When Keith wants to keep his wife from finding out about his much younger girlfriend, he calls Frank Sibila, a professional alibi agent whose clientele ranges from cheating housewives to shady diplomats. Holed up in a restaurant men’s room, a panicked Keith explains that his wife just came into the place where he and his girlfriend are dining. Frank promises to be there in ten minutes. What Frank doesn’t know is that ten minutes from now, his already drama-packed life is about to get even more interesting.
Keith’s case should be business as usual for Frank, the proprietor of the real-life Internet service FakeAlibi.com. Frank specializes in spinning believable tales to exonerate clients around the world, which he substantiates with agent testimony, receipts, fake news stories, and whatever else is necessary.
In this hilarious novel inspired by his real-life exploits, Frank finds himself trapped between a hapless husband who has run into trouble in Sin City and a wronged woman determined to cause Frank grief. It’s all just another day at the office for Frank and his operatives . . . until he misplaces his client.
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About the Author
Frank Sibila (pseudonym) is educated to degree level and started FakeAlibi.com in 2005. The company has served more than 7,000 clients and operates a global stable of 700 undercover agents willing to take casework at a moment's notice. With 10,000 registered users and an average of 20,000 visitors a month to FakeAlibi.com, business is booming, and keeping a low profile is no easy task for Frank. Frank lives in the UK.
Adam-Troy Castro is a well-known author of science fiction, fantasy, and horror whose short stories have received five nominations for the Nebula Award, two for the Hugo Award, and one for the Stoker. In 2007 he and collaborator Jerry Oltion shared the Seiun Award for best work translated into Japanese, for their acclaimed novella The Astronaut from Wyoming. His prior books include Emissaries from the Dead, the Sinister Six trilogy, and nonfiction volumes examining the Harry Potter phenomenon and the television show The Amazing Race. A full-time writer when he isn't procrastinating, Adam lives in Miami with his wife Judi and a motley assortment of anarchist cats that includes Meow Farrow and Uma Furman.
Caren Kennedy is a freelance features writer and photographer living in Ireland.
Read an Excerpt
ON THE OTHER END OF THE COUNTRY, in a brightly lit restaurant filled with beautiful people and those who could afford a few precious moments in the reflected glow of their company, a man Yorick thought he knew well echoed the same journey from nirvana to sheer panic.
Just a heartbeat earlier, Keith Custer had been flashing his best smile, a showing of teeth that were big and gleaming and lined up all in a row almost like blank business cards. That smile had earned him a little over four million in the last two years, selling commercial real estate that wouldn't have looked quite as bright or spacious when seen in light other than that reflected by his personality; that smile had lured any number of women just as dazzling to any number of beds during any number of lunch hours or late-night assignations. It didn't say anything in particular, that smile, but when reflected back upon a speaker in conversation, it supported the illusion that Keith found whatever was being said by the other person just as important as anything he had ever heard in his life.
At the moment before nirvana changed to panic, he had been listening to a beautiful twenty-something blue-eyed redhead named Tiffany Watson talk about the private gallery showing of her sculptures opening in Soho this upcoming Friday evening. Given ten tries and a compass, he could not have guessed what she was going on about, because he was thinking about what she was soon going to look like flat on her back with that long, streaked hair of hers covering the pillow like a corona.
He was fully aware that Tiffany, who was no idiot, but indeed quite brilliant, and no stranger to the phenomenon of a man only pretending to listen — familiar to the point of being able to discern the slightest flagging of any lothario's attention by the flickering of his gaze — was nevertheless entirely taken in by him. This was because he had perfected the trick of being able to discern the delivery of witticisms or funny stories by body language alone and therefore never missed the cue to chuckle, nod, or shake his head in appreciation, even if he only had to maintain that illusion for another couple of hours at most.
Then the smile had drained from his face, his warm and caring eyes had bulged from their sockets as if trying to escape, his complexion had turned dungeon pale, and he had dropped the champagne he'd just ordered back into the ice bucket. "Holy crap."
It wasn't the first time Tiffany had seen such symptoms in older, well-to-do men. Though he hadn't mentioned a cardiac condition or a matrimonial one, she asked him right away, "Are you having a heart attack, or is it your wife?"
To Keith the two options were congruent. "It's her, dammit!"
Monica was beautiful, blonde, fifteen years younger than he, and the only human being who frightened him. Five years earlier, chancing upon her in a bar, he'd been dazzled not only by her golden-girl beauty, which was still in Tiffany's class, but also by her world-class skill at detecting and deflecting the bullshit flung her way by every male in her vicinity. She'd been such a challenge to seduce that he'd resorted to a previously untested and radioactive tactic: honesty. Within six months he'd not only wooed her away from Columbia Law, but also woken up one terrible morning two weeks into their honeymoon with the horrible realization that he'd married her.
Keith had always lived by the motto that no man should ever marry any woman who — well, that had pretty much been the extent of his motto. But now he had another one, deeper and richer in consequence. No man should ever marry any woman who sees him for what he is.
Especially if his demands on her time derail what, it turns out, would have been a much-desired career as a federal prosecutor, thus forcing her to sublimate.
Monica always knew when he was planning to go off the reservation. He didn't know how she knew, but she knew. Over a period of six months, ending three months ago when he'd put a certain business on retainer, she'd mysteriously shown up at five separate seductions-in-progress, each time seemingly by coincidence, each time with a grinning cat-caught-the-canary relish that unmanned him more than any amount of tears and fury would have. Keith had another motto. No man should ever marry a woman scarier than himself.
Tiffany was awed. "Look at you. She must be something."
"She's the Antichrist," Keith said.
Across the room Monica chatted with the maÀ(r)tre d'. She had not yet swept the room with her gaze, not yet given any sign that she saw her husband, but the sheer there-ness of her, the sheer it's-happening-again of her, crowded the elegant dining room in a manner that no mere elephant stampede could have managed. At one horrific moment, she almost looked Keith's way, and Keith almost died. "Oh God. Oh God, oh God, oh God."
"Gee," said Tiffany, who was inconsiderate enough to enjoy this. "I honestly didn't expect to hear that for a couple of hours yet."
"Sssshhh! She could have heard that!"
Tiffany rolled her eyes. "We haven't done anything, Keith. We're just considering doing something. A consideration that is growing more remote with every second."
"Oh God. Oh God. She's looking."
Tiffany rolled her eyes again. "Why don't you go hide in the bathroom or something?"
Keith found that to be a good brainstorm and, after somehow managing to rise to his feet, executed the even more impressive trick of making a beeline for the restroom, bowed at the waist like an operatic baritone thanking a concert hall audience for his standing ovation.
The men's room attendant goggled at Keith's posture and urgency, probably assuming a bad case of food poisoning, jumped well out of the way of any potential splash zone, and allowed Keith unfettered access to the center stall between two patrons whose errands were more traditionally excretory and whose Guccis could be clearly seen planted before their respective thrones. Keith, who didn't trust the vestibule and the outer door clearly marked MEN enough to protect him, bolted the stall door and then hopped onto the toilet and squatted there, birdlike, regarding the door before him as if expecting it to disgorge a tiger at any moment. Panic made his hands tremble as he jabbed at the buttons of his slimline cell phone.
Tiffany picked up. "Hello, Mr. Inconspicuous. The whole room's talking about that exit."
"Listen to me, Tiff. Stay where you are."
"Why would I leave?" she asked. "I haven't been served yet."
"Just stay there, and don't say anything if she comes over."
"That's going to be awfully rude if she asks any direct questions."
"Pretend you're deaf-mute. Anything. I'm calling for help."
She said nothing.
She still said nothing. He wondered if they'd been disconnected, but he could still hear the lugubrious violin music and clinking sounds of cutlery on the other end.
He was going to call her name again, but then he thought about it, wondered whether she was enjoying herself a little too much, and said, "Yes, like that," and hung up.
Ten minutes later, Frank Sibila, founder and CEO of Fake Alibi, Inc., hopped out of his Jag and tossed a folded twenty at a valet who recognized him from TV and grinned with deep appreciation. "Duuuuuuuuuude," the kid said. "Ain't you that guy?"
Frank allowed his cocky grin to fall. "Damn. I thought you were."
"You, like, on the case, dude? — No, no, no, don't answer that. I already know. If you told me, you'd have to kill me, right?"
Honestly, Frank had not been about to say that. "Thanks for keeping my secret, dude."
The kid shot him a thumbs-up and attempted the same insouciant hop into the Jag, not quite managing the leap without wreaking a six-inch tear in his inseam.
There were times when Frank deeply regretted the People magazine interview, and the appearances on Oprah (who hated him) and The Clark Dilton Experience (Dilton being the right-wing pundit who called him a sign of America's deep moral crisis, but afterward put him on retainer). True, the infamy led to more referrals, and more referrals led to more money, but the recognition factor made personal involvement in the business more difficult. That caused problems on days like today when every other service rep on his staff was out on assignment and he had to get personally involved to help out a client whose needs were immediate. He hoped the wife, described to him as a shark, piranha, and several other varieties of sea-based predator, didn't watch TV. It would make things much easier.
Before he passed the red carpet and the two brass cherubs guarding the front entrance, he flipped open his phone to dial Keith Custer, but the dulcet tones of "Tell Me Lies" announced an incoming call before he had the chance. Of course. It had been a full ninety seconds since Keith last dialed demanding to know where he was. "Hello, Keith. Legs cramped yet?"
"Where are you?" Keith demanded. "You said you were almost here!"
"I'm afraid that's no longer true, Keith."
The anguished moan at the other end was probably the only thing Keith had said or done in that toilet stall those last ten minutes to support the illusion that he had a legitimate reason for being there. "What did you do, make a wrong turn?"
"No, actually, I made every correct turn, sped through every yellow light, and got here in record time. Relax. It's all under control. You still perched with your feet on the toilet, or have you come to your senses and assumed a less incriminating position?"
Keith was still dancing on the edge of panic. "You mean I should be standing?"
A nexus of pain formed at the bridge of Frank's nose, right between his eyes. He massaged it between index finger and thumb. "No, really, I think you've blown any chance you might have had of roping the attendant and your fellow men's room users into your uncannily persuasive deception. Listen. You need to sit down, get your breathing under control, flush the toilet, then wash your face and pull yourself together. You said this Tiffany is still out there waiting for you?"
"She's having a great time. She says she's on her third glass of champagne."
"Where's your wife?"
"Tiff tells me she's sitting at a table by herself, staring daggers at my empty seat. I don't know if she's ordered anything. Probably not. When she gets a look like that, waiters get scared of her."
"Have you told her I'm on the way?"
"You mean Monica?"
"No," Frank said patiently. "Telling Monica would be counterproductive."
"You mean Tiffany."
"Thank Heaven for the process of elimination."
"Yes, I told her. She's looking forward to seeing you work."
"All right," Frank said. "Wait two more minutes. Then go back out, kiss Tiff on the cheek — not, for pete's sake, on the lips — apologize for leaving her for so long, and then return to your seat. Be charming. Make yourself conspicuous. If you make eye contact with your wife or if she comes to the table, act delighted to see her. Introduce Tiffany and me. I'll provide your cover story before she has time to ask you any questions."
Frank flipped the phone shut imagining, as always, the distant sound of an orchestra tuning up while the actors behind the curtain reviewed their opening lines and inspected their front teeth for pieces of spinach left over from lunch. It was showbiz, really. Improv. Except on a larger stage and with fewer drunks in the front row responding to any request for an occupation with raucous cries of "hooker!" It was just a matter of getting into character....
He entered the restaurant and strode past the muted tones of the foyer with the coat check and lounge. The sizeable population of midday drinkers, already alerted to the presence of a fourth-tier celebrity of the moment by the jungle drums that always spread such rumors as fast as electronic communication could, swiveled on their stools to witness the drama they expected to ensue. He stopped at the maître d' long enough to say he was there to join a party already in progress and then used his expert eye to scan the dining room for Keith or the two women he knew would be otherwise dining alone. He spotted an elegant redhead hiding a half-smile at a table with two place settings. Ten tables away sat a fuming predatory blonde whose fingers were lined up at the edge of her tablecloth as if she intended to shred it. He had not asked Keith for physical descriptions of Tiffany and Monica, but the body language was not exactly cuneiform etched into ancient stone blocks. Stamping a broad grin across his face and extending a hand, he made his way directly across the room and cried, just a little too loudly, "There you are, Tiff!"
She looked up, not recognizing him but, bless her, getting the cue at once. A warm smile, filled with ersatz but entirely persuasive affection, brightened her already brilliant blue eyes. She offered her cheek for a kiss. "Yes, here I am! What took you so long?"
"Oh," he said one peck later as he took a seat, "you know how it is. This city. We should all get up forty minutes earlier if we want to get anywhere on time."
"Or make our appointments forty minutes later," Tiffany suggested.
"That," he said, "would make us all ninety minutes late, wouldn't it? — Where's the man himself? Don't tell me he's having one of those intestinal crises of his!"
"I'm afraid so." She lowered her eyes demurely. With the lids at half-mast, the eclipsed brightness behind them suggested all sorts of delightful possibilities, explaining in an instant why a fellow like Keith would make a fool of himself — well, more than a fool of himself — out of desire for her. And that look seemed to be directed at him now; whatever happened now, Frank laid ten-to-one odds that his hapless client had already lost his chance. "The poor thing. He really should see a doctor and get himself looked at."
Across the dining room, the door to the men's room opened, and Keith Custer, big and broad-chested and grinning as if he'd applied superglue to his gums to get the impression to stick, emerged, fighting a limp that Frank attributed to numbness after fifteen minutes perched on a toilet seat like a buzzard waiting for some dying prospector to crawl by. Keith did not sport the shiny forehead Frank had feared, but instead a dry one, and he did not have the special look of a man who had perspired quite a lot in the recent past. His wave, when he spotted Frank, was as theatrical as that of any politician saying good- bye from the doorway of a departing helicopter. "Hey, buddy!"
Frank hated being called buddy, but he could live with it for the sake of the job. He stood and shook Keith's hand. "Hey, pal! What took you so long?"
"Oh," Tiffany said, "you know. This city."
"We should all get up forty minutes earlier," Frank amplified.
They were all chuckling over that like buddies and pals when the fourth chair at the table became occupied by 120 pounds of pure scowl. Monica had not stormed across the room, because she was in too much control of herself to storm, but she had moved from her table to theirs without making a sound. Her approach had been so smooth it may have been a specialized form of social Ninjutsu for wives bent on public confrontation, so perfect that all three people at the table, though they'd expected her, gave a little jump as she fixed her gaze on Frank and said, "I know who you are."
Keith had reached the limits of his capacity to keep up the act. "M-monica!"
But Frank was just getting started. "Monica?" He glanced at Keith. "You're Monica?"
Keith managed an entirely unpersuasive "Honey, what are you doing here?"
"What I'm doing here," Monica said, her voice sweet but her tone dripping venom, "is not being fooled. I recognize this man. He runs that fake alibi service. You hired him to cover up your little rendezvous with Pippi Longstocking here, didn't you? Didn't you?"
Keith provided a clever "Ha buh dumma huh."
But it was Frank who managed to look truly mortified. He had, in the course of training for his unusual profession, worked out the knack of blanching without showing genuine horror, a talent that would serve many professional actors well and which, on a couple of earlier occasions, he had needed to fake by jabbing himself in the thigh with a fork. He said, "Oh, God. Is that what you think? Oh, God." He shook his head in true misery. "This is why I can't go out with friends anymore. Ever since Oprah everybody thinks I'm always playing an angle."
Showing true talent for the work, and probably enjoying herself more than she would have had the day ended with her bedding Keith, Tiffany gave his wrist a couple of protective pats. "That's all right, Frankie. We know better."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Fake Alibis"
Copyright © 2009 Frank Sibila.
Excerpted by permission of BenBella Books, Inc..
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