First chapter of The Candidate's Maid: A Spy in Stilettos
Thank goodness that this political season is bringing about change. Every presidential candidate still in the running has vowed to wipe out corruption. Yay! They are going to keep America safe. Double yay! They are going to minimize the effect of money in politics (if not wiping out the influence altogether). Yay x 100! These and all their other promises can give us reason to relax and feel happy about the future. Whomever we elect will fix all the problems!
So why not sit back and read a novel?
I wrote one. I have the first chapter right here. It just came out last week and is available in paperback and on Kindle. (Links below.)
A Spy in Stilettos
I suppose I should tell you how I ended up here, in a Hudson River Valley mansion’s sumptuous marble bathroom at ten thirty at night, dressed like a wet dream in a little black silk dress, four-inch Manolos, and yellow rubber gloves, standing over a massive bald man wearing a charcoal Westmancott suit and chunks of supper, who was passed out on the marble floor.
This was not the job for which I had applied fifteen hours earlier. No. This was not a job for a PhD, even a hitherto unemployed one. Then again, maybe I wasn’t quite in the position to be picky. I really needed the money. A lot of money. And I couldn’t just leave Mr. Henderson passed out there on the floor. The Colonel, my new employer, was counting on me.
So how was I going to get him cleaned up and into his waiting Bentley—all without any of the other guests made the wiser?
I broke down the problem: Mr. Henderson was pretty much out of it. He was now thoroughly bevomited. And he was big. Football-player big. Twenty-five-years-later-without-workouts-football-player big. There was no way I was going to be able to drag him out to the car. And since I had to be discreet, getting help was out of the question.
Hmmm . . .
I came up with a plan: Clean him up. Roll him over, if I could. And then somehow get him to the garden exit. I took hold of his wrist and pulled. And pulled. And pulled. And paused to catch my breath. He was not budging. It was like he was glued to the floor. Maybe the Colonel had a forklift handy.
Okay, that wasn’t such a good plan. No, I would have to get him up under his own power at least enough for him to walk all the way to the garden entrance.
I set to work: I dropped a couple of towels onto the floor, stepped onto them in my stilettos, shuffle-stepped a bit to coax the chunky liquid into a puddle to the side, and stepped off, leaving the towels as temporary dams. So far so good.
Facedown in a puddle, Mr. Henderson snortled and sighed. Was he awake?
No response. And the fruity aroma wasn’t dissipating. I had to escape into the hallway, gasping for a little fresh air to settle my own dry heaves. I couldn’t allow myself to add to the problem. After a few deep lungfuls, I held my breath and charged back in.
Mr. Henderson had rolled himself to his side and was now semiconscious. I wetted a fresh towel and carefully wiped his ruddy face and neck. I tried brushing the worst off of his shirt.
“Ah . . . good . . .” he slurred. “Detton’s death is a blessing . . . so we can use this to . . .”
Detton again. They were talking about him all night. Three days before, famous television minister and senatorial candidate Pip Detton had been found dead in a Baltimore hotel room. The headlines shouted: “Detton Dead and Dominated”; “Pip Pacified by Prince”; “Detton Found Dead—You Won’t Believe What They Found!” Apparently he had expired while strapped down to a bed, with a binky in his mouth, a dog collar around his neck, and a Prince Albert piercing around . . . where it goes. (That last part wasn’t mentioned in the fit to print papers. Editorial standards, you know?)
Mr. Henderson coughed. “Arrhhg . . .” he said, “. . . perfect timing . . .”
Perfect timing for death? I hoped he was just babbling.
He snuffled a bit and looked around. “What am I doing down here?”
“Mr. Henderson, how are you? Do you think you can stand?”
His eyes focused on me. “Oh,” he said. “Hey, sweetheart.” With sudden energy, he propped himself up on an elbow and frowned at me. “Lemme ask you . . . question.” He closed his eyes and swallowed, then gave me a bleary look. “Are you political?”
“Political?” I asked.
“D’you follow politics?”
“I vote, if that’s what you mean.” I wasn’t going to elaborate—let alone admit to my father’s career. No point with a drunk.
“Would you rather vote for”—he took a breath—“an extremist, hypocritical, perverted son of a bitch or an upstanding”—another breath—“dignified man of breeding?”
“Does either of them tell the truth?”
He snorted. Chuckled. And then started laughing. “I like you, sweetheart.”
It was time to get him moving. “Can you do me a favor, Mr. Henderson? Can you stand up?”
“How about now?”
“Oh . . . Let’s . . . find out.” He just lay there for a few seconds, grunted, then started heaving himself up, and got as far as his hands and knees. “I think I made a bit of a mess.”
“It’s nothing, Mr. Henderson,” I said. “Let’s keep going. You’re doing great.” Grasping the counter, he got one foot up under him. “Careful now,” I cautioned, “the floor’s a bit slippery.”
In one smooth motion, he was up—a bit unsteady, but standing. He really was tall. Even in the spike-heeled pumps they had me wear, I came up only to his nose.
It took three more towels to get the worst of the mess off of his trousers, but everything was still too wet. My eyes zeroed in on the toilet paper, which kind of did the trick, although the wool was left covered in tiny bits of paper lint.
“Miss Baker,” said a woman’s voice behind me. Ms. Vitiello, a slender, dark Italian New Yorker from Sheepshead Bay, and the only other maid approximating my age, had one hand covering her nose, the other holding up Mr. Henderson’s overcoat—a godsend! Now I could wrap him up in something clean.
“Thank you!” I gushed, grabbing the coat quickly while keeping a steadying hand on Mr. Henderson’s back. “Garden exit! Where is it?”
With her chin, Ms. Vitiello gestured down the corridor. “Down the promenade. Go straight all the way. Can’t miss it.”
She glanced up at the teetering-but-upright Mr. Henderson, gave me a raised eyebrow, turned on her heel, and clacked away, still covering her nose.
It took some work to get his coat onto him because he kept trying to help, getting his arm in the wrong sleeve, turning the wrong way, but finally I had him bundled and ready for delivery.
I peered right into his eyes, trying to see him in there. “Are you ready to walk?”
He smiled. “You have the most beautiful eyes.” He dropped his head, exhausted. “Why do they always have such beautiful eyes?” The charms of drunken men.
His arm was too big for my hands to get around, so I wrapped my arm through his. “Mr. Henderson, we’re going to take a step now.”
“Move your foot.”
He leaned to one side and lifted his foot . . . and clomped forward. We were moving. I guided him out into the hall.
As we made our way down the corridor, he managed a slow but steady tottering pace—accompanied by more half-coherent rambling, which I did my best to tune out. I had to focus on keeping him balanced, alternating between serving as a cane under his weight and a counterbalance preventing him from tipping away.
“We can do this,” he said. Silly me, I thought he was talking about making it to his car. But then he continued, “. . . now that Detton’s out of the picture.”
Curious, I tried to draw him out. “Yes?”
But he just huffed and grunted from the effort of walking.
Snow was still falling steadily outside. The midnight air felt cool and refreshing. I sucked in several deep breaths.
A long black Bentley limousine stood idling, headlights burning. The chauffeur—a wan old relic in cap and livery—jumped out of the driver’s seat and trotted around. He was as diminutive as Mr. Henderson was ginormous. With gloved hands, he opened the rear door.
Inside sat Mrs. Henderson, wrapped in matronly furs, looking rather peeved, poor woman. How often has she had to deal with this?
The chauffeur came over and took Mr. Henderson’s other arm, and we both led him slowly across the ice-packed pavement to the car.
“Watch your head,” the chauffeur bleated.
Slowly at first, and then more quickly as gravity took over, Mr. Henderson flopped into the seat. In very businesslike fashion, the chauffeur picked up his employer’s weighty feet and shoved them into the car. Mr. Henderson stirred. “Hey.” His half-closed eyes found me. “What’s your name?”
I smiled at him. A momentary impulse to rebel urged me to say, Dr. Melody Baker—in his state, he’d never remember. But I was good. I said simply, “Miss Baker.”
He said, “Huh.”
The chauffeur closed the door, gave me a grim nod, and hobbled—much more slowly now—back to the driver’s side. A moment later, the Bentley pulled away into the darkness, tires crackling on the ice.
That was done. Success!
I took one step back toward the mansion—my heel skated out—and suddenly I was on my side.
First I was stunned—then outraged that the ground dared do this to me. My knee throbbed. My neck ached. My head was ringing. Tears froze on my face. I wanted to just lie there, but a steady cold breeze drove a chill into my bones.
©2014, 2016 Laura Lis Scott. All rights reserved.
The book is available on Kindle, and hardcover and paperback from the publisher and at your favorite bookseller.
I cross-posted this excerpt on Medium.