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Leading Lady
Leading Lady
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Heywood gives an overview of the book:

A super-charged story full of bad guys, a lot badder guys (among them rogue Feds, Russian and Albanian mobsters and locally-grown mafiosi) and a not-that-bad bad guy you can come to love and root for. Jerry Lang, by name. Lang, a thief practically from when he was a toddler, usually steals on demand. That is, he gets an assignment from a fence, mentor, whatever, to rip off a bit of property that someone else covets. This time it's a valuable piece of art, and he and his "leading lady" - Gloria, a very lovely, erotic head-turner whose role is to distract any man who might get in Jerry's way - head off to work. But things go wrong and Gloria vanishes and most certainly has ended up buried in the Bronx or some other godawful place and Jerry himself almost gets the final push to Hell but ends up in jail for a couple of years. (I'm really not...
Read full overview »

A super-charged story full of bad guys, a lot badder guys (among them rogue Feds, Russian and Albanian mobsters and locally-grown mafiosi) and a not-that-bad bad guy you can come to love and root for. Jerry Lang, by name.

Lang, a thief practically from when he was a toddler, usually steals on demand. That is, he gets an assignment from a fence, mentor, whatever, to rip off a bit of property that someone else covets.

This time it's a valuable piece of art, and he and his "leading lady" - Gloria, a very lovely, erotic head-turner whose role is to distract any man who might get in Jerry's way - head off to work.

But things go wrong and Gloria vanishes and most certainly has ended up buried in the Bronx or some other godawful place and Jerry himself almost gets the final push to Hell but ends up in jail for a couple of years. (I'm really not giving much away: Gloria is disposed of in the first few pages.) From this point on Jerry lives with one major motivation.

Revenge.

Revenge drives the tale, and it's like watching a Nascar event. Fast, dangerous, sexy.

And this is a pretty sexy book. Chapter One introduces us to Jerry's leading lady with a warm, tender and glowing post-coital description of her body, her near-perfect bone structure and just how Jerry feels about her: He truly loves her. It's afternoon, with the theft of the artwork planned for that night, and they've made love mostly because if the caper turns bad he wants his last memories to be of Gloria's essence.

The cast of characters include a sly and crafty mafia boss surrounded by mostly loyal but dim goons and a coked-up lieutenant impatient to step up and depose the boss so he can sit at a table in an Italian restaurant with the other Dons in $4,000 silk suits. The scariest villain and Jerry’s most formidable foe is the corrupt and mega nouveau-riche Russian oligarch who has the goods on some important American politicos and can therefore command and receive protection and favors from secret U.S. Army operatives working under the auspices of a shadow government agency.

But the story is really about the Leading Lady, beginning with Gloria and ending with her replacement, Letitia Hastings: actress/lap dancer/actress but, finally, Jerry’s true Leading Lady.

Murders, double-crosses and more, straight to an explosive and chilling ending.

 

Read an excerpt »

LEADING LADY
HEYWOOD GOULD

Copyright © 2008 by Heywood Gould.
Five Star, an imprint of The Gale Group. Thomson and Star Logo and
Five Star are trademarks and Gale is a registered trademark used herein
under license.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents
are either the product of the author’s imagination, or, if real, used
fictitiously. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any
form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying,
recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the
express written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by
law. Set in 12 pt. Futura.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
First Edition. First Printing: February 2008. Published in 2008
in conjunction with Tekno Books and Ed Gorman.
Printed in the United States of America on
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

LEADING LADY
HEYWOOD GOULD

FIVE STAR
An imprint of Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation
THOMSON
<=^=>
GALE
Detroit < New York < San Francisco < New Haven, Conn < Waterville, Maine < London

AUGUST 2006
“JERRY LOVES GLORIA”

Lang traced it with his fingernail on the cool, silken curve
of Gloria’s behind.

“Guess what I wrote,” he said

She yawned. “I can’t.”

“You can too.” He slid his nail across the small of her
back. She shivered and tried to suppress a moan. After all
these years she still had to be seduced and he loved her for it.

He traced “Gloria loves Jerry” on the other cheek. “Guess.”

She turned over. Stretching languidly, she grasped the
bedpost. “Gloria loves . . . pizza. I’m hungry, Jerry.”
He nuzzled the fragrant stubble on her thighs. Her essence
rose in a cloud around him. “I can never get you to say the L
word.”

“I say it and you’ll be gone in the morning.”

“After five years you still don’t trust me.”

She raised her belly off the bed and arched her back.

“Can’t trust anybody who makes me feel like this.”

The sun slanted through the blinds, but stopped
discreetly short of the bed. Her body glowed like a pearl in the
gloom. It was so quiet it seemed time had stopped.

He always wanted to make love on the afternoon of a
score. He told her it relaxed him, but it was really his way of
saying good-bye. In case the thing went south that night and
he got caught he wanted to make sure he had her smell in his
nose and on his fingertips, her taste on his tongue, so he would
have the memory that much longer until it faded. But he never
told her that.

“Nervous?” he asked.

“Edgy,” she said.

He explored the places on her body where one part
ended and another began. The secret spot where her ass flowed
into her legs. The downy trail to her navel, the smooth hollow
of her belly and above it the hard ridge of her ribs that led to a
meadow of soft flesh beneath her breasts. He kissed the warm
pulse on her neck just under her ear. Her lips parted and she put
her finger in her mouth as if she had forgotten something. Eyes
squinty shut . . . Waiting . . .
Gloria, Gloria, Gloria . . .

“WHAT ARE WE STEALIN’?”

Gloria asked.

“Self Portrait by Isaac Levitan.”

He showed her a photo of the drawing. The head of
a long- haired young man with a trim goatee and an amused
expression like he was laughing at a secret joke.

She stared at it, shaking her head. “This thing is worth
millions? You can get a guy on Sixth Avenue to do it for fifteen
bucks . . .”

“Aintcha got no culture, bitch?”

He read her the description he had taken off the
Internet.

“The work of Isaac Levitan belongs to the highest
achievements of Russian culture,” it said, and went on about
how Levitan had been friends with “the cream of the Russian
intelligentsia and had been adopted by Anton Chekhov.” He
hadn’t painted that many pictures in his short life. Most of his
work was already in museums, so what was in private hands
was priceless.

“What’s the fat Albanian gonna do with this priceless
work of art?” she asked

“Hanif won’t do nothin’. He got the contract from Tony
Rasso, who probably got it from Joe Di, who probably got it
from some crooked art dealer. He pays us forty-five and gets
a hundred from the dealer who’s probably got a buyer lined
up for a coupla mil . Everybody makes more goin’ up the food
chain. We’re on the bottom. We do all the heavy liftin’ and we
get the least . . .”

“How do we go up to the next level?”

“Get different parents.”

Lang had jogged past the building for a quick look. It was
what they called “prewar,” which meant built in the ’20s with
ledges and overhangs and flying buttresses that made climbing
easy in case you had to get out fast. It had big picture windows
overlooking Central Park. Fourteen floors with a penthouse, one
duplex to a floor. Small lobby, one elevator, no operators. The
elevators opened onto the apartments so all you had to do was
push the floor button, pick the lock on the elevator door, and
you were in. There was probably a silent alarm that rang at the
security office. Not a problem. He’d be long gone by the time
the cops showed up.

He had rented two rooms at the Orsini, a tourist trap
across from Lincoln Center, for the drop. One room was down
the hall from the other. The plan was for Gloria to get there early
and watch through the peephole to make sure Hanif wasn’t
sending guys to rip them off .

She laughed at his precautions. “Look at all the money
Hanif makes on you. He wouldn’t hurt a hair on your head.”

“Ever hear the story of the scorpion and the frog?” he
asked. “The scorpion says, ‘Gimme a ride across the pond on
your back.’ The frog says, ‘If I do you’ll sting me.’ The scorpion
says, ‘No I won’t ’cause I’ll drown.’ Off they go. But in the
middle of the pond the scorpion stings the frog. As they’re dyin’
the frog says, ‘Why’d you do this?’ The scorpion says, ‘I’m a
scorpion, it’s my nature.’ Hanif’s a crook. It’s his nature to screw
people even if he screws himself in the bargain.”

Gloria winced. “I’ve had enough of this world, and the
shmucks in it.”

“Don’t worry,” he said. “After this you won’t have nothin’
to do with them.”

She was still warm and flushed from the shower, a towel
wrapped like a turban around her head. Lang nibbled a tiny hair
curling out of one of her baby pink nipples. How come you always
look so good? You never do anything but smoke weed
and drink champagne . . .

“When I hit thirty it’ll all start saggin’.”

“What’ll you do then, get surgery?”

“You kiddin’, I can’t wait to get fat and ugly. Maybe
men will leave me alone.”

She put on a simple black cocktail dress and threw
a distressed leather jacket over it for that “I could care less”
touch. He wore the tuxedo with the black silk shirt and the red
string tie with the diamond steer’s head clasp that he’d bought
in Houston. Put his tools in a Mark Cross envelope.

At seven thirty they took a cab to Fifty-ninth and Fifth
and walked along the park side. A line of gleaming limos was
in front of the building. A young crowd, sleek and sexy, was
streaming in. The paparazzi were making a commotion taking
pictures at the entrance. It was a high-profile party, Security
checking invitations at the door.

“This is a pretty stupid time to hit the building,” she
said.

“It’s the only window we have,” he said. “Act impatient.
Rich people don’t like to be kept waiting.”

She gave him a shove. “Take a walk around the block,
coach. I know what to do.”

The wisecracks gave him a pang. Her attitude had
fooled him for years. After going through three leading
ladies who had broken down at crucial moments he thought
he had finally found a cool customer. But after they became
lovers, after he got through to her softness, he realized that
the wisecracks were just a cover. She was scared stiff . But
she always stepped up. A light rain began to fall. Chauffeurs
opened beach umbrellas to escort their clients to the door.
Lights blazed on the seventh floor where the party was, but
almost every other window was dark.

Lang hid in the horde of autograph hounds and celebrity
groupies clustered at the curb. A security guy checking invitations
gave Gloria that look of disbelief guys got when they saw her. A
paparazzo tried to take her picture and the security guy shoved
him away. Then he escorted Gloria into the entrance. Lang could
see she was getting a good look at the guest list. He walked to
the door and heard her say, “There’s my husband.” She ran
out and grabbed his arm. “Here you are . . .” And whispered:
“We’re Fred and Molly Hutchinson. You came straight from
work and forgot the invitation.” As they neared the entrance she
went into her peevish rich wife act. “. . . And this photographer
jumped up in my face—that creep over there—and wouldn’t
leave me alone until this nice man chased him . . .”

The security guy blushed. “No problem . . .”

“Did you bring the invitation?” Gloria asked.

Lang slapped at his pockets. “Oh jeez, I must have left it
in my suit at the office. Should I go back?”

“No, it’ll be all over by then.” Gloria turned pleadingly
to the security guy. “Could you trust us, please. Fred and Molly
Hutchinson.”

The security guy checked the list. “Where do you live?”

“Eight Seventy Third Avenue.”

He gave her a keen look. “That the building on the corner
of Eighty-eighth?”

“That’s it,” she said with a secret “call me” smile.

Lang played the clueless husband. “Thanks man.”

They squeezed into the elevator with some giddy gay
guys, who checked Gloria out, memorizing her style, while they
talked about what was hot at the silent auction.

The elevator groaned and wobbled like the Ferris wheel
at Coney Island.

“That’s New York for you,” Lang said. “Ten million-dollar
apartments and they still have the original elevator.”

The door opened onto a gala scene. Everything was
black and gold and bubbly. Guests did the room with the
precise choreography of hardened party people.

“What if the real Fred and Molly show up?” Gloria
asked.

“They’ll give their tickets to the other security guy,” he
said.

“What if they don’t?”

“They will,” he said. “God protects drunks and cat bur-
glars . . .”

Gloria grimaced in annoyance. “Can I get a straight
answer?”

“Do one turn around the room and leave,” he said.

“Your work is done.”

As soon as she hit the vestibule he could see heads
turning. A waiter came up to offer her a cocktail.

The door closed and he pushed twelve. The elevator
got to the floor and stopped. The lock was rudimentary, the
same one they used on the mailboxes. He had a thin metal
pick in his case. A push and a twist and the door slid open.
A narrow foyer led to a large living room. Lang played his
pencil flash across the room. If there was a motion sensor it
had already picked him up. Worst case he’d have at least a
minute. He took a deep breath and walked quickly into the
living room, panning the flash. There was a lot of art on the
walls, paintings with lights hanging over them. No simple pen,
ink, and watercolor drawings. Could be in the study or the
master bedroom.

He walked to the end of a long hallway.

The master bedroom was large and hexagonal. There
was a round bed with black silk sheets under a round canopy.
The smell of weed hung in the air. Bottle of cognac on the night
table; big-screen TV with a pile of porno cassettes; Jacuzzi ,
douche, and a steam shower in the master bath: the room read
“player,” a guy whose money had come fast and shady.
Lang spotted the drawing in a short hall that led to the
library. No light over it, a cheap lacquered frame. Hung in an
obscure spot like it had been put up to cover an empty space on
the wall.

He broke the frame and slid the drawing out. He rolled it
up in plastic laundry wrap and put the package in a Bergdorf’s
shopping bag.

In the elevator, he turned the key, relocking the floor.
He heard a blast of gaiety when he passed the seventh floor.
Downstairs, guests were streaming in. The security guy didn’t
even see him leave.

In the cab he called Gloria at the Orsini. “Everything
cool?”

“I’m watching Horny Housewives on Spectravision.”

“Hold that thought, I’ll be right over.”

He called Hanif .

“Done?” Hanif asked.

“We’ll be at the Orsini Hotel, room three eleven.”

“Where you find this place, Hicksville?” Hanif loved his
American slang.

“Look in the Yellow Pages.”

Tour buses were double parked outside the Orsini. The
lobby was full of anxious foreigners sitting on their luggage.
Lang always got a room on a low floor so they could make a
quick getaway. A red-cheeked family clutching theater tickets
pushed their way onto the elevator as he got off .

He went to 321 and put the Bergdorf’ shopping bag on
the bed. He called room service and ordered champagne for
311. Piper Heidsieck was the best they had. As he walked down
the hall he heard parental voices raised, toddlers screeching
behind the doors. He knocked softly.

The door opened. A big guy with a blonde buzz cut and
rim- less glasses stepped out of the darkness. “We got your girl,”
he said. He shined a flashlight beam on the back wall. It caught
Gloria standing in the corner. A shadowy figure was behind
her. A thick hand with a ruby pinky ring was over her mouth.

Hanif set me up, he thought.

Another guy came out from behind Buzz Cut with a big
gun, maybe a .45. He put the barrel to Lang’s forehead, while
Buzz Cut frisked him.

“Give it up,” Buzz Cut said.

“Look, we’re all professionals here,” Lang said. “Let’s
talk this over.”

Buzz Cut shifted his weight. Lang knew what was coming
and steeled himself . A big fist crashed into the side of his jaw.
He staggered and tried to stay on his feet, but the floor came
up and cracked him in the head. He heard a muffled shriek. It
sounded like Gloria, crying. “Jerry . . .”

“You don’t have to roughhouse the girl,” he said.

Somebody kicked him in the ribs. The breath flew out
of him. “Three twenty-one,” he gasped. “Card key’s in my
pocket.”

Buzz Cut stuck out his foot and rolled him over. Snatched
the card out of his pocket. “Take the girl,” he ordered.

Lang could hear Gloria cursing behind that thick hand.
There was a scuffle as they dragged her out.

Buzz Cut stepped hard on the back of his neck. “If it’s
not there, she’s dead.”

“It’s there. Why would I lie?”

The door opened. The light flooded in. The door closed.
It was dark.

Lang tried to get up, then stopped. In the silence the air
screamed like a million sirens. Someone was in the room. A
chair squeaked. Lang focused on a spot at the corner of the bed.
A foot appeared. He grabbed an ankle and pulled.

A shot cracked, the bullet crashing into the rug next to
him. He twisted the ankle and raised it off the floor. He could feel
the guy fall back and fight for balance. Lang pulled harder. The
guy went down with a thud that shook the room.

Lang scrambled over a thick, squirming body. He found
the gun hand and twisted the wrist. Grabbed a clump of hair.
Slammed a face into the floor once . . . twice . . . three times. The
gun came loose.

Gotta get Gloria.

The guy rolled over pinning him against the bed. Lang
slammed him in the head with the gun, but the guy kept coming,
arms and legs churning.

Gotta get outta here.

Lang pulled the trigger. The gun jumped, the acrid smell of
cordite biting into his nose. The arm went limp.

Lang crawled over the body.

“Gloria!”

He opened the door and stumbled out, blinking in the
harsh light.

“Freeze! Police officers.”

The hallway was full of guns all pointed at him.

Cops. How did they get here?

“Turn around or you’re dead.”

People rushed by him into the room. Somebody yanked
the gun out of his hand.

“Major Hartung, get in here,” somebody yelled.

“Donofrio’s down.”

“Sonofabitch!”

Buzz Cut came at him. Then he was falling. Eyes closed,
clawing at the air. Falling, falling, wind roaring in his ears.

Calling . . .

Gloria . . .

“THE RUSSIAN IS ANGRY,”

the Voice said.

Major Cliff Hartung, Delta Force on temporary
assignment to Special Ops Domestic wanted to throw that
stupid red phone against the wall. It had been an impossible
operation from the get-go and now he was going to take the
heat for its failure.

“I don’t know what happened, sir. Last I saw Lang was
out cold on the floor.”

“Well he got up, didn’t he?” the Voice said. “The
Russian is calling all over town. He’s spoken to my bosses and
to their bosses. He wants to know what happened.”

“I put him down hard, sir. All Donofrio had to do was
to shoot him.”

“You should have had two men in the room.”

“With two men it would have been tougher to justify
killing him while he was unarmed.”

“Easier than trying to resolve the problem now that he
is alive,” the Voice said. “You should have picked a better
man.”

“Donofrio was the only reliable person we could get.”

The Voice snapped. “The Army is like baseball, Major.
Three alibis and you’re out.”

“Sorry sir.”

“Do you know who the Russian is?”

“Yes sir, I recruited him,” Hartung said, but he knew
that wouldn’t stop the lecture.

“He’s our connection to all the big oil broker s in Central
Asia.”

“Yes sir, I know that.”

“He’s our best source of information in that area.”

“I know.”

“He makes a lot of money for a lot of important
people.”

“Yes sir, I surmised that.”

“A word from him can make or break both of our careers.
Do you understand that, Major?”

“Yes sir.”

“We promised we would take that individual out of his
life.”

“I know, sir.”

“Do you have any ideas on how to proceed going
forward?”

“Not yet.”

“Well, get some.”

“Yes sir.”

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Note from the author coming soon...

About Heywood

Born in the Bronx and raised in Brooklyn, Heywood Gould got his start as a reporter for the New York Post. Later he financed years of rejection with the usual colorful jobs - cabdriver, mortician's assistant, industrial floor waxer, bartender and screenwriter. He has written...

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Aug.27.2008

As many readers know, I love a good thriller/mystery. Some are your conspiracy, big government types where the main character is a rogue agent trying to save themselves and the world. Others involve a...

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