Hungry For Justice-And Brains
Meet Mallory Caine. Attorney at law. Zombie at large. She's not like those "Living Dead" losers you see in the movies. She doesn't slobber, drool, or lurch-she's smart, stylish, and sexy. Sure, she's a zombie and a lawyer but, hey, a girl's got to eat. When Mallory's not in the courtroom, going head to head with her ex-boyfriend, killer-prosecutor Aaron Argula, she's in the seedy streets of Hollywood, hunting brain after brain. That is, until some psycho starts hunting zombie after zombie. . .
The Defense Never Rests-In Peace
The undead are decapitated, a letter "Z" carved in their flesh. Mallory doesn't want to lose her head, but she's worried. Like a lot of lawyers in L.A., she doesn't have a soul-a side effect of being a zombie, not a defense attorney. If Mallory dies before she gets her soul back, she goes straight to hell. No appeals. Objection overruled. If the killer isn't stopped, it's case closed for zombies everywhere. But Mallory is an undying champion of justice. And she won't go down-without a bite. . .
About the Author
K. Bennet is the pseudonym of James Scott Bell, the bestselling and award winning suspense author of Deadlock and Try Fear. He was the fiction columnist for Writers Digest magazine and has written three popular books for the Writers Digest line: Plot & Structure, Revision & Self-Editing, and The Art of War for Writers. Jim has taught writing at Pepperdine University and studied writing with Raymond Carver. He lives and writes in L.A. He blogs weekly at Kill Zone, www.killzoneauthors.blogspot.com
Read an Excerpt
PAY ME IN FLESH
By K. Bennett
PINNACLE BOOKSCopyright © 2011 K. Bennett
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Ms. Caine, I am troubled."
Judge Dixon Darnell leaned back in his chair, put his feet on the desk in his chambers. "I didn't like having to hold you in contempt, but you really left me little choice."
"Would it help if I said sorry?"
"Sorry," I said, even though I wasn't. Darnell had refused to let me introduce evidence of a cop's previous altercation with a client just like mine. Then he made me go ahead with the closing arguments. Even though this was a little DUI to him, it was a real case with a real client to me. And I'd talked some junk at the bench about it. Boom. Contempt and three hundred bones.
"I've been watching you closely this whole trial. May I make an observation?"
"You're holding the cards, Judge. Three hundred of them." If I didn't pay the fine, I was going to the clink. "I'm not going to pony up this extortion."
"You seem different," the judge said. "Harder somehow. You appeared in my court, what, a little over a year ago? You were okay then, but now you've got a chip on your shoulder. Have you been going through anything in your personal life?"
Besides being a zombie? Other than being raised from the dead and going on an all-flesh diet? "Not really," I said.
He cleared his throat. Darnell was a big man, in an overfed Teamster sort of way. He was balding on top, his steel wool hair buzzed around the sides. "As you know I am on the committee overseeing the substance abuse section of the Bar."
"There's a lot of substance abuse in a lot of bars."
He didn't smile. "You wouldn't be needing some help in that area, would you?"
"I mean it, Ms. Caine. I want to help, I do. But you've had your bra in a twist this entire week."
"What did you just say to me?"
"Relax, there's no one who can hear us." He eyed me like an entomologist studying a rare species of Coleoptera. Then he got up and came around to the front of the desk. He parked his ample fundament on the desk edge, his substantial gut at eye-level.
"Would you mind addressing me face to face?" he said.
I wanted to take a chunk out of him. Wanted to feast on judge breast right then and there, and I was gripping the arms of the chair hard to keep from diving in. Eating a judge in his own chambers would not look good on the old legal record.
I stood, if only to keep my mind off dinner.
Judge Darnell grabbed my shoulders, pulled me to him, and planted his fleshy lips on mine.
I jerked away. "Hey!"
"I can do things for you," he said.
"If you do things for me."
"I don't work that way."
He pawed at me again. I spun away.
"I can also make life hell," he said.
"Now look, Judge, you don't want to do this."
"Oh, but I do."
"This isn't 1964. What kind of stuff do you think you can pull here?"
"I think you're beautiful," he said. "And dangerous. I'm dangerous, too. Think of what we could do together."
Gack! I did not want to think that, unless it meant him willingly removing his head so I could eat his brain.
"Judge, do you want this story getting out? Because I'm this close."
Darnell sighed deeply. Shook his head. "No one will believe you. I just slapped you with contempt. They'll say you're making this up."
I looked at him and wanted to consume every bit of him above the waist. "You are one sick meal," I said.
"Male. One sick male."
"Think very carefully about what you say to me."
"Give me a second. Okay. You are one sick male."
"I tried to help you. Just remember that." He punched a button on his desk phone. A moment later the door opened and his courtroom bailiff came in.
"Lockup," Judge Darnell said.
* * *
Practicing law in L.A. is hard. Especially if you're dead.
I was murdered a year ago. The cops don't know who did it. I've been trying to find out ever since.
Then someone brought me back to life. I don't know who that was, either, but I have to find him. Or her. Because if I don't, my soul, wherever it is now, goes to hell. If I'm killed as a zombie, that's what happens, as far as I've been able to determine.
Which is a drag, because now I have to eat flesh to stay alive. Human flesh. Especially brains.
That can be hard on my fellow citizens.
On top of all that I have to make a living.
I defend people accused of crimes.
Like my current client, the pirate musician John
"Captain Blarney" Matthews. Who was accused of DUI. And who hadn't paid me yet.
I was busting my hump for him in court, but Darnell was against me all the way. Now I knew why.
Which is how I got jammed in the lockup in the courthouse. Me. In the spot where I usually came to visit my own clients before they came into court.
I was pacing around, fuming, practicing some of my street defense moves, when someone came to the grated window and called my name.
I went to the door and my jaw almost hit the ground. Literally. I put my hand under my chin. Sometimes the old jaw muscles loosen. Undead sinews are not the best in town.
"Aaron! What the—"
"Mallory, this so isn't you," Aaron Argula said.
"Why are you even here?"
"I'm back in town. Working for the DA." Aaron's hair was thick and black, his eyes acetylene blue. I had fallen into those eyes back in law school, in a big way. It didn't hurt that a face to die for sat on top of the broad shoulders of a former defensive back for Cal.
"But I mean what are you doing back here, at the lockup?" I said.
"I heard out in the hallway the judge held you in contempt," Aaron said. "Still ticking people off, huh?"
When I didn't answer, Aaron said, "What do you say we get out of here and go have a civilized drink?"
"Um, Aaron, you may have noticed I'm incarcerated."
"A perversion of justice soon to be remedied." He turned.
"Hey, where you going?"
"To pay your fine," he said.
"No! I can't have you—"
"It's the least I can do for an old friend," he said, and sped off down the corridor.
Half an hour later we were having martinis at Noé, the bar at the Omni Hotel on Olive Street. I like the classic—Beefeater up with two olives. I can barely taste it on my undead tongue, but it does penetrate the suspended animation of my brain.
It also keeps the Voice at bay on lonely nights. But more of the Voice later.
Aaron's a vodka man. We sat outside, a stone's throw from the orange-and-black control house of Angels Flight.
Aaron slipped a cigar out of the inner pocket of his coat. "You mind?"
"Be my guest," I said. "When did you pick up that habit?"
"Up north, searching for my inner Churchill." He unwrapped the cigar and snipped the end with a little cutter. I had to admire his technique. He lit the cigar with a lighter that shot out its stream of flame. "I can't get over how you look," he said. "You seem, I don't know, healthier somehow."
I almost snorted an olive out my nose. "And so," I said, cutting to the chase, "why'd you dump me?"
That stopped his easy charm. I took a leisurely sip of my martini and let him squirm. Making people squirm on the witness stand is one of the things I do best. I like to practice it in the outside world, too.
Aaron Argula was two years older than my thirty-five years. He was a third year and I was a One-L when we met at USC Law. He was editor-in-chief of the Law Review. The year before he'd won the school's Moot Court competition. That's where the entire second year class engages in a mock Supreme Court case, in teams of two. The final round is two teams arguing before three sitting justices—two from California, and one from a federal bench.
The year Aaron won it the federal jurist happened to be Antonin Scalia of the United States Supreme Court.
That was before I got to SC, but they were still talking about it when I did. They said Scalia ripped into Aaron and Aaron ripped right back.
Oh, how I wish I could have been there.
Tall Aaron, with his chiseled features, against the Sicilian-blooded, squat Scalia.
Two sharp minds grinding it out.
Scalia was so impressed he offered Aaron a clerkship after school, which he turned down to work in L.A.
Aaron set his sights on me one day at the law school's cookout just before the Notre Dame game at the Coliseum.
I was toast. Crushed like the Fighting Irish were later in the day. Over burgers and beer, Aaron Argula slipped my heart out of my chest and quietly put it in his back pocket.
When he traded that heart in for another, I was devastated. Almost died when he moved to San Francisco, to join a big firm there. I'd had no serious boyfriend since.
Finally Aaron said, "There's no easy answer. I was a little confused."
"Not too confused for that little tootsie at Scadden, Arps," I said.
"Did you just say tootsie?"
"I'm sorry. I meant bimbo."
"Mallory, she was not a bimbo or a tootsie. She also wasn't you."
I was disturbed by my reaction to that. I realized I still wanted him. That ticked me off. It was as if he'd never left.
But he had, and now there was one thing different, and it was bound to put a crimp in our relationship—I wanted to eat him.
Aaron said, "I want to be friends again, maybe see you sometime. Maybe dinner."
"That's not a good idea."
"It just isn't."
"Give me one reason why."
"Okay. I'm on a special diet. I have to eat at home."
He blinked a couple of times. "You're kidding, right?"
"You mean you don't go out to eat?"
"Well, sometimes, but I have to pick my spots, and anyway, why would I go out with you again, Aaron? After what you did?"
He sighed. "Can you at least let me explain?"
"Because I'm not interested. We had our time, that's over. There's no reason we can't be civil to each other, though."
"Mallory, I must have been nuts."
He gave me a look and I started to feel it, a vibration of desire. But then another one began to well up. One that made me wonder what his lips would taste like if I chewed them off.
"Yes," I said, "you must have been. And now that you're back, I wish you well. Thanks for getting me out of the clink."
"Is that it?" he said.
"That's it." It had to be. I had to get away before I made a fool of myself one way or another.
"Mallory, please. Don't go yet."
"I have to," I said. "I just do."
"Can I call you?"
I didn't answer. I walked across the plaza pathway, past Angels Flight and headed down the concrete stairs to Hill Street. I had to get back to my office. I had to think. I was still in trial, still under a contempt citation, still on the bad side of a sexually harassing judge. I couldn't think about Aaron Argula. Not yet anyway.
I knew what it would mean if I did start thinking about him. Complications. They happen a lot more often when you're a zombie.
Because sometimes those you kill can make life really thorny for you. I was about to find that out.
Chapter TwoMy office is on Broadway, between Third and Fourth, on the second floor of a retrofitted two-story that dates back to World War II. It's just above a tobacco and novelties shop. The tobacco is cheap and the novelties are mostly for laughs.
There's no name on the store, so I just call it the Smoke 'n Joke.
Just inside the doors is a building directory with two names on it—mine and Nikolas Papadoukis, the world's shortest insurance investigator. A glass door with a buzzer alarm system that doesn't work gets you into the hallway where you can take an elevator (with an eighty-five percent success rate) or the stairs to the second floor.
The manager of the building also runs the Smoke 'n Joke. Her name is Lolita Maria Sofia Consuelo Hidalgo. I call her LoGo. She's about seventy years old and was once the hottest singer on this strip of L.A., back in the 1960s when the Million Dollar Theater, half a block away, was the happening Latino venue. She did two shows a night at the Dollar, and opened for Tito Puente in 1968.
LoGo caught me going in.
"Rent," she said, sitting on her stool by the whoopee cushion display.
"Spent," I said.
"Not so funny. You owe two months." LoGo has let herself go. She's three hundred pounds if she's an ounce. If you look real hard you can see, encased in adipose tissue, the torchy vixen from Mexico City who once set hearts aflame downtown.
"Lo, I'm finishing up a case and am bound to get paid."
"I hope. I like you, but the boss, you know, he like to get paid."
"Don't we all."
I took the stairs, unlocked my office door. I went to the window. My view looks out over this distinctly Latino corridor, with its cut-rate retail spots, Mexican food stands, and shadows of history. A hundred years ago this was a place to see and be seen in L.A. Swanks from Bunker Hill and Angeleno Heights would dress up and ride down here—in horse and carriage or that new gas-powered thing—for a high-class night on the town.
Now it's pretty much the low end of commerce in the city, but the price is right for leasing office space.
If I look left out my window I can see the Bradbury Building, the classiest structure left from the golden age of downtown. Its redbrick exterior, officially unveiled in 1893, still looks classic, if you can ignore the Subway sandwich sign stuck on the front.
Continue up Broadway and you pass the L.A. Times building, sure to be a dinosaur someday soon, and you eventually get to the Foltz criminal courts building. It was named for the first licensed female attorney in California.
I sometimes wonder if they'll name a building after me someday, the first zombie criminal lawyer in the city. Maybe it'll be a mausoleum.
The phone on my desk rang. I picked up. "Mallory Caine."
"Miss Caine, I need a lawyer right away." An older woman's voice.
"Who am I talking to?"
"My name is Etta Johnson."
"All right," I said. "What's the trouble?"
"It's my granddaughter. I found this number in her book. It says here, in her handwriting, if she ever gets into trouble, this is the number to call."
"What is your granddaughter's name?"
"Traci Ann Johnson."
I lost breath. I knew Traci Ann Johnson from the street. "What happened?"
"The police are here," the woman said. "They say they're going to arrest my Traci Ann."
In a whisper, the woman said, "Murder."
"They haven't arrested her yet?"
"They don't know what to do. I said they can't do anything until I talk to a lawyer. They're just standing around looking at each other right now."
"Let me talk to Traci Ann."
"That just it. She can't come to the phone. That's why I need you to come over here."
"Is she all right?"
Pause. "That all depends on what you mean by all right."
"Well, has she been injured?" I asked.
"Not exactly. I wish you could come down here so I can explain it."
"Suppose you tell me where Traci Ann is." I was getting a little annoyed by this runaround. I wanted to help Traci Ann, of course, but I didn't want to go driving around L.A. without knowing what I was heading into.
"All right," the woman said. Dropping her voice to barely audible, she added, "She's in her coffin."
There was a tap on my door and Nikolas Papadoukis stuck his head in. He's a shade under four feet tall, has a hook nose, eyebrows like white sand dunes, and knobby hands.
Which would seem to make undercover work pretty exacting.
"Mallory, I must needs your help," Nick said.
I waved him in. I got the address from Etta Johnson and hung up the phone.
"Nick, I have to—"
"Can you lend me twenty until payday?"
"You work for yourself, Nick. You don't have a payday."
"Then until a week Friday?"
I fished in my purse for a twenty. My last. "You need more business, my friend," I said.
He took the twenty from me. "I don't know what to do about that! I am good, but I am not good looking. I am cursed."
"People have overcome worse," I said.
"I only want what's coming to me." He walked to the window and looked out at the city. "There's something going on out there, and I want in."
Excerpted from PAY ME IN FLESH by K. Bennett Copyright © 2011 by K. Bennett. Excerpted by permission of PINNACLE BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
It was laugh out loud hilarious, sarcastic and great fun! Not a bad read for the younger generation either. I will be reading more by this author! Who would have thought being a Zombie could be so complicated?
One year ago lawyer Mallory Caine was murdered. She returned as a zombie but obviously does not smell of rotting flesh as Judge Darnell hits on her though she thinks of him as a potential sick meal and chooses contempt. Mallory knows she must find the person who killed her before she dies again or her missing soul will end up in hell. LAPD has filed it as a cold case. Her former law school boyfriend who broke her heart years ago Aaron Argula has come home from San Francisco where he works for the Office of the District Attorney. He pays her contempt fine and admits he made a big mistake dumping her and wants to start over, but she has doubts though he is good for her zombie image. Etta Johnson calls Mallory, Zombie at Law, to represent her granddaughter Traci Ann; Detectives Richards and Strobert arrived to arrest Traci Ann on a murder charge. The evidence is overwhelming that Traci Ann burned to death a cop in his car. Though there is a slight conflict of interest, Mallory defends her vampiric client while Aaron prosecutes the case. This is an entertaining dark urban fantasy starring a delightful zombie who retained intelligence and her thirtyish looks though she dines on fresh human flesh. The story line is action-packed but with plenty of humor. Using the law to defend a vampire makes for a fun legal thriller as the defense demands night court and challenges the arrest of a corpse. Readers will relish this grim yet jocular opening tale of the zombie lawyer. Harriet Klausner
I have really enjoyed James Scott Bell's books, especially the Ty Buchanan series, so I was happy to have the opportunity to read a pre-publication copy of his latest effort, despite a warning that it was "different." Different doesn't begin to describe this story about a zombie lawyer defending a vampire client. But I read the first page, and then I turned that page and dozens more, and soon I found myself engrossed in the story. In this book, Bell's intimate knowledge of Los Angeles forms a great backdrop for a premise that's miles from the ordinary. His characters are well-drawn, suspense and surprises pop up around every corner, and despite my initial misgivings about the subject matter, I found this to be an enjoyable read.
This is a very different slant on an urban thriller, with an unlikely female protagonist. Many unusual plot twists I won't divulge here. I enjoyed it; I'm buying the next in the series.
Here we have Mallory Caine, attorney at law, who also happens to be a zombie. She's not your typical rotting, drooling, walking-like-Frankenstein zombie, though-no one seems to know she's a zombie at all. And her ex-boyfriend is hitting on her, so she must not smell like a zombie. Her client is accused of murder. But Mallory knows her client-who happens to be a vampire-didn't do it. So it's off to court, where Mallory defends a vampire. Meanwhile, she is trying to find out who tried to kill her, who made her a zombie, and whether or not she can get her soul back. I SO didn't know what to expect with this book. It was very different. At first I laughed, because it was funny. The voice of this zombie lawyer was great fun. But then she had to eat. And-as I do in all zombie movies-I wanted to look away. *shudder* Because that grosses me out. And it was weird for the hero to be killing people. But I pressed on and came to some hysterical courtroom antics as Mallory takes her case before the judge and has to argue for a fair trial for her vampire client, including only going to court at night, since vampires can't see the sun. I got a bit grouchy with the bit about Adam's "first" wife, because that's not in any bible I've ever read. But neither are zombies, so I stuck with it. And as the mystery started to unfold, and due to the wonderful writing and quirky characters, I was hooked. This book is weird. It's not for everyone. But I enjoyed it to the last page. If you love books about lawyers and trials. and if you love zombie stories. you MUST give this book a read. And if you're not sure-like I wasn't (because I don't love zombie stories), try the sample chapter and see what you think. You just might be surprised.
This urban fantasy novel, Pay Me In Flesh, brings legal thrillers to a whole new dimension. In novelist K. Bennett's debut horror novel, defense attorney Mallory Caine must defend a shape-shifting client accused of murdering an LA cop. Witty, hard-fighting Caine-facing off with her handsome hunk of an ex-boyfriend, prosecutor Aaron Argula- seems to be the only person in the entire city of Los Angeles who believes her client is innocent. She must battle unnatural and almost insurmountable odds to save her client while staving off her own unnatural appetites to eat human flesh. Caine lives among the undead, a sexy vampire struggling against the forces of evil and the voices within her own head as she tries to understand how she came to be. Though some might argue with the theological assumptions found in this novel, they cannot argue against a world in which there seems to be a battle between good and evil-in whatever manifestations these forces choose to do battle-as Pay Me In Flesh unfolds. The grim and the gritty is liberally seasoned with humor as Bennett introduces readers to a parade of hilarious characters. For example, meet Nikolas Papadoukis, the world's shortest insurance investigator who believes he's a human barometer and desires to be Cain's criminal investigator-for money. Or how about Lolita Maria Sofia Consuelo Hidalgo, dubbed LoGo, who owns the Smoke'n Joke business below where Cain rents her law office. Even Caine provides a little humor, as she eyes a judge trying to make sexual advances and ponders what he might taste like, or climbs into her bright-yellow convertible bug, nicknamed Geraldine, to fight LA traffic. Humor is liberally sprinkled to lighten an otherwise very dark story. Dark forces seem to be gathering above this city of angels where Caine seems to be drawn to fulfill a purpose that even she is not clear about. Demons, devils and the undead mingle with the living in this fast-paced, always shifting novel. Don't get too comfortable when you start reading because everything you thought about justice, law and order, and crime may change before the last page. Word of warning! Don't take anything for granted! It could be a deadly mistake. Bennett has creatively pushed the limits of believability in this novel to the point that many readers will soon become fans-they just won't be able to resist Bennett's imaginative mind. I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys urban fantasy and legal thrillers. I was provided a free copy of this novel, but this did not sway my opinion. A great story filled with entertaining characters. Enjoy!