No one other than Shell Scott has the ability to dodge a bullet while magnetized to a magical mistress or engage in dangerous games of both love and war simultaneously. This sleuth has the touch that touches every broad -- and with his private eye, he can detect the phonies from the felines in a heartbeat.
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January 01, 2002
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Excerpt from Shell Scott's 7 Slaughters by Richard S. Prather
The Best Motive
The cab dropped me off on the outskirts of Silver Beach and I looked around before I walked through darkness down the narrow alley. I didn't see anybody who looked like Bruno, the guy Ellen had told me was due for a stretch at the cackle factory. Any guy who'd try twice to kill a sex-charged hunk of dreamy tomato like Ellen had to be one step removed from the net. The crazy guy was probably still around here somewhere; he had been when Ellen phoned me, fright twisting the words in her throat.
I was eighty miles from the Los Angeles office of "Sheldon Scott, Investigations," and I didn't think Bruno had ever seen me. But I'm damned easy to describe: six-two, short-cropped hair, almost white, the same color as my goofy eyebrows, and the face you might expect on an ex-Marine. I didn't see anybody eyeballing me, so I walked to the alley entrance of The Haunt, a gruesome Silver Beach nightclub with lively corpses and a hot orchestra.
Knowing that Ellen was inside made my throat dryer, my pulse faster. She had a shape like a mating pretzel, and the normal expression in her dark eyes always made me think she was about to tell a pleasantly dirty story. I walked past the grinning Death's head and a luminous skeleton and on into the club, banged against a table and spilled somebody's drink, barked my shin on a chair and got a perfect barrage of highly uncomplimentary language. Man, it was dark.
When my eyes were used to the gloom I saw dark blurs, presumably people drinking or feeling or whispering in ears, or whatever. Almost anything could have been happening in some of those corners, absolutely anything. Strike a match and you're dead. The orchestra was just beginning a number. I expected a funeral march or "I'll Be Glad When You're Dead, You Rascal, You," but it was the bright and bouncy "Love Me."
It was bright and bouncy like Ellen. I'd known the gal only a week, but she was already under my skin. And I felt sorry for her, though it's hard to be sorry for a twenty-three-year-old beauty with a million bucks. But she'd had it tough otherwise: both parents killed when she was nineteen, and the man she loved, her husband Ron, had been killed in a train wreck six months ago.
I found her at one of the small tables on the edge of the dance floor. I took a chance and lit a cigarette, and it was Ellen, strikingly lovely, the warm light melting on her high cheekbones, caressing her red, parted lips, and showing me fright in her dark eyes before the match went out.
"Oh, Shell," she said. "Shell, I'm glad you're here." Her hand slid across the table and found mine, held it. My spine wiggled to "Love Me." "This is a horrid place," she added. "Ghastly. I'm half out of my wits."
This wasn't the cheeriest spot for a gal who expected to have her throat cut by a crazy man. I squeezed her hand, thinking that no matter how dark it was, this had better be the extent of my squeezing. Ellen Benson was a Reno, Nevada, gal vacationing at California's Laguna Beach a few miles from here -- with Joe Benson. Uh-huh, honeymooning with the new husband. What the hell; I squeezed Mrs. Joe Benson's hand some more.
"The Haunt," I said. "Our motto is 'We scare you to death.' O.K., honey. What's with Bruno?"