Bets & Black Books

Book 2 – The Vices Series.

Coming March 2017.

Don’t ever owe the mob.

She’s on the run from the mob. He owes them a favor—bring her back.

Years ago, someone killed teenager Billie Reed’s father, and slick attorney Leo Diamond got the guy off. Leo did his job, but Billie never got justice, and it’s haunted Leo ever since.

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Now Billie’s back in Sharpsville, all grown up and gorgeous, and Leo can’t stay away. She’s handing over evidence linking a mob boss to a heinous crime — unless the mob finds her first. Or unless Billie’s secret sinks the plan.

Leo wants to make it up to Billie for what happened all those years ago. He owes it to her to get her to the Feds. There’s only one problem. Leo owes the mobster a favor, and the guy has called it in. Bring Billie back.

“All rise,” the bailiff called out.
Billie’s pounding heart almost drowned out the shuffling as people rose to their feet.
The old judge took off his glasses and leaned over the bench toward the foreman. “What say you?”

Something squeezed Billie’s chest so hard she couldn’t take a breath. She twisted her fingers in front of her.

The foreman cleared his throat. “In the matter of The People versus Ned Schiavone, we find the defendant…not guilty.”

Billie’s legs gave way and she fell back on the bench she’d been sitting on. There were shouts, and movement around her, but they were far away. She looked down at her still twisted fingers. Slowly they curled into fists.

That awful sting in her face grew, pressure building behind her eyes, and she stifled a sob. Rising, she looked at her feet. The tears that were coming might begin to fall, but damned if she’d let anybody see. Sure enough, everything in front of her blurred as she hurried toward the door. Several people put their hands on her shoulders and mumbled comforting words, but they were just noise. She was suffocating.

Looking up, she saw him. He was grinning. Ned Schiavone stuck his hands in his pockets and squinted, cocking his head. “Well now, looks like I’m a free man. You owe me an apology, little girl.”

“I owe you nothing, you filth!” She looked behind Ned to the man standing behind him. The man who had gotten off her father’s killer. Leo Diamond. His face was unreadable, but his jaw was clenched. Billie had spent the last three weeks studying every expression the man had, but this one was new. He looked at her, then Ned. “Leave her alone.”

She’d done it before she knew she had. She worked her mouth and spat at Leo Diamond, her spittle landing squarely on his lapel. Strong hands grabbed her upper arms and pulled her back. “Do that again, miss, and we’ll lock you up for assault,” a rough voice said.

“Yeah, and you won’t have the great Leo Diamond to get you off,” Ned crowed and looked back at Leo. “‘Cause he’s the best, and you can’t afford him.” The bastard grinned.

“Release her,” Leo said. The hands that held her eased up a bit.
“Go to hell, both of you.” She hocked up more spit and did it again.
The arms tightened again and yanked, manhandling her toward the door. “Lock her up.”
Here came the tears. Shit.

“Bailiff, stop,” Leo barked. “Let her go.” He turned to her. “Miss Reed, you should know something.” His voice was gentle.

Here came the tears. Shit.

“Whatever you have to say, you can stick it.” She wrenched her arms from the bailiff’s hands and strode out of the courtroom.

Leo kindly consented to answering questions and telling us a little bit about himself.

Q: What is your name and where are you from?
A: Leo Diamond. I’m from Sharpsville, Kentucky.

Q: Born and raised? Sounds like a small town.
A: Yes, born and raised. And yes, it’s small.

Q: Did that bother you? Growing up in a small town.
A: Sometimes. I can visit the city, and I have a place in Louisville. But Sharpsville is home. My best friend lives there. People know me, which saves me a lot of time and effort having to explain myself. People know what to expect.

Q: Which is what, exactly?
A: I don’t see the world through rose-colored glasses. And I’m not quiet about it. I meet the world with a fair amount of cynicism. As I said, it saves time. I like to think of myself as the little voice in the back of your head that says, “This probably won’t end well, but it will be entertaining nonetheless.”

Q: What impression do you make on people when they first meet you? How about after they’ve known you for a while?
A: People think I take nothing seriously when they first meet me. After they’ve known me a while they know that I don’t take much seriously.

Q: You’re an attorney.
A: Yes. Works with the whole cynicism thing.

Q: Do you enjoy it?
A. Very much. I enjoy arguing, especially when there is a lot at stake. I also enjoy defending the accused. They have a right to an attorney. The Constitution is a beautiful document. Sound principles and job security. Win-win.

Q: You are Ross Stevenson’s best friend.
A: Yes, to his dismay. To his credit, I always have been. Ross is a beautiful, honorable human being, the best I know. I’m still working on his people skills.

Q: He recounted a story about you two getting sent to the principal’s office. The dish soap incident. Someone put dish soap in the water fountain.
A: I maintain the fifth on the dish soap. However, sources say the fountain was dirty.

Q: And you blamed Ross and he punched you.
A: The guy still has a hell of a right hook. As I said, I’m still working on his people skills.

Q: Then what happened?
A: They plunked us both down in the principal’s office for some touchy-feely. Ross was as stubborn as he is now, so he refused to say anything. I wanted to see how long he would keep his mouth shut. It turns out he can last a long time saying nothing, which is infinitely better than people who run their mouths and say nothing. Finally, when I got hungry and bored I said something.

Q: Do you remember what you said?
A: I asked him what time we went to lunch.

Q: If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do?
A: Sleeping in if I was alone.

Q: And if you were not alone?
A: Not sleeping.

Q: Assume you are alone. What then?
A: Read in bed or in my leather chair in the den. Or catch up on Stephen Colbert or John Oliver. Crave a cigarette.

Q: You quit smoking?
A: Yes.

Q: And how’s that going?
A: What I lack in nicotine I make up for in cynicism. Thanks for asking.

Q: What would you read?
A: William S. Thompson, Kerouac, Pat Conroy, William Burroughs, John Dos Passos, Ambrose Bierce, the Onion, Coleridge—

Q: You like poetry?
A: Good poetry, yes. I also especially like William Blake and Dylan Thomas. And Shakespeare. He was another cynic. He wrote pretty good plays, too.

Q: Then what?
A: A workout, then brunch, preferably with a friend, then maybe a movie or a horserace during the season. Watch Kentucky basketball, probably with Ross. His brother is a point guard.

Q: Ross’s place or yours?
A: Mine. My TV’s bigger. He brings the beer. I bring the nachos.

Q: Then?
A: A ride in my Ferrari, my shallow, indulgent, “look at me” car.  Top down, wind in my hair, all the clichés.  Then dinner somewhere along the way.

Q: How do you wind down the evening?
A: A glass of cognac, maybe a classic movie or more reading, or even sitting on my back porch watching the moonrise. I’m learning how to tie flies for fly fishing, so maybe a little of that. Crave a cigarette. Then bed.

Q: What’s your idea of a good marriage?
A: I don’t have one.

Q: Really?
A: I have seen very few good marriages. Ross and Mel’s marriage is solid. Besides that, I can’t think of any.

Q: Come on. What would a good marriage be like?
A: We would respect each other, want the best for each other, confide in each other, and trust each other. The last two don’t come easily for me. There would be humor and great lingerie.

Q: And love?
A: Of course. Yes. That’s what all those things are.

Q: Do you think you will find someone to marry?
A: I wouldn’t put anyone through it.

Q: Why not?
A: No sane person wants to be married to someone as cynical as I am. I can’t blame them.

Q: What are you most proud of about your life?
A: Taking care of my grandmother, I guess. Although no one should be proud of something that is his duty to begin with. Becoming a lawyer. I help people in my own way. Living life my way. Quitting smoking.

Q: What are you most ashamed of in your life?
A: Once saying that “Wonderwall” was the greatest song ever.

Q: If you could spend the day with someone you admire (living or dead or imaginary), who would you pick?
A: My grandmother. She was amazing, and very wise. Hemingway, maybe Neil Armstrong.

Q: The astronaut?
A: Yes, I would love to talk to him about his experience on the moon. And I would say I enjoy hanging with Ross, but that’s just a little bromance-y.

Q: Anybody else?
A: There are a couple of people, one really, who believes that I ruined her life by doing what I do. I’d like to take her to dinner and tell her my side of the story, explain why I did what I did. And listen to what she has to say. She could continue to hate me but do it on a full belly. And she would know how I tried to help.

Q: Do you think you’ve turned out the way your parents expected?
A: I don’t think they expected anything.

Q: What do you believe about God?
A: He has a sense of humor. Sometimes.

Q: What do you suppose God thinks of you?
A: He probably just shakes his head.

Q: Do you think you’re going to heaven?
A: I think anyone who says with certainty that he’s going to heaven is a fool.

Q: Is there anything you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t done?
A: Fly-fish in the Seychelles. Alphonse Island. Or Argentina. Drive my car across Death Valley. In the winter, of course. Sail on a pirate ship. Take Spanish. Own a puppy.

Q: The last two are fairly easy to accomplish.
A: No time to learn Spanish, and I’m not home enough to take care of a puppy.

Q: What’s the worst thing that’s happened in your life? What did you learn from it?
A: When my mother ran off and left me. I learned that whether you get over it or you don’t, life happens anyway, so it’s better to get over it.

Q: Tell me about your best friend.
A: Ross is everything a man should be. Intelligent, honorable, honest, dependable, can throw a killer fastball. I think he’s friends with me to make himself look good. It works, in my opinion.

Q: What do you like about him? What does he like about you?
A: He’s enough of an optimist to not be surprised when things go his way, but he’s enough of a realist to not be surprised when they don’t. He plays a great straight man. You know where you stand with him. He’s kind. What does he like about me? As I said, I make him look good. Except in the looks department. I’m better looking than he is.

Q: What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done to someone?
A: It was illegal.

Q: What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
A: He provided light commentary.

Q: Describe your ideal mate.
A: More optimistic than me, sweet, feisty, likes to debate. Smokin’ hot is good. Kind. Whip-smart. But all that is with the caveat that I’ll never find one.

Q: Because you’re too picky?
A: No, because they are.

Q: What are you most afraid of?
A: That the world really is as bad as I pretend it is.

Q: What’s the most important thing in your life? What do you value most?
A: My friends and my honesty.

Q: What do you like best about yourself? Least?
A: I shouldn’t answer this question. A man never reveals his weaknesses.

Q: Humor me.
A: Best? I know how to relate to women. Least? I don’t know how to have relationship with a woman.

Q: How do you feel about your life right now? What, if anything, would you like to change?
A: It’s fine. I wish I had more time to spend with friends and I wish Kentucky would win the NCAA championship.

Q: Are you lying to yourself about something? What is it?
A: I don’t lie, especially to myself. That’s why I’m a cynic.

Q: What did you have for breakfast?
A:  I don’t eat breakfast. Granny would be appalled.