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4th musketelle, p.1
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       4th Musketelle, p.1

           Brian Bakos
 
4th Musketelle
4th MUSKETELLE

  Why Knock off Hubby if He Can Do It Himself?

  by Brian Bakos

  Cover: Fantasyart

  graphic art: Othoniel Ortiz

  Copyright 2015, Brian Bakos

  Table of Contents

  One: The Tottering Empire

  Two: Deal with the Devil

  Three: The Plop Thickens

  Four: It All Comes Together

  Postscript

  Connect with the Author

  Brian’s Other Books

  One: The Tottering Empire

  1. Trouble In Rich-ville

  Endowed with a rare genius for intrigue which rendered him the equal of the ablest intriguers, he remained an honest man. – The Three Musketeers, Alexandre Dumas

  Laila Armstrong was not beautiful, she was ravishing. And men sure as hell noticed. At 31, she was a woman at the height of her powers, but she was also a person eager to step into a new phase of life – beyond the mere pleasing of males.

  She gazed into the vanity mirror at her husband standing by the door with hands in his pockets. Despite his casual stance, he radiated power and a degree of menace. Working on her makeup gave her an excuse to avoid looking directly into his eyes.

  “Why don’t we go to Las Vegas, Frank?” she said. “My friends have all been there. They loved it.”

  Frank’s customary expression of impassive fortitude soured.

  “Your friends, huh?” he said.

  “Yes.”

  Laila brushed her cheek with a decisive motion, then dabbed at a tiny scar indent beside one eye. Frank removed his hands from his pockets and glanced impatiently at his Rolex.

  “That’s fine for them,” he said, “but I can’t see any reason to waste money on gambling.”

  Laila stiffened while her husband adjusted the silk necktie she’d picked out for him. It harmonized with his power suit, giving a necessary touch of sophistication to his rugged demeanor. Without such refinements, he’d more closely resemble a retired prize fighter than a business mogul. The gray fabric of the suit complemented his aggressively styled hair.

  Laila tried to speak, but pounding noises intruded through the ceiling, cutting her off. Frank glanced up with annoyance, then looked back toward his wife’s face in the mirror.

  “Do you think I got where I am today by gambling?” he said.

  “Well, no,” Laila said.

  “You’ve got that right,” Frank said. “Gambling is strictly for suckers.”

  “There’s more than just gambling in Las Vegas,” Laila said.

  “Such as?”

  “We could go see Hoover Dam,” Laila said. “Then there’s live entertainment, and shopping – and fine restaurants.”

  She turned toward Frank and gave an alluring smile.

  “We first met at a fine restaurant, remember?”

  Her charm attempt passed unnoticed.

  “It’s all just a waste of time and money,” Frank said. “I’ve got a hell of a lot of more important things to do than go traipsing off to the desert.”

  She turned back toward her mirror. It was time to drop the real bombshell.

  “You don’t have to come if you don’t want,” she said. “I could go without you.”

  Frank took a step toward her. His movement conveyed enough belligerence to make Laila flinch.

  “I’ll be damned if any wife of mine is going to run around Las Vegas by herself!”

  Laila recovered her composure.

  “I wouldn’t be by myself,” she said. “I could take a friend.”

  “Back to your friends again, eh?” Frank said.

  “Well ... maybe Debbie would like to go,” Laila said. “She could use a break from Henry and the boys.”

  “You know she wouldn’t be interested in that sort of thing,” Frank said. “What’s gotten into you?”

  “I could ask her,” Laila said.

  Frank made a slashing gesture with his right hand – the one he used when decapitating a topic.

  “The answer is no. And that’s final!”

  More pounding came through the ceiling, adding to Frank’s irritation.

  “How long are they going to keep up that infernal racket?” he said.

  “As long as it takes, I suppose,” Laila said.

  The life had gone out of her voice; she slumped, defeated, in her vanity chair.

  “Well, I’m going to give those bums a piece of my mind!” Frank said.

  He turned abruptly and stalked out of the room. Laila heard his decisive, ‘take no crap’ footsteps moving down the hall and descending to the ground floor. She remained seated, fuming into her mirror.

  “All right, whatever you say, Mr. Big Shot,” she muttered.

  Outrage filled Laila’s heart, along with feelings of helplessness and a desire to hit back somehow. But, like most people, she was overawed by her husband; standing up to him was out of the question. He’d never been violent to her during the eleven years of their marriage, nor even verbally hostile – except on the occasions when she really ‘deserved it,’ like now.

  He didn’t have to be violent. The world just naturally twisted itself around to accommodate Frank Armstrong. Laila formed her hand into a mock pistol and turned it toward the open door. She pulled the trigger.

  “Petuuu!”

  $$$

  Frank strode purposefully from the staircase, determined to find out why the workers were still pounding away on the roof when, by his estimation, they should have finished the job long ago.

  “By God, they’ll get a piece of my mind!” he snarled. “I’m not paying them to jerk me around.”

  His anger at Laila needed an outlet, and the hapless roofers would have to do. No ... he wasn’t really angry at her, he decided, just annoyed. Had he been totally honest, he’d have admitted to feeling threatened. What had gotten into his previously docile wife – why this sudden dissatisfaction?

  Didn’t he buy her everything she could possibly want: luxury car, jewelry, clothes and shoes galore, a top end computer. Did he ever quibble about the expense?

  Now she was talking about running off to Las Vegas with her ‘friends.’ He knew what her friends were capable of, and he didn’t like it one bit. The remark about Debbie was just a sop. His daughter-in-law was too much of a straight arrow for all that; hell, she didn’t even drink!

  His cell phone rang, strong and aggressive like Frank himself – the theme song from the old Bonanza TV show. Ordinarily he enjoyed its assertive sound, but now it only added to his ill humor. He yanked the phone from his jacket pocket. It was his son.

  “What do you need, Henry?” Frank barked into the phone.

  At the hyper-masculine sound of the ‘Blow-nanza’ theme, as Frank called it, Laila stood up. She quietly left her room and took an eavesdropping position at the 2nd floor railing. This was her customary spot for monitoring events on the ground floor.

  “Everything’s always ‘important’ with you lawyer types, isn’t it?” Frank was saying into his phone. “You just can’t leave things well enough alone.”

  What did that mean, Laila wondered? What ‘things’ did Henry want to change?

  She felt zero trust for her ‘step son.’ She was well aware of his animosity toward her, and that of his sister, too. Suspicion rose in her mind, dark and threatening like a bogeyman jumping out of the closet in broad daylight. Her heart beat faster, and she felt hot, despite the air conditioning.

  “Look, Henry,” Frank said, “I don’t have time to talk about this now. We’ll discuss it later.”

  He terminated the call and strode out the back door, grumbling. Laila remained at the rail, unenlightened as to what the mysterious communication might be about.

  She began to descend the stai
rs. Everything about her spoke of understated class, from her elegantly casual clothes, to her manicure, to her tasteful makeup job. She moved gracefully, but also with an odd tentativeness, as if she was insecure about her position in the world. Try as she might, she could not remove this timid aspect from her body language.

 
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