She wants her powers for vengeance;
everyone else needs her to save the world. When awesome abilities fall into the
lap of the most unlikely of superheroines, scared, self-centered fashionista
Liz Brass sees her chance for revenge against the well-guarded playboy who violated
Fate has a way of mixing
things up, however. As if a lame police detective, a dashing master spy, and a
mysterious Russian gangster competing for her love did not make her life
difficult enough—the shady businesses she finds everywhere, drugs, slaves,
weapons, and even nuclear material, keep intruding on the young Sin City casino
host's quest for retribution. How can Liz refuse intimidated damsels and intelligence
directors in distress, when she alone can leap tall buildings and move small
Some women crumbled when evil
struck—Liz refused. The casino host would make her ex-client Billy Boy pay.
Somehow. To be determined. And despite all the wrongs, she still had a perfect
life: loving boyfriend, wealthy customers, wonderful colleagues. Never mind
that her lover defended his rich cretin of a friend and her boss deserved an
expletive as title. Everything had to be perfect before a date. Everything.
A memo her central air conditioning had not gotten, straining
under the punishing Las Vegas July heat. Nevertheless, the petite blonde slaved
over the ironing board in the dining area, steam pressing the front of her
white summer dress for the third time. Sweat pearled on her naked skin. Already
in her birthday suit, she had only one means left to make the chore bearable. After
spritzing water on the fabric, she lavished the cooling mist on her body.
A loud hiss from her cat Tuxedo cut through the television
soundtrack. Perched on the sofa, his pointy ears twitched back and forth,
honing in on sounds Liz failed to hear. While his long tail made wide swings,
his green eyes fixed on the French door leading to the back patio.
She swigged ice water from the glass behind her on the
kitchen counter while muting the program with the remote, then wandered to the living
area to comfort her nervous cat.
Tux crouched, his black-and-white fur bristling. When she
reached for him, his claws shot out. “Ouch. What's wrong?”
Nothing out of the ordinary in the great room. The scorching
sun sent its usual golden orange flickers through the slits in the open blinds.
Did he overreact to the light reflecting from the polished cherry wood dining
set? Cats have a sixth sense for danger. Maybe even a ninth sense.
Red filled the flatscreen on the wall facing the sofa. Stupid,
streaming one of the gory vampire movies still popular in the early twenty-tens,
no matter how handsome the leading men. Even at twenty-five-years-old, she
still scared easily. Another scan of the large space came up empty. No hazy
apparitions wafting around, no bats flying, and no writing in blood on any
wall. The pleasant smell of the flowery air freshener hid any stink of undeads
past or present.
Did Tux’s seventh sense pick up some imperceptible entity? Not
that she believed in ghosts, but just in case, she made the sign of the cross. Cheap
insurance at times like this.
A faint noise grew to a rumble.
“Just planes flying low over the house again. Won't ruin our
day off work, right?”
His fangs showing, Tux glared at the door and snarled.
“Boscoe in the backyard, right?” Her neighbor's Doberman
went on a romp anytime an open door presented an opportunity. Perhaps the pool
man had left the gate to her backyard open.
More hissing. Definitely not her cat's normal behavior.
After two month, did Billy Boy have the nerve to come to her house—payback
for her filing a criminal complaint against him? “No way!” She dashed to the dining
room patio door and turned the lock and deadbolt.
If she had only been more careful in the luxury suite thirty
stories above the myriad colored lights of the Las Vegas Strip. Tuxedo would
have known better. He would have heard the missing footsteps, when the four
dressed-up goons had stayed behind. Downstairs, in the living room. He would
have hissed danger when only one pair of Gucci loafers thudded up the wooden
steps behind her. Upstairs, to the bedroom. If she had only taken him along.
But if Liz could sense danger coming, she would not need a clairvoyant cat to
Instead, she had overlooked the signs. Let the playboy’s
custom-tailored suit and gold Rolex Yacht-Master blind her. His woodsy cologne
suggestive of Acqua di Gio. His boyish brown eyes. And his innocent, childish name.
He insisted on it. Billy Boy.
Previous resort guests had lusted after her hourglass figure
under the guise of getting a personal tour of the amenities like the rooftop plunge
pool with a view. No one like him, however. Handsome, dark, curly hair, and her
own age. And like many high rollers she attended to, he disregarded that casino
hosts belonged to the management team, not the entertainment troupe.
Would Tux have figured that a New York City buddy of her own
boyfriend would dare attack her? At first, she ignored the phony Italian
wiseguy accent. Why did she not leave right after showing him the on-demand
video streaming library, when his creep factor finally crept under her skin? She
suggested one of her faves, Titanic.
The scene in the freezing water where the hero hangs on for dear life made her
cry every time. Billy Boy’s words haunted her: “Not my cup of vodka, if you
know what I mean, Doll. Now, Godfather, that's un classico. I know every line
Shoulda known right
then, only a criminal mind commits that gangsta' movie to memory.
Cats' eighth sense would have warned them. Regardless, if it
failed, they would have given it to the prick good anyway. Cutesy girl cats
carry sharp claws and pointed fangs. Painful. Persuasive. Powerful. Unlike Liz,
who needed high heels to match the height of most men, a precarious balance
that prevented running away when things got tough.
The thunderous racket drew nearer.
This time, in her own castle, she had her cat alarm to warn
her. Her heavy breathing competed against the noise outside while she stared at
her naked reflection in the glass squares. No need to expose herself to a
lecherous prowler. The police will say she asked for it, like last time. As
Billy Boy had proclaimed, his gorillas signed statements that she flirted,
teased, and went willingly into the bedroom. The detectives dismissed her
bruises and injuries. Women like rough sex. The troubling memories pushed her
pounding heart into overdrive.
Her dress had dropped out of sight. The big pool towel she
kept at a ready for spontaneous cool-down dips still graced a chair. Liz threw the
terrycloth over her shoulders and dashed into the open kitchen. Her hand
reached for the long carving knife in the block next to the soda maker.
deafening explosion shook the one-story house.
Tuxedo darted for the safety of the master bedroom.
Liz staggered. The towel took flight while the knife took a
dive. Her flailing arms swiped across the kitchen counter, catching her drink.
The glass shattered on the tile, sending ice cubes and water flying. Her
shoulder and elbow hit the floor. Her head followed. Stinging pain mixed with
Stunned, she stared at the ceiling. Did the world finally
explode from the unbearable heat? Her hammering heart nearly drowned out the
ringing in her ears. She reached up and grabbed the edge of the counter. Every
movement of her arm hurt. Liz struggled to sit. She leaned her head against the
cabinet and caught her breath.
No bleeding and no damage other than the glass shards. Her
trembling fingers grabbed the wood handle of the knife. Holding on to the
counter, she pulled herself to her feet. Confusion mixed with fear. Run? Hide? What's going on?
rumbling noises and goose-bump-inducing cold flowing over her bare skin made
her shiver. She looked at the vent above her. Only the air conditioner finally
Gripping her weapon tight with her shaking hand, Liz
stumbled to the patio door and stopped. Dazzling bright light flashed through
the blinds, making it difficult to see outside. Not Boscoe for sure. Dogs do
not possess heavy artillery. At least none that she knew.
A murderous hit by Billy Boy to silence her? She should have
taken out that psycho. All her boss’s fault. He ordered her to counseling. As
if talking would do anything. Revenge is a dish best served with few words. Many,
many date-night action movies had convinced her. Don't give speeches—just do it.
Liz reached for the knob, then pulled back. Tuxedo did the
right thing. Cats always do. Curiosity also kills cats. But does it kill
Gotta know what's out
there. She opened the door a crack. Dank sauna air greeted her instead of
the usual dry Las Vegas heat. Stepping out into the open, she stared at the
tiled rim of an empty pool while shielding her eyes from the blinding glare on
one side. Every small step forward confirmed her initial suspicion. Forty
thousand gallons of water had evaporated into thin air, literally. A hot mist lingered over the
backyard. She stopped at the edge of the huge basin and peered down. At the
deep end, below the diving board, a bath-tub-sized hole covered in black soot
stood out against the white plaster. Cracks spread out from there across the
dry bottom and wall. Intense heat irradiated her bare skin. Bright flashes made
Her legs gave way.
Concrete scratched her arm and shoulder.
Darkness took over.
Liz came to and squinted. Light and heat everywhere. And
pain. From her bare toes to her head, a blanket of hot needles seared her skin.
The hard ground irritated her sore shoulder, while the bright sun burnt her
other side. What happened? She
remembered Tux going crazy, a big bang, and a fall. Despite her spinning head,
she pushed herself up. No one in the backyard. A stillness lingered. Her
neighbors were at work. The heat dissuaded even the birds from chirping. Only
an occasional car engine droned in the distance.
Her dizziness mellowed, but the pain all over her body did
not. Sunburn covered her front. She stared at her red arm that had been buried
under her body. “How did I get fried there?
Gonna hurt like hell for weeks,” she muttered. Her gaze fell on the pool. Dry, white plaster and shiny, black soot
instead of wet, blue water. No nightmare. All gone. Creepy. A flashing light
from the deep end irritated her eyes.
She held out her hand to block the bright rays. Steamy air
whooshed toward her. Something incredibly hot smacked into her palm. Liz
screamed and furiously shook her hand. Small, black balls dropped to the
ground, sending cracks racing across the pink pool decking. She jumped back.
“What the hell?”
The freakiness overwhelmed her mind. Liz dragged her aching
body into the house. No sign of her cat. She stepped around the broken glass,
collected the towel from the floor, and soaked it at the kitchen faucet. Any touch,
even merely wringing out the cool liquid onto her tortured skin, brought tears
to her eyes. She dropped the terrycloth onto the counter, dangled her arms,
closed her eyes, and listened to the sound of her breathing. Her headache
dissipated enough for her to step outside again, towel and knife in hand.
After a quick assessment of the disaster in her backyard,
she crouched next to the culprit, a small black ball. Something scarcely larger
than the marbles she and her sister had played with as kids had devastated her
pool. With help from its minions. Four small, black spheres the size of peas
laid scattered around it. The heat radiating from the bigger one had dropped to
a bearable level, allowing her a closer look. Swirls on the surface moved like
shiny, flowing streams of metal.
She cloaked the larger ball with the wet towel, picked up
the hot package and the knife, and carefully placed the objects on the round
patio table. The metal creaked. With a bang, the table collapsed.
Police sirens approached from both ends of the street.
“This isn't happening. Wake up.” Liz fished the items out of
the twisted table. She stared at the ball, and then placed it on a metal chair.
It pancaked onto the concrete with another loud bang. She grabbed the strange
sphere again. “C'mon. Don't do that.”
Why was she even talking to the hostile object? Just as
pointless as wielding a cooking knife against black magic. Or the heat frying
her brain. The pile of scrap metal on her patio had to be a hallucination. It
had to be.
A rattling noise came from the metal gate to the backyard.
“Hello, Metro police! Anybody home?”
“Yeah, I'm here,” she yelled back. “I think.” Liz stared at
the things in her hand. “This is crazy. They'll think I'm psycho.” I'm naked! “Just a sec'.” The ball and
her dangerous weapon ended up under the wood mulch of the palm trees standing
guard next to the fence. Despite her tender skin, she fastened the towel around
her chest, then dragged her sore body to the side of the house.
Two officers, eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses, hands
resting on their holstered guns, hung back behind the metal bars. She waved
them inside. The female, her black hair tied back into a ponytail, approached
the empty pool and stared into it. “What happened here?”
The hunky policeman, reading from a clipboard, approached.
“You Elizabeth Brass?”
“Yeah.” The eye candy notwithstanding, she instinctively
crossed her arms, but the stinging pain of her burns forced her to loosen her
“Are you okay? I can call an ambulance.” He reached for the
microphone on his shoulder.
“I'm fine. Just a sunburn.”
He studied her bare legs while cracking a smile. “You…have
some kind of ID?”
“My purse's inside.”
Good excuse for hiding her naked body from this playboy. She
knew his type. In her job, she figured out men for a living. This one
definitely thought he was God's gift. She headed to her bedroom. Liz pulled a
red kimono from her closet, clenched her teeth, and slipped into it. The light,
cool touch of silk would cause the least pain. She stepped outside with her
Nevada driver license in hand.
The woman officer stood at the far end of the pool with a
tall man in a short-sleeved white shirt and a typical tourist tie dotted with
tiny dice, chips, and playing cards. His hairdo, something out of a 70s TV show, had as much style
as his hideous necktie. Liz joined the two, who towered over her.
“Detective Dick Rogan, Sexual Assault Unit.” His hands never
left the pockets of his black pants. Dusty brown shoes matched the color of his
thinning hair, which barely covered the bald spot developing on the back of his
head. “Someone reported an explosion in your yard. The guys called me in, cuz
it may have something to do with your case on file. Mrs. Brass, you're—”
“It's ‘Miss,’ but ‘Liz’ is fine.”
He sized her up. “Okay, Liz. You're a casino host?”
“A tad young. What are you, twenty-five?”
“Don't you know it's impolite to ask?”
What a stupid look on his face. Liz knew his type, too. In
Latin. Ignoramus Moronus. She hid her
hand with her ID behind her back. No point adding police insult to injury from
the haters among her older colleagues, who resented her meteoric rise in the
Rogan cleared his throat and turned his stare back to the
pool. “You filed a rape complaint two months ago against one of your high
roller customers, a William—”
“The old guy, Detective Macintosh.”
“Retired last week.”
“Lovely. I get to clue you in all over again, so maybe this
time you'll do something about that
little psycho?” She rolled her eyes. “I gave Mac everything, description, pics,
Billy Boy's phone number. But his Daddy's a big shot in New York, so you'll let
him off the hook, right?” She slightly parted the collar of her kimono with
both hands. “Wanna screw me, too, teach the slut a lesson? That's the job of
you pigs in this town, right?”
If he understood the insult, he hid it well. “Still working
the case. That’s why I'm here. When your address came up, figured it's related.
You're the only witness.”
“Lovely. If you morons had arrested him already, none of
this would have happened.” She glanced at the big hole in the bottom of her
pool revealing the dirt underneath. “Guess the bomb came with a free grave.
What a deal.”
Nincompoop. Liz scrunched her face. “Of course! Sun destroys
the plaster. Everybody knows that.”
Rogan knelt at the edge and stared at the devastated floor.
“Some kind of rocket. Never heard of anything that can vaporize all the water and the plaster.”
Liz shrugged. “This is just a dream. When I wake up, I'll
find a pool full of refreshing water, and…”
…no idiots giving me a hard time for nothin'. She wanted to pinch herself
to make the police disappear, but her body had endured enough pain already.
The uniformed hunk walked back into view. “CSI's on their
way with a whole forensics team. This is major.”
The hot concrete walkway had cooked the soles of her feet.
“I'm not feeling well.” Liz closed her eyes for a moment to block out her pool
and Rogan’s fashion disasters. “Are we done?”
He nodded sideways. “For now. Hang around. May have more
questions. You need an ambulance?”
She shook her head, turned around, and strolled back on the
cooler decking along the pool edge. When she got close, the four pea-sized
spheres rolled toward her and stuck to her foot. “Whatev'.”
restless and itchy night sleeping in the nude, the pain reared its prickly
fangs the moment Liz raised her head. Reality dashed her hope of awaking from
the nightmare. How did she get a sunburn everywhere lying on her side? Staying
in bed a while longer, she replayed yesterday's events. A rocket had attacked
her house, destroyed her pool, and left behind fiery hot black debris. The
bright light must have fried her. The
thought made her freeze. Oh my gosh,
they're radioactive. After enduring scores of action movies on pointless
dates, she knew something about radiation sickness: nausea, vomiting, loss of
hair. A frantic pull on her precious blonde locks confirmed that, other than
her hurting skin, she showed none of the symptoms. Liz glanced at the little
black spheres cornered peacefully behind her big Fendi crossbody bag. “Your mama's
still outside in the heat. Let that be a lesson. You guys cost me dearly, you
Her boyfriend had canceled their date on her regular day
off. Maybe she whined too much about even the slightest touch hurting. Still,
he did not have to abandon her, but Martin had no compassion for tears. A
credit manager from another casino, he talked more shop than romance. The curse
of Las Vegas: anybody she met was either a tourist or in the industry. He did
introduce her to a few high rollers—Billy Boy for one. Perhaps the black balls
were a sign of more trouble to come from the two men.
She strolled outside naked. Let the neighbors watch if they
wanted to. Any fabric was too painful right now. The sight of the pool
surrounded by yellow tape hung on plastic A-frame barricades made her cry. From
the huge hole, cracks radiated out along two walls and half the floor. The new
plaster had eaten up over five thousand dollars, most of her savings. All for
Damn balls! Liz made a fist, but her burnt palm hurt too
much. She walked out to the trees where she had hidden the strange marble and
carefully pushed aside the rock mulch until she spotted the matte black
surface, then poked it with a toe. Nothing. No heat. No movement. When she
reached for it, the sphere jumped into her hand. She jerked back, but held on.
A wasp honed in and buzzed around the ball. Liz screamed,
ducked, and swatted at the insect. It shot across the patio. A gust blew dirt
and palm seeds to the sides. In its wake, a metal pole bent with a groan. The
attached corrugated patio roof sagged, sending dead palm branches crashing to
the floor and a flock of pigeons scrambling into the sky. The ball slipped out
of her hand, blasted past the mulch pieces with crackling noises, and sank into
Did I just do that?
Shocked, she looked at her bare hands, then screamed. “Stop it! You're
destroying my house.”
Liz's foot snapped back to kick the damn ball, but stinging
pain in her joints taught her better. How did Billy Boy get a rocket to make her
life miserable? So unfair.
Instead of stomping her hurting foot, she turned, and
marched back into the house. Rot in that
hole, stupid thing.
A liberal application of body milk with aloe vera soothed
her aching skin. Music from her alarm clock reminded Liz of her job taking care
of gamblers at a luxury resort on the Las Vegas Strip. Anything from comped
meals and rooms to finding that special something for a particular occasion—if
a valued client needed it, she made it happen. Since most of them arrived after
lunchtime, she worked swing shift. Extended swing shift, really, since a host's
phone does twenty-four-hour duty. The damn ball had robbed her of the precious
rest she needed to tend to players late at night. Regardless, the sunburn made
surviving even a few hours in clothes unlikely.
Maybe she should just call in sick. A check of her
smartphone convinced her otherwise. Señor Vasquez was en route from Mexico. The
dirty old man with a not-so-secret crush on her always requested his favorite
host, and routinely greased her palm with thousand-dollar chips. Unseemly, but
after yesterday's catastrophe, she needed them.
A loose-fitting light dress sans constricting underwear would have to do. Bouncing breasts
invited too many lecherous looks, however. Some in the casino already blamed
her for bringing the alleged rape on
herself with her risqué attire. Hosts usually dressed conservatively. She
tossed a bra into the freezer. Perhaps the cold would sooth her burning
Why not just chuck this phony job? If people already
considered her a professional slut, why not get paid as one? Strippers made
good money with minimal clothing. Hookers charged hundreds of dollars for an
hour's work including the same
groveling and fake smiles she employed. Then again, every vice citation
severely cut into profits. Nor did she
relish a night in jail. After bailing out numerous drunken clients, she knew
something about the horrors of the county's holding cells. Liz sighed, popped
an aspirin, and strapped on her icy bra. Ouch!
This really hurts.
When she grabbed her handbag, the devoted black balls came
rolling toward her. She picked one up and studied it. The same matte finish as
their mother, but less damaging to her floor. Cold to the touch. A sniff
revealed no odor. The thought of a taste test made her gag. Enough dry studies.
Time for some action.
She swiped her hand across the bed. Clack. Liz jumped, when the square decorative pillow suddenly
sailed across the room and knocked the alarm clock from the nightstand. Wow! An invisible force delivered large
results with little effort, like magic. “Spooky.”
She made the sign of the cross, then stared at the powerful
pea. “Who are you really, my friend or my foe?” For a moment, she took stock of
the items in the room. Love or faith may not truly move mountains, but maybe
Black Ball could. Liz tried again with a more sweeping motion. Two big pillows,
the small neck roll, and a menagerie of stuffed animals tumbled to the floor. Cool! She switched hands, but lifting
the items from afar proved too difficult, so she carefully placed her stuffed
unicorn and its companions back on the comforter.
Nevertheless, throwing things off the bed did excite her. Wandering from the open kitchen to the
other end of the great room, she swiped her hand at various objects. A pot slid
across the counter. Chairs and the
dining table skidded out of the way. She took a whack at the sofa. With little
effort from her, it moved three feet. Shocked Tuxedo scampered off the soft
perch and fled across the rug to hide behind the entertainment center.
little balls turned into a belated birthday gift. Not from Billy, but for him! Daydreams
of her tormentor starring in a slapstick tragedy with lots of slap and even
more stick made her smile. The next rapist will never know what hit him.
Smiling, she dropped the black sphere into her handbag. A jolt went through
her. What have I done? She peered
into the darkness of the Fendi. “You behave in there. Don't destroy my stuff,
okay?” Silence. An acceptable answer this time.
Liz browsed through the calendar on her Smartphone to
September 2013. Only two months to the Fall Fashion Week in New York City. One
last check of her itching outfit in the hallway mirror. Despite her lingering
pain, she twirled around with delight. She had plenty of vacation days left for
a surprise date with Billy Boy. A big surprise for him for sure.