The Bowling Balls
Z achary Lancelot Amadeus Bartholomew had very bad writer's block and a very large family to feed. Zack, as everyone called him, had not had a good idea since 2009. Every penny of the advance he had received from Pretty in Print Publishing in 2010 was gone, and he had as yet to finish Chapter Three of The Silent Stalker of Stockholm . Was he, as his wife so often suggested, a one-book guy? Did only one thriller, The Roast Capon Caper (Pretty in Print Publishing, 2007), exist within him? That classic little page-turner that had launched his so-called brilliant career?
Sitting at his Dell, Zack stared at the 17-inch screen that had no words on it. It was near dinnertime, and he dreaded the interrogation that was to come. Or would his wife have left by now? Just upped and packed her Burberry luggage and Pierre Cardin makeup case and walked out. Hopefully, she would have taken her three children by her three previous marriages, fit them all in his black BMW and driven out of his life. Could he be that lucky? Would he descend the staircase of his beautiful home in Brentwood and find a solitary place set at the Atelier Viollet dining table? With only Gretchen, the platinum-haired Norwegian maid, to serve him his bouillabaisse?
Zack ! For God's sake, stop that ! He had no Norwegian maid, no black BMW, no home in Brentwood. Why he continued to fantasize every night around dinnertime was a mystery to him. Able to conjure all kinds of scenarios when anticipating a tirade from Cassandra, his head was a vacant lot when it came to his book. Even if Cassandra had left him, as she threatened to do nearly every single night, she would have had to pack her wardrobe in the old Samsonite. Zack had set her Burberry suitcases on fire in the driveway after she appeared with them following her oxygen facial at Aida Thibiant last week. As for the black BMW, well, that had long gone to pay the mortgage on the house in Calabasas that was sold to buy food, meaning Cassandra's Zone diet meals.
The three children by the three previous marriages existed well enough, fully grown nightmares that had moved in one by one to mooch off their famous writer stepfather. There was Peaches Powell, 24, plus Powell's illegitimate, cerebral-palsied son, Evian, 3; Luke Thornton, 22 (supposedly Billy-Bob's son), and 18-year-old punk-rocker, Sam Giancomo, whose precise lineage Zack feared to ask Cassandra about. He knew only that Sam was the result of his wife's Cosa Nostra period, something Zack always said he probably deserved for being foolish enough to marry anyone named Cassandra. But Zack had been flush with fame and fortune back then, his fragile ego pumped to perilous heights with spreads in People and Us . Reigning atop the "Mystery Writers of America's Best Seller's List", he was tagged to write The Roast Capon Caper screenplay. There were foreign distribution rights, meetings to take at DreamWorks and talk of Ben Affleck playing Bruno Bentley, the brilliant, suave, sightless sleuth who solves crimes via his extraordinary ESP. Although the movie never panned out, the possibility lingered through September-and it was Camelot.
Zack first encountered Cassandra, a budding mystery writer, on the Internet. It was one of those damnable .com relationships that work so well in chat rooms. Taking her on as a "writer's buddy", he realized too late her gift lay in shopping at Barney's. He was a year into the marriage by then, forced into a new home in, well, Calabasas, not Brentwood, and struggling with the first of Cassandra's three children by her three previous marriages. Their relentless invasion had prohibited him from walking around the house nude and having sex on the living room bear rug. Not that he had sex anymore. Much less a bear rug or a living room or a house. He had a duplex in Bellflower. Hal