When Trudy Bell lands a job at a travel agency, she feels like a new woman. And her friendly personality soon wins her the adoration of her colleagues—with one exception. Ann Oliver, the only other African American employee, a high-level manager who despises Trudy's low-income background. But no one is going to ruin Trudy's new life. In fact, she's found a way to make it even better. As a secretary, Trudy has easy access to company credit cards. Including Ann's. . .
Before long Trudy's leading a double-life—Ann's life—complete with a secret apartment where she entertains the men she meets at upscale bars. But their worlds collide the night Trudy brings home the wrong man—one who has an angry score to settle. With Ann. Now, unless Trudy can convince him she's not the woman he's after, she may pay the highest price of all. . .
"Monroe serves up a tasty dish of murder, deception, lust, and just desserts."—Library Journal on She Had it Coming
"Monroe's richly drawn characters will stay with readers long after the book is finished."—Booklist
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In Sheeps Clothing
By Mary Monroe
Dafina BooksCopyright © 2006 Mary Monroe
All right reserved.
Chapter OneI didn't know if the gun aiming at my head was real or not. But the sudden wetness between my legs told me that my bladder malfunction was real. So was the sweat that had saturated my hair and covered my face like a facial. I expected to look like a wet duck by the time my ordeal was over that dreary Friday afternoon. And the way things were going it looked like I'd be a dead one, too.
"You might die today, bitch." My assailant didn't raise his voice or even speak in a particularly menacing tone. He was just as cool and casual as he'd been when he entered the store a few minutes earlier. A moment before he had given me a possible death sentence, he'd asked, "Do y'all take checks?" Before I could respond, he had whipped out a gun. Just the sight of it would have been enough to bring me to my knees. It was a long, dark, evil-looking weapon, complete with a silencer. His threat streaked past my head like a comet and bounced off the cluttered wall behind me. It even drowned out the piercing, ongoing screams of the spoiled Porter baby in the apartment across the parking lot.
"Please ... please don't hurt me," I managed. "I'll do anything you want me to. Please ..." I had never begged for anything before. I never dreamed that the first thing I would beg for wouldbe my life.
It seemed like every part of my body was in pain. My throat felt like I had swallowed a sword and my stomach felt like it had been kicked by a mule. Cramps in my legs made it hard for me to remain standing. Even my eyes were in pain, throbbing like I had run into a door. But that didn't stop me from staring at what I thought at the time was the last thing I'd see on earth: the face of my killer. And on the last day of one of the most miserable jobs I'd ever had before in my life at that.
"You goddamn right you gonna do anything I want you to do! You stupid-ass heifer! I'm the one with the gun!"
"Well ... please do what you have to do and leave," I pleaded, ever so gently. It was bad enough that I had already emptied my bladder. Now my stomach felt like it was about to add to the puddle of pee that had formed on the floor around my feet. I heaved so hard I had to grab onto the counter and cover my mouth.
"Look-I just et lunch. If you puke in front of me, I'm gonna whup your black ass before I kill you!"
I had almost used a "sick" day that morning. I had almost asked to work the evening shift, but had decided not to because it was the shift that most robbers usually chose to do their dirty work in our neighborhood.
"Bitch, don't fuck with me today!" My tormentor waved his gun at me as his spoke. His beady black eyes shifted from one side to the other as thick yellow snot trickled from both sides of his wide flat nose. This seemed to embarrass him. He turned his head so abruptly his knitted cap slid to the side, revealing neat, freshly braided cornrows. With a loud snort he swiped his nose using the sleeve of his baggy plaid flannel shirt. "Do you wanna die today?" This time his voice sounded like the thunder I'd heard just before he had entered the store.
"No, I don't want to die today," I told him, my voice barely above a whisper. A purple birthmark about a square inch in size and shaped like a half moon, occupied a spot directly below his right eye.
"Then you better stop lookin' at me and do what I told you to do! Open that fuckin' register and gimme every goddamn dollar in it! I ain't playin' with you, bitch! Shit!" He glared at me as he rubbed the mark under his eye. But it would take more than that to remove it. He had been branded for life. You would have thought that somebody with such an identifying mark would have concealed his face. But most criminals were as stupid as they were crooked.
The individual who held my life in his hands reminded me of my eighteen-year-old cousin, Dwan. He was the same age and height. He was even the same shade of cinnamon brown. And like Dwan, he wore clothes big enough for two people. But my cousin had come to his senses before it was too late and was now in Iraq risking his life to keep America safe for me and fools like the one facing me.
Even as scared as I was, I was so angry that I was not able to keep my thoughts completely to myself. I pressed my sticky wet thighs together, angry that my urine had drenched my favorite pair of socks and my only pair of Nikes. "It's a damn shame that Black folks are the ones keeping other Black folks down. If you just got to rob somebody-why us? You know how hard we work for our money!" I yelled. "How can you sleep at night, brother?" I asked, folding my arms. Bold was one thing I was not. At least not under normal circumstances. But even meek women like me had a breaking point. Especially when I thought I was about to die anyway.
"Aaah ... I sleeps like a baby," the young robber sneered, his eyes rolling back in his head in mock ecstasy. Then his face tightened and he gave me a sudden sharp look. "No wonder you Black women so evil-y'all too hardheaded! Don't know when to listen! Didn't I tell you to keep your hands up in that goddamn air?"
"I can't open the register and do that, too," I smirked, placing my hands on my hips.
"Uh," the bold thief began. He paused and whistled to get the attention of his even younger accomplice guarding the door, not taking his eyes off of my face. "Snookie-everything still cool?"
"It's all good, dude! Hurry up so we can get up out of here!" Snookie yelled back, sounding almost as frightened and nervous as I was.
Armed robberies in broad daylight had become a way of life in certain parts of the South Bay Area. Liquor stores seemed to be the most popular targets. Especially "Otto's Spirits," the liquor store conveniently located between Josey's Nail Shop and Paco's Bail Bonds.
My daddy, Otto Bell, owned the liquor store where I'd been working for the past six years, six days a week, eight hours a day. While I was being robbed and terrorized, Daddy was at home, in his frayed gray bathrobe, wallowing in depression on our tattered couch. This was how he now celebrated Mama's birthday every year. Even though she'd been dead for sixteen years. The sudden thought that I might die on my mother's birthday increased my anger. Not just at the young robber, but at life in general. No matter how hard I tried to enjoy life, things always seemed to blow up in my face. Even the little things. Earlier that day a drunken prostitute had sprayed my face with spit when I'd asked her not to solicit in front of the store.
"Gimme the money, bitch! I ain't tellin' you no more."
I popped open the cash register and scooped out every dollar. I dropped the small wad of bills on the counter next to the Ebony magazine that I'd been reading, and the two bags of Fritos, six-pack of Miller Light, and six candy bars the perpetrator had pretended he'd come in for.
He snatched up the money with two fingers and counted under his breath. "A hundred and seventy-five dollars?" he gasped and looked at me with his mouth hanging open. "Now that's a damn shame." His eyes were as flat as his voice.
"That's all we have," I whimpered, wringing my hands. It was hard not to look at his face. His eyes and the birthmark kept grabbing my attention.
He rolled his eyes then looked at me with extreme contempt. "Stop lookin' at me so hard!" he screamed as he lunged across the counter, punching the side of my arm. His hand, the one with the gun, was shaking. I could not decide if it was because he was nervous or just that angry. "You stingy bitch, you," he roared, grinding his teeth. "I went to all this trouble for a hundred and seventy-five fuckin' dollars." He gave me an incredulous look. "What is the matter with you people? Broke-ass niggers! Don't y'all know how to run a business? Them damn Asians puttin' y'all to shame! At least with them, I get paid right!"
"It's been a slow day and people around here barely have enough money to live on," I explained, my hands back on my hips. "Look- uh, the other cashier will be back any minute so you better leave now while you still can," I said.
He blinked and released a loud breath. He slid his thick tongue across his lips then formed a cruel smile. "Not unless he Superman he won't. I seen that lame old motherfucker leave ten minutes ago. Matter of fact, I know for a fact that old dude was on his way to that massage parlor around the corner to get him some pussy. I been checkin' him-and You-out for two weeks now." Looking around he added, "I done did my homework. I ain't no ignorant punk. I know what's up around here ..."
"You know Mr. Clarke?" I asked, praying that another customer would wander in and possibly save me. Even if Mr. Clarke had come back in time, he would not have been much help. The last robber had beaten him and Daddy to the floor with the butt of his gun. Then the greedy thug had helped himself to what little money we'd had in the cash register at the time, a sack full of alcohol, and other light items.
"I know everybody and everything that go on in this neighborhood, girl. I ain't stupid." As cold and empty as his eyes were he managed to wink at me. Then he leaned forward far enough for me to feel and smell his hot sour breath. My face was already sizzling with rage so it didn't make that much more of a difference. "I know about you and James and I know you give him some mean head," he told me, his voice low and hollow. "If I was a little older I'd let you be my main woman ..." He paused and whistled again and yelled over his back. "Snookie, if anybody come up in here-pop 'em in the head. I'm fin to take this stingy ho in the back room and get my dick sucked."
Excerpted from In Sheeps Clothing by Mary Monroe Copyright © 2006 by Mary Monroe. Excerpted by permission.
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