The Cases of Lenora X, Domme Detective: The Cryptic Man, Epilogue

Bernard Klein was born into one of Blog City's most prominent Jewish families, from a long line of rabbis and scholars.  At an early age he demonstrated impressive prowess in languages, learning Hebrew and Aramaic and Greek at a pace and depth far above what would be typical for his age.  His future as the greatest scholar in the family's history seemed certain.

But Bernard Klein's story takes a left turn somewhere along the line, and accounts vary.  Some say he dropped out and took massive amounts of acid, and peyote.  Or he went to Tibet.  Or he joined the French Foreign Legion.  Or worked the circuit as a rodeo clown.  Whatever it was, some years later he returned,
traditional studies left behind but with a passion to pursue and understand absolutely everything.  People gave him the nickname Crazy, and he embraced it, allowing people to think they knew something about him, knowing all the time that they knew nothing about him.

I needed to talk to him.  Sometimes I went to his apartment;  sometimes he just would end up being where I was.  Today I had the strong certainty that Crazy was not at home.  But if he wasn't home, where was he?  I didn't know, but I did know I needed coffee, and I wasn't far from Rondo's  and the last time I bumped into Crazy when I needed him was at Rondo's.  Good enough for Me.

I walk into Rondo's and of course, there he is.  He looks at me with those eyes that seem to look completely through you, silently telling me there's no point in asking why.  I smile and sit down at his table.  "Madame E . . . this is a pleasant surprise."   We both laugh . . . him, genuinely, Me, somewhat nervously -- I hadn't actually  expected to find him here, of course.

I place My order and dive right in.  For a reclusive philosopher-king, Crazy is well-versed on the news of the city . . . he had heard and read about the shootout.  I filled him in on the parts not in the papers . . . about how whoever it was, was after Me, the Frankie Boots connection, the entire story, culminating with My worries that mandy and I are going to be killed for no reason -- I have no idea who killed Frankie any more than I had when it happened 10 years ago.  The girl I love, madly, desperately  passionately, Dominantly . . . might well lose her life for the crime of knowing Me.  And I can't do a fucking thing about it.

As was his way, Crazy Klein listened without interrupting at all.  I sipped My Cafe Americano while Crazy mulled it over a long moment.  Finally he spoke, eyes strongly focused on Me.

"One can't ever conclusively prove to another that one doesn't know something.  And, as you pointed out, it's logical to assume that if the parties in question thought you knew something, they've have acted against you long before this.  So perhaps they have reason to think you've come upon new information -- maybe  someone told them you did, out of stupidity or malice.  I find this possibility pretty remote."

I nodded, listening, sipping. He was right.  That wasn't what was going on here.

Crazy took a bite out of a salt bagel, as if regrouping.  He washes it down with some coffee and continues.

"But if we assume that the killers were not told that you were onto them, then finding a motive becomes tricky.  But that is the root of the problem."  I look at him, puzzled.

"We waste a lot of precious time and good energy trying to ascribe motives to the actions of our fellow humans.  And, 99% of the time . . . once we know the motive we struggled so mightily to find, we are not better off than before . . . often we're worse off, having weakened ourselves with the wasteful search, and having made ourselves more cynical and uncaring in the process."

I start to protest but Crazy seems to read My thoughts before I can voice them, and makes his counterargument.

"Tell Me, Madame E.  If they want you bad enough, can you prevent it?  The obvious resources and ruthlessness these people have shown . . . is there anywhere on Earth you could hide, if they really wanted you dead?"  I had to admit that there was no avoiding it if they wanted Me that badly.

"And so, knowing why gains you zero.  Suppose this hit man, Vallie, had cornered you.  And further suppose he knew the motives of those who hired him.  Would you be able to talk him out of it?  Or even get him to tell you the precious 'why?' "

Crazy's reasoning was, as usual, sharp and undeniable. But I didn't see how his insight helped Me.  Maybe it didn't help to know why . . . but how was not knowing superior?

He smiled at Me . . . I was sure he was several steps ahead of Me already.

"I sense your dilemma, Madame.  If knowing and not knowing are equal, then it's better to know, yes?"  I nodded.  That seemed clear.

"Will you be less vigilant, not knowing?  Will you strive less hard to protect mandy?  Will you omit any necessary step because you don't know the motive?"

I shook My head.  "Of course not, no."

He took another bite, letting that sink in a little.  "Exactly so.  But knowing will warp you.  Imagine knowing why someone wants to kill you without knowing who.  Even the strongest person would be changed deeply by that . . . and not for the better.  Be vigilant, and figure out who, then why will fall into your lap.  People create motives, Madame E, not the other way around."

We were silent for a long time.  Crazy's argument was of course 100% correct, but was the emotional equivalent of castor oil;  it was good for Me in the long time, but right now it was twisting My insides.

I brought up the other thing that was bugging Me -- the cryptic crossword clues at the murder scenes.

Klein nodded, deep in thought.  "I wonder a little about that myself.  There is the superficial reason -- a way of trying to make the cops think the killings were the work of a psycho with a grudge against Kingley.  But knowing now that you were the ultimate target, you have to look a little deeper.  And this may be the first clue that leads you to the who of this case."

He must've read My blank expression, and pressed on.  "Consider, Madame E.  The clues left at the murders are known in crosswording circles as . . . ?"

"Cryptic," I said.

"Yes.  Cryptic.   A clue that defines the answer, but does so while masquerading as something else and giving oblique hints.  Every cryptic clue has at least a semblance of "surface sense," something to distract the solver, lead the solver down the wrong path, masking the true intent and direction of the clue.  The person you're looking for is clearly bold, but at the same time enigmatic.  Fearless, but cautious.  Wanting to reveal himself, but committed to the game of pretending it's all a secret."

He laughed.  "Doesn't sound like such a man can exist . . . and that is the frustrating beauty of it.  Just as a well-constructed cryptic clue seems impenetrable, until at a certain moment the tumblers fall into place and the answer becomes glaringly, instantly obvious. The killer you seek is like that . . . a Cryptic Man.  Someone who is invisible, unstoppable . . . until revealed, and then he's transparent.  And after that one sees the transparency and nothing else."

I gave him a hug and got up to go.  He tried to pay but I stopped him and put money on the table.  "This one's on me, Mr. Klein."

I hailed a cab, having a little more clarity if nothing else.  I laugh as I recall one of Crazy Klein's maxims from a previous chat:  Clarity is overrated.

*     *     *

The three of us were taking in the great ribs and live music at Memphis Blues.  Somewhere between bites of cornbread and healthy slugs of beer, King dropped his bombshell.

"X, mandy . . . I have a proposal for you.  Then, if the proposal is accepted, there's a present for each of you."  I stopped eating and looked at him.  I had no idea what was coming out of his mouth next.

King lowered his voice a little.  "I want to hire you on a retainer basis.  I've come to realize that being 100% legit is a lot more complicated in many ways than being a crook, and I have a lot of need for your access and abilities.  Money isn't really an object . . . I need the peace of mind of knowing certain things are being handled competently."

I looked at mandy and she started back at Me.  I got up and extended My hand.  "We'll be right back."  I practically dragged mandy to the bathroom with Me.

We went to the huge handicapped stall on the end and locked the door and exchanged whispers.

"Do we want to do this?"

mandy looked at Me and gave Me the practical end.  "It would be a lot of money, Miss."

I nodded.  That it would be.  I wasn't getting any younger . . . if I could keep the big paydays coming for a while I just might avoid mandy and I living in a refrigerator carton down on Boston St. in our golden years.

"But money's not everything, mandy."  she looked down, either out of respect or to subtly draw My attention to the designer shoes I was wearing.  "There's independence.  If we do this, he can't become our only client . . . nothing sadder than a mob lawyer."

mandy nodded.  I pulled her close.  "Should we do this?"  Other than find out more, which I hadn't done by impulsively pulling us from the table.

she pressed closer, as if trying to burrow inside.  "I think we should, Miss . . . worst case we go back to the way it is now," she murmured.

she had a point there.  King was no longer a gangster . . . working for him wasn't a do or die proposition.

Of course I was sleeping with the guy, which complicated matters a bit.  At least I think it did.  But mandy was aware of that and still told Me to go ahead with it.  she was a special girl, to say the least.

I kissed her.  "Well, let's see what he's thinking, exactly . . . I'll lay out some terms, and we'll see where it goes."

We emerged from the stall, getting a funny look from the woman at mirror fixing her mascara.

We sat down again and I laid it out for King.

"It's a tempting, fascinating, offer.  But we have to remain independent -- we continue to work for other clients."

King nodded.

"I don't want to move the office.  We just moved in and we love it there."

Again King silently accepted.

"We don't do anything illegal.  I'll bend the law but I won't break it for you."

King started to smile.

"And . . . last but not least, I don't expect to be nickel-and-dimed about expenses. I --"

King help up a hand.  "I think it might be time for your presents."  King reached down and pulled out two designer bags . . . handing Me the Kate Spade and mandy the Rebecca Minkoff.

I looked at the bag, and at mandy, and at mandy's bag, then back at King.  I wasn't making the connection until I opened My bag and looked inside.

There had to be $100,000 in there.  I looked up at King, then over at mandy.  The look on her face told me hers was full of cash, too.  she handed it to Me and I looked inside.  Probably 50 grand in there.

King's voice cut through the silence.

"Deal?"  He did have a way of quickly reducing a question to its brutal essence.

We looked at each other . . . it seemed not so much a good idea as a not-terrible idea.  I knew, in My line of work, and in My line of desire and aptitude, money and a forceful personality go a long way.

"Deal, I said," and picked up a rib and munched, happier and lighter. . . irrationally so, perhaps.

The music caught My attention.  Whoever ran this place for King had a knack for finding the perfect bands for it:  talented, but focused, hard-working . . . the style never far from the basic, speaking right to your guys, with just enough embellishment to keep you interested, wondering.

I am overly influenced by music, this I know.  I sometimes hook into the lyrics, the sound, and let them take Me farther away than is sometimes healthy.  The band was churning out "Who Do You Love?" and I got a shiver . . .

I walked 47 miles of barbed wire,
Used a cobra snake for a neck tie.
Got a brand new house on the roadside,
Made out of rattlesnake hide.
I got a brand new chimney made on top,
Made out of human skulls.
Now come on darling let's take a little walk, tell me,
Who do you love

I looked silently at mandy, then at King.  He was thinking of the load off his mind.  mandy was mentally running through what she'd need to do to facilitate the new arrangement.  But I was consumed by the music, and felt dark desires surging through Me.  I wanted them both, six ways from Sunday, and I was going to have everything I wanted.  Now.

I looked at King.  "Let's go home and celebrate," in a tone that brooked no resistance.  It was all I could do not to put a leash on mandy and lead her out on all fours.  But I would hold onto decorum . . . for a few . . . minutes . . . more . . .

*     *     *

Thank you to everyone who loves and supports Me, through crummy moods and crummy health and crummy everything else in between.  lissa, storm . . . I couldn't make it through without you.  I love you.

The Cases of Lenora X, Domme Detective: The Cryptic Man, Part 17

True to My spontaneous prediction, Arty was, in effect, too fat to die.  The bullet resulted in blood loss and a lot of pain but he was going to make it.

I sat there at the side of his hospital bed watching The Price Is Right on the little TV.  To Me it seemed obvious that this show could be markedly improved by making "Barker's Beauties" actual sex slaves in fetish apparel.  Well . . . a few centuries down the road, maybe.

I looked at Arty as I got up.  "Extremely clever plan, Arty -- getting shot to avoid the ball-busting you would've gotten for rear-ending a parked car!"  He laughed, then winced.   l laughed too . . . when he was all better I'd set him up with a couple of friends of Mine for real "ball-busting."

I smiled at him.  "Thank you for everything, pal.  You feel better.  I'll be back tomorrow."

*     *     *

The investigation of the shootout had been mercifully brief.  The PR fallout was not so brief, as the usual pinheads in positions of public trust grandstanded for all they were worth, pathetically but predictably trying to shake loose a few extra votes here and there by questioning the police force, the mayor, and any other handy target.  But in the end it would amount to nothing . . . a few headlines for a couple of days, until there was a water main break or a jewelry store smash and grab to capture the front pages.

I'd been given back a few things the police had collected in the course of their investigation.  One was a note on a strip club flyer found on the floor, folded up with two $100s inside.  I looked at the note again:

Madam -- I'm returning Your $200.  It turns out the name I gave you was wrong.  It wasn't Vale, it's actually Vallie.  I am sorry.   --Squids

Squids was that rarest of commodities in an increasingly shallow and faithless world -- a stand-up guy with no inflated opinion of himself or of his importance in the world.  It would be wrong for Me to not recognize that, in the only tangible way Squids would appreciate and understand.

I head downtown.  It's the worst time of day for this errand -- too late to catch Squids having breakfast at the decrepit but innocuous Cappy's Caboose, but still early enough that Smokey's is as depressing as can be -- the late-morning darkness cocooning the broken souls inside, made so obvious when the door opens and lets that merciless light inside for a moment.

I open the door to Smokey's and it hits you all at once.  The sharp contrast of daylight and near-darkness, the smell of old booze and old boozers, and the eyes that linger a little too long, everyone expecting no one other than another of their band of daytime drunks coming in at this hour.

My eyes struggle to adjust to the sudden darkness but Squids is at his usual table.  I walk over to him, ignoring and silently chastising the starers as I move.

Squids, as always, is gracious, surprised.  "Madame!  Wonderful to see you!"

I smile.  "Hello, Squids.  I need to talk to you.  But not in here.  Meet Me at 12:30 at the BC Grille."

I get up and am making My way back towards the door before he can even respond.  I've already spent more time in this dump than I would want to in a year.

The need to give Squids a decent interval between us meeting and him leaving Smokey's created the perfect opportunity for some shoe-shopping, the perfect palate cleanser.  John And Suzyn's wasn't far away and could always be counted upon for the latest, greatest, and most thrilling selection around.

Before I know I'm lost in paradise.  The helpful, gracious staff, the cappuccino as you shop, the variety of shoes from classic to fashion-forward and everything in between . . . the time literally flies by.  Just as I've settled on a pair of gorgeous Christian Louboutin stilettos I notice the time.  I pay and make My exit.  The BC Grille isn't far and I know Squids will be absolutely punctual.

The BC Grille is nice enough . . . they put out a decent burger, very good fries, good drinks, all served in a pleasant downtown atmosphere.  It's the sort of place that will never be on foodies' radar, but at the same time isn't insulting one's intelligence and taste.  Part of the food backbone of the city.  Always there, and necessary.  But today

I grab a seat at the bar at 12:28 and Squids appears exactly at 12:30.  BC Grille is way upscale for Squids, so he looks nervous and out of place.  For a guy like Squids, few things are more jarring than to be out of one's element.  Add to that the fact that Squids I'm sure has no idea why he's been summoned.  He sits on the stool next to Me.

"Hi again, Madame."  He wants to ask why he's here but is a little afraid to.

I let him off the hook.  

"Squids . . . I got your note.  That was big . . . I don't know anyone else who'd have done what you did."  I truly didn't -- some might think of doing so, even want to, but $200 to someone in Squids' position was a lot of money.

He starts to say something but I'm rolling. 

"You've always done your best for Me, Squids, and this time you showed Me something above and beyond expectations."  I reach into My purse and hand him an envelope with 2 Gs in it.  

" 'Honestly will be repaid tenfold,' " the old saying goes, Squids."  He takes it, almost reluctantly, it seems.

"Madame . . .  you don't need to do this.  I was just doing what protocol would dictate . . . the fabric of our type of relationship depends on mutual trust and consideration."

I smile.  "Indeed it does, Squids.  Consider this My understanding of that fact."

I get up to go.  "Remember who your friends are, Squids.  And who they aren't."

*     *     *

"you saved My life."  I tired to make it sound like an almost random observation . . . but it's hard to say something like that, casually.

mandy nodded  . . . likely thinking that such a statement didn't require much of a response.

I pulled her closer . . . holding her tight against Me.  It hadn't been easy on her . . . she had got the got and learned to shoot as a planned surprise for My birthday . . . her plan had been to surprise Me by going to the range on My birthday and showing off her skills.  Nowhere in those plans was gunning down a real live hit man on the street in a do or die situation.

I knew from bitter experience how difficult it is, dealing with having shot someone.  Never mind that she was protecting Me, never mind it was him or her . . . none of that matters when you keep butting up against the reality that a human being who was alive is now dead, as a direct result of your action.  That said human's
death improved the world at large doesn't enter into it.

It would take some time for mandy to get back, to get past this.  I won't tell her until then that it was the best birthday present I could've imagined.

*     *     *

Arty had lost some weight.  This was a good thing although I'm sure Arty would argue with the method used to achieve.  He looked good -- he'd be getting out in a couple of days.

"Even from here I can pull a few strings, X.  Be watching your inbox."  I was going to inquire further but just then a nurse came in, needing to do a bunch of things.  I told Arty I'd see him tomorrow.

Half an hour later I was sitting in the office, staring at the screen.  Reading an e-mail from an address that could've been anyone, anywhere.

     I was asked to give what background I could about the would-be shooter.  

    Real name:  Christian Solas
    Current Alias:  Donald Vallie
    Other known aliases:  Diego Vallardo, Damon Viesta, Dillard Vales, Drako Volvolaka, Donnie Valens.

    Solas was based in Chicago was active for over a decade doing hits, straightforward and fancy, for various clients.  Apparently had no political agenda or affiliations -- would take a job, any job, if the money was commensurate with the risk.

   Is known to have done jobs for the Formaggivecchio Family, the PKK, an impatient trophy wife, and the Albanian mob, among others.  

  We're still piecing it together, because Solas had bank accounts all over the place under various identities, but he would appear to have been worth at least $15 million.  We may never find all his identities/assets.  We've been unable to crack the encryption on his computer as of yet, and he used an off the grid network to move money around and get paid, etc.

Solas had no known associates -- as far as we can tell he always worked solo.  No living family.

  What I'm sure you're most interested in his who his client was on his last job.  On that, we have no leads as of yet.  All calls were to and from throwaway cell phones.  Perhaps when we're able to get into his computer we'll find something.  Obviously from the elaborate and over the top nature of the operation, we can assume whoever hired Vallie to kill you is extremely well-financed and unconcerned with collateral damage.

In other words, good luck and watch your back.  Still, it was good of Arty to pry that loose from whatever agency compiled it.

For Me, the troubling aspect was the Frankie Boots connection.  I had no idea who had popped Frankie;  he didn't let Me in on the details of what he'd been working on when they found him that morning, a victim of what the old-timers call "lead poisoning," multiple times and up close.

Whoever it was wasn't small-time, din't care about making a splash, had a sadistic streak, and most troubling of all, seemed to now think that I was onto them.  I wish I did -- I've never avoided a fair fight.

I looked over at mandy, keeping herself busy with the minutiae of keeping the day to day operations of the office going.  she'd saved My life . . . and the thought that maybe I couldn't keep her safe tore at Me like hot knives.

*     *     *

The Cases of Lenora X, Domme Detective: The Cryptic Man, Part 16

I was going to run into the office Myself and leave mandy in the car while I grabbed my phone, but she wanted to check for messages.  I had to admit that since the windfall of cash envelopes from King I hadn't been sweating the bottom line nearly as obsessively as I had been.  But mandy continued to dutifully, carefully, see that the office ran, clients got billed, chased clients down for payments, and did the hundred other little things that needed to be done on a daily basis.  Have I mentioned how lucky I am?

I didn't even try to find a spot on the street . . . we parked and entered through the back.  As we were unlocking the back door I heard a screech and a slam . . . I didn't pay it that much mind;  people were always getting rear-ended out there.

mandy started getting the messages . . . My phone was sitting right where I'd left it.  I forgot about the accident out front and saw I had several texts waiting;  I read the first one . . .

Kicks dead detective (5)

I half-sat, half fell into My chair.  Surprise turned to mystification turned to realization turned to anger turned to grave concern, all in the space of a few seconds.

I was the target . . . and whoever it was was the same scumbag who killed Frankie Boots.  The clue answer, "boots," wouldn't have made sense to anyone who didn't know Frankie Boots.  And would be insanely obvious to anyone who did.

I scrolled through the other texts -- they were all from Arty.

YOU are the target.  Call me!
Where are you?  
Headed to your office

I dropped the phone into My bag and pulled out the Sig Sauer .40.  I motioned mandy over.

*    *     *


That was all Arty could think. Rear-ending a parked car meant not only reams of paperwork and a very uncomfortable conversation with the Captain.  It meant being interviewed by the Rat Squad, who would of course assume he was drunk and worry about the actual facts later.  But on top of all that it meant an endless torrent of ball-busting by everyone from the precinct house janitor to the Deputy Commissioner.

He wasn't hurt, thankfully.  He didn't hit the car that hard;  the airbag hadn't deployed.  With any luck the person he hit 1) wasn't hurt badly, 2) wasn't some pain in the ass with a cop-hating thing, 3) wasn't a personal injury attorney or closely related to one.

Arty got out of the car to check on the guy he hit.  The guy got out of his car at the same time and they both converged on the point of impact.  Arty, of course, was as apologetic and concerned as could be.

But a funny thing happens to cops.  They never stop being cops . . . on duty, off, home, out, it doesn't matter.  Certain things never turn off.  And as Arty was apologizing and trying to ascertain if the other guy was OK, his cop brain was working in the background, silently assessing the guy.

And something . . . was off, a little.

Arty sheepishly explained that he was a police officer and pulled out his badge to show the man.

*    *    *

Vallie's radar was already piqued by the odd appearance of the rumpled man who wrote a now and shoved it through the mail slot of the target's office.  Now this.  What the hell was going on?

He wasn't hurt . . . he made a quick decision.  Tomorrow, when he did the job, we would present himself as an FBI agent.  He could do that right now, and probably make this whole thing end sooner than it otherwise would and get rid of this person who rear-ended him, but by doing so he was floating his cover way in advance of when it was needed.  It seemed an unnecessary risk for a fender-bender.  He'd play it straight.

Vallie got out of the car and went towards the back to survey what he hoped was non-existent damage.  The other driver was out of his car, apologizing profusely, asking if he was OK, etc.  Vallie assured the man he was fine, and as they were going to starting looking at the damage in earnest, the man pulled out his badge and identified himself as Lt. Arty Daniels of the Blog City PD.

At this juncture Vallie succumbed to his own expertise.  He stayed alive and out of prison by considering all the angles, by leaving something to chance.  In his line of work it was the only way.  But there was a downside to this approach, rarely encountered, but serious:  sometimes seemingly random events actually are random.  But for a man like Vallie, that obvious statement was almost impossible to embrace.  He'd trained himself never to believe in coincidences, and most of the time he was right, of course.  But every so often . . . not believing in coincidences led to disaster.

The sight of Arty's badge sent a jolt through Vallie.  Are they onto me?  They can't be . . . and if they were, what kind of idiotic tactic was this -- running into the back of My car?  Still . . . if they don't  have enough to come right at me, this is a way of getting close.  What if that guy leaving the note was to get me to stick around a couple minutes longer than I was going to . . . no, that's ridiculous . . . play it cool.  They have nothing on me.  Just handle it like any other fender-bender.

*    *    *

Arty had seen it a thousand times:  The Involuntary Flinch.  It happened when someone trying to play it cool had that fraction of a second when they think "oh shit I'm busted."  It happened even to the best . . .but it often was over so fast that you could easily miss it.  Arty didn't miss it.

He kept up the apologetic banter, laughing and lamenting his own bad fortune . . . all the paperwork the PD would make him fill out, explaining it to his boss . . .then shifting gears and reiterating what good fortune it was that no one was hurt, and even the damage wasn't that bad.  All the while Arty was assessing the situation.  Slight bulge on the right side where the holster was.  Guy is left-handed.

Arty casually worked his way around to the right of the guy.  He was in a tricky position here . . . the guy he had rear-ended was carrying a gun, which was probably legal.  In fact Arty's first impression of the suit and shoes made Arty think the guy might actually be a Fed.  At the same time, he had his own safety to consider, especially in light of the involuntary flinch he'd noticed.  In light of that, he had to go about this the right way.  Tactfully, carefully, but the right way.

"Excuse me, sir . . . I'm sure it's totally legit, but I need you to place your hands behind your back so I can secure your firearm while we talk.  I'm sorry . . . procedures, you understand . . ."

Vallie was thrown off more than he should've been by Arty's easy manner.  The switch had been thrown . . . the initial mistake, that this was not a random traffic accident, influenced Vallie's thoughts about everything else that followed it.  He made a quick, wrong, decision.  He couldn't allow himself to be disarmed.

Vallie smiled while his mind ran through various options and calculations quickly settling on a plan . . . "oh, I'm sorry . . . yes, of course.  In My line of work it's necessary to carry.  I didn't meant to alarm you.  I"m a Private Investigator.  Here, let me get my license out . . . "

*    *    *

I tried to reassure mandy that we were going to be fine.  Part of me even believed it.  For her part she seemed surprisingly calm . . . probably because she didn't know any better.  Anyone with the resources and the moxie to do multiple murders of random innocent people to get to one person wasn't going to be lightly or easily deterred.

For whatever reason I glanced out the window at the aftermath of the fender bender out front.  Two guys were discussing the accident.  I started to look away and then did a double-take.  Arty?

I went to front door and unlocked it, stupidly, not stopping to assess the situation.  I stepped out and called out Arty's name, at the same moment as the other man made a quick movement and there was a loud sound.  I saw Arty hit the ground.

"What the fuck!" I yelled.  Again not a wise move.  The guy who had just shot Arty spun and fired twice.

I instinctively went down and dove behind a parked car.  I got off a shot and the guy fired again, glass splattering over My head as I ducked.

I peered up over the car and saw the shooter look to his right a little.  I was about to fire when I heard two shots from behind Me and the guy went down.

I looked over My shoulder and there was mandy, her own Sig held tight in her hand, trembling a little.  My mind was racing -- but I had to see about Arty first.  I called 911 and ran across the street.  Arty was laying there, gut shot.  I knelt down and pressed hard, trying to control the bleeding the little I could.   I told Arty he was going to be fine, that his impressive layer of blubber had prevented any damage to vital organs   I think he tried to laugh, half-conscious.

In what seemed like an instant cops and paramedics where all around, pulling Me off of Arty and tending to him.

I was dizzy.  The other guy was dead, neatly tapped twice in the chest . . . impressive shooting by My submissive little minx.  I wanted to ride with Arty but I needed to be with mandy.

The Cases of Lenora X, Domme Detective: The Cryptic Man, Part 15

Arty moved the little status marker on the big board from "IN" to "OUT" and walked down the stairs of the precinct house and out into the streets.  Sometimes a walk in the fresh air helped him consider a case in a different way.

Arty was not known for his brilliant intuitive leaps . . . he solved cases by being fundamentally sound, by having a high degree of common sense, by knowing the streets, and by knowing more than he wished he did about human nature.

And he never gave up.  Arty held firmly to fundamental, simple notions.  Protect the innocent, punish the bad guys.  No one gets away with a felony.  Look out for the weaker -- women, children, old people.  To Arty, a crime victim was a reminder of a failure -- a failure of society and it's protector, the Blog City PD, to prevent crime.  The best way to make up for this failure was to catch those responsible, preferably with slam-dunk evidence.

The current series of murders was at the other end of the spectrum.  Catching the responsible SOB felt like a pipe dream at this point.  The most important thing Arty could do was figure out who the ultimate target was, so that public could feel safe that random murders won't happen anymore and so that the person(s) being targeted could be protected, preventing more crimes.

Arty eyed the food carts with the practiced eye of a long-time aficionado.  Hot dogs competed with falafel for his attentions and lunchtime dollar.   He inhaled deeply the aroma of soft pretzels and sweet roasted nuts, and, sighing regretfully, passed them all by, preferring to think on an empty stomach for the moment.

It was a promising early April day . . . the sun was out and the cold breezes of recent weeks were absent.  Arty turned into one of many mini-parks that dot the city.  This one consisted of a small grassy area, behind a fence, reminding him of that cheesy Emerson Lake and Palmer song, and a couple of benches.  This little slice of urban oasis was called General Brian Dayett Park, a hero in some war or other, apparently.  Arty liked this place because it was quiet enough and almost always deserted, being a little too close to the walking routes of routine PD foot patrols for most with mayhem or mischief in mind.

He sat on an empty bench and his mind went to something X had said about the case, specifically the weird clues left at the crime scenes and murders themselves -- all different, no connections among the victims, etc.  X had said something about archetypes . . . cops and robbers, kings and paupers, and the like. 

Arty rolled that idea around in his head a bit . . . it made sense, in a way that Arty was not accustomed to . . . he was much more the concrete/practical thinker.  But he could understand and admire, intellectually, X's construction.

A couple of years ago Artie had attended a workshop as part of mandatory ongoing training for all detectives.  The theme of the seminar was advanced problem-solving techniques.  Overall it had been mostly a waste, but, as often happens, Arty gleaned one nugget from that seminar that often had served him well.  

The instructor had explained how it was natural for even trained investigators to fall into predictable, rigid thought patterns.  And in fact it was the smarter, the better trained one, that were more likely to fall into those patterns.  He went on to explain that very often, it was a tiny change that was needed, to move us from our current logical (but ultimately wrong or unproductive) thought to the right one.  The instructor called this "the Comet Nudge," as it was analogous to the way in which a harmless hunk of rock and ice billions of miles from the Sun gets a tiny gravitational bump from one of any number of things, and begins a new existence as a comet that eventually streaks into the inner Solar System, if it doesn't crash into Jupiter.  For billions of years, for example, the comet that wiped out the dinosaurs was a harmless hunk of cosmic leftovers, floating out there.  One random fluctuation of gravity set the process in motion that turned it into a near planet-killer.

For Arty, the Comet Nudge was a powerful tool.  But like its astronomical inspiration, it happened when it happened.  All Arty could do was tell himself to be open to it, in some vague way.

And so it was today . . . sitting here, half-listening to the bantering of sparrows and finches and robins in the background, thinking about the case.  Thinking about archetypes.  

. . . and Robbers

. . . and Paupers . . . Kings . . . and . . . 

Arty sat straight up.  The Comet Nudge had worked its magic.  His dear friend Lenora X had hit upon the guts of the case, but had made one little mistake.  

He got up and pulled out his phone.

*    *    *

My wonderful mandy did return but without the promised sushi --something about her appointment having run late.  I started to ask her about this mysterious appointment but mandy was acting so sweet and apologetic I lost momentum.  I did make a mental note to devise some terrible punishment for her. . . . which would probably never happen -- it was awfully tough to stay mad at mandy.

 We locked up the office and headed out to BCB, an old shoe factory since converted to an urban brew pub and restaurant.

Over burgers and India Pale Ale the subject of life, love and polyamorous adventures came up.  And it wasn't your all-powerful Domme Detective who brought it up.

many looked at Me in a way that diverted My attention from BCB's wonderful fries.  Not an easy thing to do -- there is love and then there is BCB's fries.

"i meant what i said, Miss.  to be Yours is to be Yours, whatever that means."

I don't do "overcome with emotion" well.  It's a state of mind I don't trust.  But something in mandy's eyes, her voice, her body language . . . sincerity and love and devotion just oozed from her in a way that challenged My composure.  I reached out and stroked her forearm across the small table.

"I know you did, and that you do, mandy.  I feel that . . . I've never doubted it.  The other night, I wasn't testing it . . . but I thought over what you said, then.  And in addition to being loving and wonderful and the best slave a Mistress could want . . . you were absolutely right."

mandy beamed across the table at Me and My mind started going to some potentially exciting places.  I tilted My head and looked at her.

"I'm not sure I ever asked, mandy . . . are you bi?"

she leaned forward a bit and whispered . . . what I knew she would say the instant the question left My lips.

"i am if You say i am, Miss."

No burger ever tasted so good.  The only thing marring the moment was the sudden realization that I'd left My phone at the office.

*    *    *

Vallie watched from his car as a man walked up to the door of the office across the street.  He tugged at the door handle, shaded his eyes and looked inside, satisfying himself that the office in fact closed.  Every motion was a study in uncertainty;  the body language of a person who lives at the margins . . . malleable not by nature but as a result of the constant pounding of reality.

The man fished a strip club flyer from the trash basket and wrote something on the back side of it.  He then folded it, with more care and attention to detail than would seem to have been warranted, and slipped the folded orange sheet through the mail slot.  He looked around, both ways, twice, before setting off down the street.  Vallie followed him with his eyes until the man disappeared around the corner. 

It was, to Vallie, slightly disturbing.  He had made quite a bit of money, and stayed alive and out of prison all these years by not leaving things to chance.  Random events like the one he just witnessed -- some guy coming up to the target's office after hours and putting a note through the mail slot -- sometimes were just random.  Sometimes they weren't.

But while it was unsettling, there was no real reason to think that what he'd just witnessed had any bearing on his plans.

Vallie looked at his watch and started thinking about where to eat dinner.  He'd seen all he needed to see from this vantage point.  Tomorrow was showtime.  

He was deciding between pizza and Thai food when there was a loud sound and he was thrown forward.

*   *   *

On Twitter

Some said it couldn't be done!

Some said it had to be done!

Either way, Me and this blog and the whole #EP experience (it's not a blog, it's a lifestyle!) are now on Twitter.

Lenora X


Accept no substitutes!  Follow Me now!  That's an order!  (Plus I have no shame -- follow Me and I'll follow you.  Everyone gets numbers.)

(thank you, lissa)

The Cases of Lenora X, Domme Detective: The Cryptic Man, Part 14

Sometimes sex is fantastic not because My partner is amazingly talented, or incredibly hot.  Sometimes sex is necessary not because I need to validate My attractiveness or to convince Myself and the world that I still got it. 

Sometimes, no matter how Lez, no matter how Domme I might be . . . I just need to get fucked.  Hard.  It doesn't matter what led up to it, it doesn't matter who's waiting at home.  Sometimes I need to feel a strong experienced man doing what strong experienced men do best.

Mea culpa.

As was predictable, wonderful romantic dinner and amazing martinis and a chocolate souffle that was nearly an orgasm in and of itself led to King's penthouse with the view that is so gorgeous it should be illegal.  And, martini-fogged or not, the sex was mind-blowing.  Better, more ridiculously good than I had been prepared to think about.

And it kept going . . . this way and that.  Somehow perfect and natural and just right. All fucking night.

I got up and threw one of King's robes on, suddenly a little chilled.  I found some aspirin in the bathroom and took a few -- I could feel a headache building.

I slipped back into bed and sat up.  The TV was softly droning . . . I laughed at the infomercial for a penis pump device for men who have trouble in that area.  Irony follows Me like a stalker, it seems.

The cable box delivered the bad news -- 4:49 am.  I looked over at the heavily sleeping man in the bed next to Me.  This is the time when the guilt and despair and "oh shit what the hell did I just do" feelings come rushing in, and you can't live with yourself and you quickly shamefully gather your things and bolt before he wakes up.

But My problem was different.  I felt no guilt or shame.  I didn't feel the slightest bit not Myself, I didn't feel un-Domme-like, or anything like that.  I didn't feel compelled to run and turn in My ILL (International League Of Lesbians) Card.  I felt good.  I didn't want to leave -- not because I wanted to stay but because there was no reason to leave.  There was no insecurity, no wondering if I'd been used.  If I had been, it certainly didn't feel the way being used should've felt.  And I'd hardly used him . . . judging by his peaceful deep sleep he'd gotten exactly what he'd come for.

I wondered how long it would take him to wake up if I slid down and started quietly sucking his cock.  I laughed at Myself and got up to see about making some coffee.  I moved a certain way and winced, sore inside.  Damn.  Another good reason not to be in any hurry to leave just yet.

* * *

Vallie had all the details worked out.  The client was right -- this was not going to be easy at all.  But not impossible.

One fun part of this particular job was getting to compose the clues;  he loved playing with words almost as much as he loved playing with guns and knives. 

But for this last hit in the sequence, the client was providing the clue to be left at the crime scene.  Vallie wasn't too disappointed -- for $100K the client could specify what color underwear they wanted Vallie to wear.

He looked at the clue:

Kicks dead detective (5)

To him it didn't make much sense -- five-letter word for "kicks" that was the name of a dead detective . . . Highs?  Punts?  Fires?  None of those sounded much like anyone's name.  But Vallie didn't dwell on it -- he had a job to do and anything that wasn't about getting the job done didn't engage him for long.  Deliver the clue at the scene of the hit after doing the hit.  Doesn't matter what it says or what it means.

* * *

It was one of those times when I would rather be anywhere, doing anything, than where I was, doing what I was about to have to do.  But I'm nothing if not conscientious about doing My disagreeable duty.

I wait for mandy to get off of the call she's on and ask her to come into the conference room with Me;  can't have someone coming to the office during this conversation.  I put the phones in Nights Mode, put the BE RIGHT BACK sign on the front door and lock it.  If I'm going to face the music I can't be interrupted.

mandy looks at Me and I can see in her face she's sincerely worried.  Perhaps she is thinking I'm about to release/fire her?  I almost laugh to Myself . . . if only she knew.

I take her sweet hand in Mine and tell her about King.  I'm trying to walk a fine line between sincerely letting her know that I do care about her feelings . . . I just, um, didn't care about them all that much for a few hours a couple nights ago.

Mercifully mandy stops Me before I make a complete fool of Myself.

her green eyes sparkle with a beautiful calmness as she talks.  "Miss . . .  You do not need to explain anything of that to me.  This --" she tugs gently at the leather choker she wears as a public collar--"this means that i accept that You are a dynamic person with varied needs and desires.  i strive not be be 100% of everything You need, but 100% of what i am able to be, in service and devotion to You.  that You are Who You are, and desire what You desire, is part of what i love about You.  To see and feel You being You is what makes Me happy and spurs Me to strive to serve You better, always."

she slips down to her knees gracefully and gently kisses the back of My hand.  I run My other hand through her hair and feel a tear run down My cheek as I wonder exactly what cosmic lottery I won to have the life I have, and remind Myself to bite My tongue if I ever ever feel sorry for Myself.

Our joint "I/i love Y/you's" collide in the air and we share a brief warm giggle.  mandy asks Me if I can mind the store for the afternoon -- there's something she needs to do.  After that, how could I even consider saying no?  Plus she promises to have sushi with her when she returns.  That seals the deal.

Placeholder / Reminder

Still here.

Look for something new, soon.

Love and Kisses . . .