Authors: Josie Daleiden
Tags: #fiction, #romance, #adventure, #fun, #funny, #temptation, #sell
“There is no mold, is there?”
“Nope, in fact, those forms are just my junk
mail. The fancy one on top was a Publisher's Clearing House Entry.”
The guy laughed to himself as he strolled back to his truck.
Joe stood there with a stupid grin on his
The wager with this girl might be more fun than he
As he jetted along the Pacific Coast Highway
later that day, he rang Sarah.
“That was real cute Miss Bella. I'm usually
the one to play dirty first.”
Sarah cradled her phone in the crook of her
neck as she stuck her sign into the damp lawn of her next sale. Her
heels dug into the soft ground while she listened to Joe's tale of
“I wanted to keep you on your toes. It's like
they say, 'In prison, stab the first person you see, or become
someone's bitch for the rest of your stay.' I'm not planning on
being your bitch, so consider this your first shanking.” She said
with a big evil smile. She wasn't sure why, but she felt a sort of
tingling rush that bordered on scary. She loved being the evil
ne'er do well, but being flushed with endorphins from acting like
this was sort of disconcerting.
“Enjoy your end zone dance little girl. As I
recall, we both have open houses from here until the end of the
wager. If you think you have any idea what's coming, you're wrong.
So, so wrong.” He hung up his phone and tossed it on the passenger
seat. With his own evil smile, he up shifted the screaming Porsche
and passed a slow moving pickup truck. He savored the jolt of
adrenaline as he ducked back into his lane just in time to miss a
This was gong to be fun...
The warm Southern California sun danced about
on the pool. Sarah handed out a mixture of appetizers and real
estate pamphlets to her crowd of possible buyers. She had hired a
bounce house, as well as a face painter to round out this open
house. She knew she would have to up her game, and she was going
for broke in an attempt to make every sale she could. As kids
splashed in the tiled pool, a group of parents smiled and chatted
amongst themselves. Sarah made her way to each little clique,
making sure that everyone had her info and answering any questions
along the way. As she stretched her long arms to the sky, she felt
truly at one with her self. She was in her element, and firing on
all cylinders. Jessica chose to help out with the open house, and
she strolled over to congratulate Sarah on a great turnout.
“It looks like you outdid yourself girl. Nice
work!” She touched her red plastic cup to Sarah's as they sat back
and watched the children frolicking on the lawn. “I wish this was
booze.” Jess admitted with a frown.
“Ugh, I'm off the sauce for awhile. The last
time I got plastered, I ended up groping a stripper.” Sarah said,
while she sipped from her cup full of fruit punch.
Jessica could only stare at her friend in
silence while her mouth hung open.
Across the tract, Joe was giving a group tour
through one of his houses. This particular one featured a
stunningly large underground wine cellar, an opulent add-on to an
already high- end home. As the group smiled and sipped top shelf
Merlot, Ernesto came in and motioned for Joe to come talk.
“So, what's going on over there?” He asked
Ernesto in a confidential tone.
“It's pretty bad. She's got a bounce house,
there's kids in the pool, and everyone looks happy.” He said to his
Joe mulled over this information as he
swirled the dark wine around in his mouth.
He loved a good
After a brief moment of silence, he pulled
out his phone and made a call. Ernesto listened in, and gave his
boss a perplexed look as he hung up.
“Boss man, ju sure you want to have a party
clown come here? This ain't the crowd for that.”
Joe gave his assistant a smile and held up
his glass to toast the affluent group. “Oh, it's not for us!”
The day wore on, and Sarah tried her best to
stay on the shaded patio. The etched concrete was stained a dark
green, and she found herself pondering it with idle relaxation. She
was shook out of her daydreams by Jessica, when she came sprinting
over on her tall heels.
“Oh my God Sarah! We've got a problem! A big,
Right as Sarah began looking around, she saw
a figure though the wrought iron gate that opened to the back yard.
Before she knew what happened, the large gate flew open, and a
filthy bum dressed as some kind of party clown came running into
the center of the lawn. The disgusting man stood right in front of
a crowd of moms and kids and blew a snot rocket right into the
“HEY KIDS! WHO WANTS TO MAKE BALOON ANIMALS
AND SHIT!! AH HAHAHAHA!!!” The wretched man yelled maniacally. With
that, he reached into his pants and pulled out a handful of
unrolled latex condoms. As he laughed and drank from a forty-ounce
bottle of beer, he sprayed the crowd with his foamy spittle. The
remaining moms and children filtered out of the backyard as if it
were filled with toxic waste. They shielded their young children
while they made their way around the creepy man and his disturbing
Sarah looked on as the back yard filtered
out. There was no chasing after them, and no second chances. This
day was done and gone. As Jessica finished prodding the creepy
clown out of the back yard at the end of a broom, Sarah felt an
email pling in:
Look at it this way; at least they won't bill
you for the therapy sessions!
BTW, The second strike of a samurai sword is
the deeper one. Keep that in mind next time Miss Bella!
Sarah could only groan in defeat. She knew
that this would only get darker weirder from her on out.
Her life became consumed with thoughts of
revenge. As the friendly, athletic girl she used to know herself as
slowly dissolved away, she found something much more confusing and
complicated underneath. As if she were a plaster statue eroded by
acid rain, her foundational armature of rusty, twisted wires was
beginning to show through.
Like all slow transformations, this one was
unnoticeable at first. Her gym attendance declined when she focused
her evenings on protecting her houses. The hot cocoa that was her
warm evening ritual became a tumbler full of scotch. She needed it
to help get to sleep, which was beginning to wane as well.
Through it all, was the grinding, teasing
contact she had with Joseph Blake. The enigmatic man seemed to know
everyone, and nobody seemed to have the full story on him.
Everything that was gleaned from her contacts was one half-truth
wrapped in a rumor that someone heard. Every day, he emailed her to
taunt her about the upcoming deadline. As her friends and family
fell out of touch with her, she became the very thing that Joe was
himself; a lonely, driven soul that sought stimulation in the most
avant garde ways. She became a regular at the Kitty Kat Ranch. At
first, it was to suss out intel on the real estate moguls who
gathered there. Later on, it just became a place on the way home to
grab a drink and chat with Roxy, her unlikely new friend.
“Girl, why do you keep coming in here?”
There's gotta be some cute little yuppie bar that would suit you
better.” Roxy teased, as she watched Sarah toss back a shot of
whiskey. “You better slow down. If I have to, I
cut off.” She admonished.
“Last one, I swear! I have to drive home you
know.” Sarah replied.
As the bright afternoon sun blasted into the
club, Sarah turned to see Jessica timidly walking in through the
open door. After the door closed, everything went back to its
regular hue of maroon and pink. Sarah watched over her shoulder as
“Sarah? Why did you want to meet me
?” She asked with a wide-eyed look on her face.
“Because, this is a quiet place to think.
Have a seat. Roxy, this is my friend Jessica. Jessica, this is my
friend Roxy.” Roxy smiled to the both of them, and strolled off to
offer up a private dance to a patron. With it down to just the two
of them, Jessica unleashed her full freak out.
“Oh my God! Sarah? What are you doing? You're
drinking in a strip club, and it's three in the afternoon! What’s
going on with you! I haven't seen you in the office in over a
week.” She blurted out in one long streak of syllables.
“Relax, I checked in with Mr. Nelson. By the
way, he's a silent partner in this place.” She said, gesturing
around with her empty shot glass. “I see him all the time in here.”
She let that new little morsel of knowledge swim around in Jess's
head while she stood up to stretch. After Jessica pulled her jaw up
off the floor, she continued her mother hen routine.
“This little wager between you and Joseph
Blake is blowing up. It's all anyone will talk about. The thing is;
you're actually both neck and neck! Not that you would know, since
you slid of the face of the Earth or something. You have two weeks
to go, and two more open houses. If you pull this off Sarah, you're
the one at the top of the dog pile!”
“Yeah, and if I don't I'm the indentured
servant to the most chauvinistic power monger this side of Genghis
Khan. Look, I just wanna finish up here and go have a shower.” Tell
the office hi for me.” She said. Sarah slid off of the pink vinyl
barstool and walked confidently out the door.
She struggled to adjust her eyes to the
bright sunny day, as she felt an email buzz in:
Hey, lets lay down the weapons for a bit and
get a drink.
Sarah looked long and hard at the message.
While she stared blankly at her phone, it began ringing loudly. So
startled that she almost dropped it in a storm drain, she unlocked
the screen and answered.
“Hey Joe! Are you calling a truce?” She
teased, as she fished her sunglasses out of her bag.
“No, but I am taking a time out so we can
catch our breath. Look, I need to relax and stretch my limbs before
we break for the final sprint. Lets just meet for cocktails and
call it good?” He offered.
“Make it dinner and you're on.” She replied
flatly. Her liver thanked her profusely for turning down more
“It's a deal. Why don't you come over to my
place then?” He said in a calculated manner.
“Hmm, going into the lion's den while it's
feeding time? I don't think so Joey boy.” She teased evenly in
“Ugh, look; I can cook like it's nobody's
business. I was merely offering to prepare a meal that I had
control over. That's all.”
Sarah's stomach growled and groaned at the
thought of a home cooked meal. All of her planning had left her as
a vessel full of takeout food and liquor store sandwiches.
“Alright, you have my stomach's attention. Where's your place at?”
She turned when she heard the telltale snarl of his turbocharged
Porsche. Looking up at her from the low-slung car, he smiled
genuinely as he reached over to open the door.
Sarah wasn't sure how she pictured Joseph
Blake's house. In her head, she had always envisioned him sleeping
in some kind of criostasis while his batteries recharged or
something. In reality, he had very good taste. The twisting,
Oceanside road dipped and switched through sunlit canyons as they
climbed above the other mansions and high-priced homes, and into
the hills even more. After one last turn, there arose in the hills
a brilliant white Spanish style villa, with pronounced archways and
winding vines. It was set into the cleft of the mountainside, with
Manzanita trees flanking the back and side yards as the property
spread into the hills behind. In front, a large reflecting pool
cast shimmering gold swirls upon the flawless, white plaster
exterior of the large house. While they waited for the entry gate
to slowly swing open, Joe cleared his throat and spoke up to break
“Sarah, I was serious. This is a reprieve
from our little wager. Tonight is off limits from everything else
we've done so far. Understand?”
Sarah nodded slowly as she took in his
intense, candid demeanor in the little car. “Uh, okay. A real truce
it is. Just like the Romans would do.”
The gate finished it slow swing, and Joe
swung the car into the opening garage that spread like a cavern
under the house.
“Like the Romans?” He asked with a smile, as
he came around to open her door. She swung her right leg out, and
had to give a demure smile of her own as he offered his hand to
help her out of the low slung car. She watched as Joe's wandering
gaze fell on her legs a little too long. She liked the attention,
but it still felt odd to be having dinner with the man who was
trying to best her at this dog-eat-dog competition.
Sarah continued her explanation. “During the
battle of Troy, the soldiers would take breaks to gather their dead
and celebrate the day's victories. Then the next day, it was back
to slaughtering one another.” She said. Sarah followed him in
through the entryway to the main living room.
She tried to take in the entire interior at
once, but it was difficult to say the least. Facing towards the
ocean was a wall of plate glass windows that stretched from the
floor level, all the way up to a loft-style library that was
accessed by an ornate spiral staircase. The opposite wall was
festooned with a mix of curio cabinets and large canvas paintings.
The paintings ranged from impressionist, all the way to garish
graphitti-style street art. A low-angled wall that jutted off
toward the entry way was decorated with photos that looked like the
ones from the sushi place.
“So, what do you think?” Sarah was startled
out of her appraisal, as she whipped around to see that he was
standing behind her with a glass of wine.
“Oh my God! You scared the daylights out of
me!” Where did you go?”