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The South Florida night was steamy, the music sizzling as the young couple exited the Rum Runner’s Club. It was too early to leave the trendy night spot and the girl lagged behind her date, sexy as she could be in her micro-mini dance outfit.

She did some impromptu bumps and grinds to the music, trying to entice her boyfriend back inside. But all it did was inflame his already overheated libido and he coaxed her deeper into the parking lot.

“I wanna dance some more,” the girl said, sulky and so drop dead gorgeous she drove him crazy.


“Sure, baby, sure,” her boyfriend said, soothing as he could. “But let’s rest in the car for awhile first, okay?”

“Rest. Ha.” The girl knew what was up.

But the kid persisted and the girl let herself be drawn onward until they reached a flashy new Jeep. The boyfriend got the door open and started pulling the girl in after him, putting a liplock on her to end all liplocks. At the same time his hands were groping under that fabulous micro-mini. The girl started to – what the hell – go for it. Thinking that he was her boyfriend after all, and if she made it quick they could get back to the dance band.

Then her heart jumped, and her eyes went Bambi wide as suddenly, the meanest, dirtiest, mugger in the world made his appearance, face as wild and crazy as the gun he was waving. He exposed yellow teeth at the boyfriend’s semi-erotic antics and the girl was scared spitless at the things she saw in the



mugger’s eyes.

Her boyfriend was oblivious, still groping. She pushed at him.

“Stop,” she demanded. “Stop.”

The kid paused, eyes glazed. “What’s the matter, baby?” he said.

The mugger made himself known – shoving the gun in the guy’s face. “You heard the bitch,” he snarled.

The boyfriend finally realized what was happening and his libido descended to the seventh level of hell. Even so, he tried to be brave, pushing the girl to the side.



“No problem, man,” he said. “Take it easy, okay?”

The mugger fished a black trash bag from his back pocket and shook it out. Shoved it at the kid. “Put it in there, shit for brains,” he snarled. “And I mean everything.”

While the boyfriend clumsily fished for his wallet, the girl opened her purse. “Don’t hurt us,” she pleaded.

The mugger just shook the bag, promising nothing, threatening everything. The kids did what they were told, stripping off jewelry, watches, getting out their wallets. Dumping it all in the bag.

“Hurry it up, assholes,” the mugger said.

Looking the girl over, he was getting really impatient to spring his next act. But then the girl saw



something else – just over the mugger’s shoulder. He caught her reaction and started to turn, but there was a sudden shock as something jammed into his back.

A hand shot forward, covering his mouth, cutting off his squeal of pain and surprise. And then another shocking blow rammed into his kidney.

The girl saw the mugger yanked back into darkness and heard two heavy thumps, followed by the thief’s muffled groans. Then the hand came away from the thief’s mouth and he slammed face forward onto the tarmac.

He remained there, motionless.

The boyfriend and the girl looked down at the still form, then up at their savior as he stepped into the single dim yellow light that hung over the parking lot.



Although they would never learn his name, the man they were staring at was Sam Barr and he was as big as a mountain and crafty as a fox. A breaker of heads and hearts. Few had who met him were ever lucky enough to escape unscathed. But the kids didn’t know that - they were just scared and grateful.

Barr leaned down and plucked the gun from the mugger’s fist and put it in his pocket.

“Thanks, man,” the boyfriend said. “I thought he was gonna kill us or something.”

But the girl knew that things were far from being fine. She shivered as if it were cold, instead of an eighty-degree Florida night.

She looked down at the still form. “Is he… he… you know…?”



“Dead?” Sam said for her.

The girl gulped and nodded.

Sam kicked the mugger. There was no reaction. He chuckled. “Guess I don’t know my own strength,” he said.

The girl gave a little squeak. The boyfriend just stood there, totally out of his element.

Still chuckling, Sam fished a handful of pills from his pocket and popped them into his mouth. He chewed, thinking things over. Then he indicated the bag of loot in the boyfriend’s hand. “I’ll take that,” he said.

The boyfriend frowned. Puzzled. “What?”


“The bag.” Sam motioned. “Give it here.”

It suddenly dawned on the girl what was happening. “You mean... you’re… you’re… like, robbing us?”

“Nope,” Sam said. “I’m robbing the guy who was robbing you.” He stretched his mouth into a wide grin, amused at his own joke. “You know – mugging the mugger.”

Then he reached out and gently took the bag of loot from the boyfriend’s hand. Turned to the girl, looking down at her. She was too spooked to move and just stood there under his steady gaze.

In the long silence that followed, her boyfriend said not a word. All bravery had drained from him, like a plug jerked from the sink.


Sam leaned down and sniffed the girl’s hair. “Hmm,” he said softly. “Nice.”

He leaned in deeper, touching the top of her breasts with a single finger. The girl shivered, but didn’t move. “Like ice cream,” he said. “Vanilla.”

The girl remained silent, just jumped a bit as he moved his finger up to stroke her face. “Maybe I’ll give you a call a little later on,” Sam said.

The girl didn’t move, scared of what might happen, but determined not to do anything that might encourage him.

Grinning, Sam leaned in and kissed her on the lips. The girl trembled, but didn’t flinch. Accepting the kiss, but being careful not to respond. Feeling like he could explode at any second.


Then Sam suddenly turned and strode off into the night.

The girl watched him go and when he was out of sight she scrubbed furiously at her lips. “Get me out of here,” she told the boyfriend. “Right now.”

But her boyfriend was looking down at the corpse. “Shit,” he said. “We gotta call the cops.”

“Are you crazy?” the girl said. “He’s got our wallets. Our addresses. Let’s get before he changes his mind and comes back.”

At long last, the boyfriend came unstuck and the two leaped into the Jeep. He started it up in a panic, almost flooding the engine.

Then he jammed it into the wrong gear and the Jeep jerked backwards, bumping over the mugger’s body.

“Shit, shit, shit,” the girl said.

Then the kid finally got the Jeep straightened out and sped off into the night.


The street was jumpin’ when the sleek limo cruised over the bridge and started to edge its way through the neighborhood crowd.

It was the beginning of a hot, summer weekend and the good people of Spanish Oaks Drive were putting on a block party to celebrate two days off from the perpetual blue collar grind of trading sweat for a precarious living.

Although it wasn’t even noon, friends and neighbors were already out, getting ready for the night’s festivities. Banners were being strung across the street, a bandstand was being set up at one end, food booths were being knocked together. Lawn sales and garage sales were springing up – people were hoping to sell enough cast-offs to pay for the beer and barbecue, and what the hell, maybe even some lottery tickets at the local KWICK STOP where the stakes were up to twenty five million dreams.

Mainly, everybody was having one helluva good time, with kids shouting and darting around and generally getting underfoot. While the adults talked and worked, sipping at beer and wine, getting in the mood for the weekend. Playing over the whole thing was music from half-a-dozen nations and sporting events of every variety – from baseball to soccer – that blared from scores of car radios, boomboxes and portable TV’s.

At first, nobody really noticed the limo. They were too busy working, gossiping and having fun. Then somebody got in the way of the driver and he beeped his horn and everybody turned to look.

Spanish Oaks Drive was a working class neighborhood in a working class city – Deercreek Beach. Limos were normally only seen hauling the rich along Federal Highway on their way to and from Lauderdale Airport and the super exclusive town of Boca Raton. People were slow to react so the driver had to tap his horn again and the crowd parted, letting him through, but not obsequiously so. They moved aside slowly, almost reluctantly, and tried to peer through the darkened windows to see who was inside.

A couple of kids made so bold as to slap the car’s sides. But the adults in the crowd quickly reminded them of their manners and shooed them away. It was fine to be bold when the rich strayed into your neighborhood, but not so bold as to appear like barbarians. There wasn’t a man or woman on the street who didn’t know exactly what he or she would buy if they won the $25 million lottery. It would almost certainly include a limo and a driver. And they would not want to be trifled with by dirty-faced children whose parents were too ignorant to teach them decent manners.

Spanish Oaks Drive was a broad cul-de-sac, with its namesake trees shading both sides. A mixture of single family homes and small apartment buildings – all with backyards, vegetable gardens and a few with above ground pools – made up the neighborhood.

A larger, older apartment building – three stories high and painted in faded Florida colors – commanded the curve of the cul-de-sac. Framed by very old and very large oak trees, it seemed almost forbidding. Especially considering the formidable figure sitting on the front steps – Sam Barr.

He seemed more muscular than ever in his cutoffs and sleeveless tee-shirt. His arms were huge – with biceps you could break rocks on. His chest was prison-yard deep and his legs were cabled with thick muscle. But his face was unlined and he had a boyish smile he could turn on when he wanted to, softening the natural hardness of his features. His dark eyes were clear and intelligent and he kept his brown hair just long enough to be bobbed in the back with a tasty leather band. He wore a simple gold earring in his right ear and no other jewelry except a chrome-faced diving watch.

Sam watched the limo coming his way with great interest, popping handfuls of pills and washing them down with a half-gallon jug of orange juice. His interest became even more keen when the limo drew up in front of the apartment house and a uniformed chauffeur emerged. The chauffeur strode to the rear of the limo and opened the door. Not only Sam, but the entire neighborhood, paused to watch as the lone passenger emerged.

* * *

Ellen Berman didn’t think of herself as elegant, but that’s how the whole neighborhood – including Sam – viewed her as she stepped out of the limousine, her jeans’ clad legs long and shapely.

She was a woman of indeterminate age. With “good bones,” as some like to say. She had the figure and complexion of a younger woman and the bearing and the “finishing school” manner of someone in their third or fourth decade. If she had removed her fashionable sunglasses, her eyes would have looked sad and a little tired. Ellen wore her blond hair in a short, efficient cut. And because of her long legs she appeared tall. People were surprised when they stood next to her and realized she wasn’t more than 5’5”.

The women on the street ogled her clothes – a casual, traveling outfit that looked like it was right out of the pages of a fancy beauty parlor magazine. But the style was nothing any of those who perused such glossy pages had ever seen before.

The clothes spoke of “one-of-a-kind.” And indeed they were. Ellen had not only designed, but had hand-crafted the embroidered jeans – with the subtle flower pattern – and matching jeans vest. Along with the plain white silk shirt she’d whipped out one morning on her sewing machine and the same went for the silken, multi-colored wisp of a scarf that went about her neck.

As she stood by the car, Ellen knew she was being stared at and judged. She also knew she looked as out of place in this neighborhood as the limo. But what could she do? She was a fugitive – from what, she couldn’t say.

It certainly wasn’t justice.

So, here she was and there was no going back. She’d have to make the best of it.

The chauffeur said, “I’ll get your things, Ms. Berman.” He popped the trunk and started to unload the few pieces of luggage that made up all of what remained of her worldly goods.

Besides the three suitcases, there were several long, sturdy tubes used to transport paintings; a collapsible easel; a few paint-spattered boxes and containers; bolts of unusually patterned cloth; and a portable sewing machine in a box. Except for the sewing machine, it was all a very weird assortment of possessions to bring to a place like Spanish Oaks Drive.

As the driver was unloading the trunk, the front door of the apartment building opened and an attractive – if blowsy-looking – woman emerged. She glanced at the things being piled beside the limo, then went straight to Ellen.

“Hi,” she said, extending her hand. “I’m Ruth Castro. You must be my new tenant.”

Ellen gripped the offered hand. “Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Castro,” she said.

“Just call me Ruth and forget the Castro,” her new landlady said. “My husband was Cuban. But he’s dead now.”

Ellen didn’t quite know how to take this. But she managed to hide her confused reactions.

Ruth looked at the chauffeur, then pointed at the stuff he was piling up on the lawn. “Bottom floor, front,” she said, directing him to Ellen’s place.

The chauffeur sneered at her. Who was this trailer trash broad to tell him what to do? “My job ends at the sidewalk,” he said with a look that was pure smart ass.

Ellen, well-aware of all the neighborhood eyes on her, tried to avoid a scene. “That’s okay,” she said to Ruth. “I can get it myself.” Sam strode up. He’d overheard the driver’s insolence. His big hand shot out and enclosed the chauffeur’s shoulder in a vise-like grip. At the same time, he leaned down and picked up one of the suitcases.

“The lady said bottom floor, front,” he told the driver.

The driver winced in severe pain.

“Apartment six,” Ruth said.

Sam squeezed harder, almost bringing the driver to his knees. But the chauffeur was so scared, he didn’t dare make a peep.

“Did you hear what the lady said?” Sam asked.

The chauffeur nodded vigorously. “Yes… sir…” he gasped. “Apartment six.”

Sam nodded, shoved the suitcase into the guy’s gut and let go. Immediately, the driver started grabbing other pieces of luggage and hauled ass into the apartment building.

Ellen smiled at Sam in gratitude. “Thank you, Mister – uh…”

She looked at Ruth for help and the landlady finally collected her manners together enough to step into the breech.

“This big hunk of lovin’ is Sam Barr,” she said, a look of supreme proprietary interest on her face. Then to Sam she said, “This is your new neighbor, Ellen Berman.”

Barr eyed Ellen with appreciation. “My pleasure,” he said.

He popped more pills, brushed off his hand, then held it out. Ellen nervously took it. Feeling awkward as hell, she said, all-too formally, “How do you do?”

Barr nodded. Released her hand, fished out some more pills, then washed them down with orange juice. Ellen eyed the pills, a little shocked. Barr noticed and chuckled at the suspicions in her mind.

“Have to get my regular doses of aminos,” he said.

Ellen looked at him, puzzled. Sam flexed a huge bicep. “They’re like vitamins,” he said. “Help with my workouts.”

Ellen understood what he was saying and blushed, embarrassed at her suspicions. “Oh, yes… workouts,” she said. “You’re a physical culturist, Mr. Barr?”

Sam liked that. This was one classy woman. He smiled again, saying, “That’s what I am, all right. Sam Barr - physical culturist.”

Sam made a slight bow, then returned to the front steps, where he took up his previous position of ease. Ellen’s curious eyes followed him. It was a curiosity not appreciated by Ruth.

She ostentatiously cleared her throat. “About the rent,” she said.

Ellen had a minor panic attack. “But I mailed it to you,” she said. “First and last, plus the deposit you requested. It was a money order for two thousand, five hundred-“

Ruth broke in, putting on the pressure. “Never got it,” she said.

Now panic was really setting. “But it was a money order,” Ellen said. She started digging in her purse. “I have the receipt for it in here somewhere.”

Ruth gave Ellen a shrewd look. She could see that panic city was about to overtake her new tenant. For some reason, that made her feel a little better about things.

“Calm down, Ellen,” she said, very soothing. “I can call you Ellen, cant’ I?”

“Of course you may,” Ellen said. She was still frantically digging in her purse.

Ruth stopped her. “Never mind that,” she said. “Today’s mail didn’t come yet. It’s sort of a holiday weekend, you know? But not official. It’s Cinco de something down in South America, or Mexico, you know? Like the banks and post office will still be working on Monday, kind of holiday. Hey, don’t worry. We’ll get it cleared up later, okay?”

Ellen nodded gratefully. “Okay,” she said.

Ruth took her by the arm and led her toward the building. “Come on,” she said. “I’ll show you your new place.”

As they approached the front porch, Sam nodded at Ellen pleasantly. Ruth opened the door and motioned for Ellen to go first.

At the same time, she leaned in close to whisper, “Hand’s off… He’s mine.”

Ellen was startled, blurting, “Oh, Sure. Sure.”

As she went inside Sam eyed her trim figure wrapped in such tasty clothes. “Nice,” he said softly.

Then chauffeur lumbered up the steps, bags under his arm. He gave Sam a wary look. “Boo,” Sam said.

The guy paled and rushed inside.

Sam laughed. This was getting to be a pretty damned good day.


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Last Revised: January 29, 2011