizza parlor."
"My father told my mother about the insurance policy. He said if he ever met with an accident, even if it didn't seem to have been created on purpose, that you would be behind it."
"The pizza parlor that was bombed on Coney Island Avenue? That was done by the Russian mafia."
Roberta doffed her knit cap and parka. In spite of his abject fear, Bruno could not help reassuring himself just how beautiful she was.
"We choose to believe our father."
"And you and your kind need to be exterminated anyway," Gig declared from behind. She had claimed her backpack and unzipped it. From it, she removed half a dozen industrial-size zip straps. She then positioned the straight-backed chair to face the chalet's kitchen. "Sit down!" While Gigi secured Bruno to the chair, Roberta said, "Our mother clued us in. My father shared everything with her. She was contacted by the insurance company, but she played dumb in order to keep us and herself safe. She thinks of Gigi and me as if we're still helpless little girls. She would never believe all the work we've done in the past three years to get to this night."
Bruno jerked his head back toward Sal's body. "I never did nothing that that man didn't tell me to do. And I never dared to not do it either. He was the one who ordered your father's death...for skimming profits, underpaying kickbacks. Your dad was no boy scout, ladies."
"Even if it were true, it's not enough to save you," Gigi said in a voice as emotionless as that of any hit man Bruno had ever known.
Bruno listened in vain for the sounds of sirens and possible salvation.
"You burned down two other chalets just to get to us," he stalled.
Roberta reached into the Justin Bieber backpack. "That was nothing. Hacking into your computer was the big challenge. I rented the Yukon Denali in your name this morning, with the information from one of your credit cards. We've left no fingerprints. The rest of the snowfall will cover our boot tracks. The final police report will be a bunch of question marks, but we're sure it will conclude that your three clans had a bad falling out. Or maybe another part of the Mob decided to bag you al...far away from The Big Apple."
From the backpack, Roberta pulled out a stick of dynamite with a generous length of fuse. She walked up to Cavaliero, bent, and unzipped his fly. Roughly, she stuffed the dynamite into the opening and partway down his left pant leg.
"We want you to go the way our father did," she said, patting his crotch familiarly. "But pardon us if we don't hang around to watch this last place go up. Thanks for the two Ski-doos. We'll take them to where we left our own car—"
"—and their removal will be the last unsolved piece of the puzzle," Gigi finished. She reached into the fireplace and, with the fire tongs, snatched out a piece of smoldering wood. "Got everything, Sis?" she asked in a breezy tone.
"Absolutely. I hope you bought a million dollar insurance policy for yourself," Roberta said to the mobster. She watched Gigi apply the pulsing-red, charred wood to the end of the fuse. As soon as it began to hiss and sputter like a Roman candle, the pair moved into the foyer, behind Bruno's range of vision. In clear, pretty voices, the younger sister began singing, "Sleigh bells ring/Are ya listenin'?" Then the door slammed. Bruno stared at the noisy sparks of fire that measured out his last moments.
Bruno heard the twin snowmobile engines roar to life. He immediately thrust his body backward, causing the chair to topple. Once on his back, he wasted no time in tilting to one side and then onto his face, with his head and upper body lying over the remaining fuse. The flaming part of the fuse was just above his head. He struggled mightily to throw himself toward the crackling, sparkling fire, like a tuna on the deck of a fishing boat, seeking the salvation of the sea. He failed.
The flame caught his toupee and set it burning. Bruno screamed from the searing pain, inhaled the stink of his flesh. With a gargantuan heave made possible by the adrenalin of injury and panic, he managed to roll over a full turn.
The fire atop Bruno's head went out. He laughed aloud with the realization that he had managed to put out the fuse. He would live to rape and kill both sisters.
And then Bruno heard the fizzle of another dynamite fuse.
The last survivor of the post-Christmas massacre contorted his neck to look toward the foyer. Inside the front doors lay three banded dynamite sticks, with flickering fuses almost upon them.
"Bitches!" he yelled.
Brent Monahan has been writing supernatural thrillers for thirty-five years. His reimagining of the vampire mythos in The Book of Common Dread merited quotes on the caliber of "Easily the best addition to the vampire genre since Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire.” (Indianapolis Star) His "An American Haunting/The Bell Witch" was the second of his novels to become a film, starring Sissy Spacek and Donald Sutherland. He also writes an American Progressive Era detective series that take place at gentlemen's clubs in the U.S. and abroad.
"I write what interests me and switch from genre to genre."
"Life is too short to churn out stuff I don't want to write."