Made for Murder

New Pulp Press + August 2015

Just picture this – the hunky casino dealer that socialite Helena Swann meets in Las Vegas turns around and marries her stepsister for money. But Helena starts an affair with him anyway. And now she discovers that a Bible-quoting P.I. suspects him of two brutal murders. Tension mounts as our mercenary beauty finds herself caught between a rich fiancé and a murderous, but charming conman named Samson Porter – a/k/a Shoo-fly. What would you do? Help Shoo-fly bribe the detective? Turn him in to the cops? Or would you run like hell before he decides to cut your throat? These are questions Helena Swann must answer in this edgy neo-noir thriller.

“I’m a fan of hardboiled fiction (as well as those old b/w noir movies). Paul McGoran has caught the mood just right, with Made For Murder holding up nicely against those classics by James M. Cain, Jim Thompson, and David Goodis.”

—Hollis George, editor and anthologist

Read a feature article about Paul and Made for Murder in The Big Thrill magazine at http://tinyurl.com/guc7mxe

Read another feature in Newport This Week http://www.newportthisweek.com/news/2016-03-17/Around_Town/Newport_Noirist_Pens_New_Novel.html

Made for Murder Excerpt:

Party girl. Kristi Darnell would bristle when they called her that on E! or in the media. It’s what they say on Page Six of the New York Post when they mean prostitute. She may have been stuck with it, but she never accepted it.

She met him in South Beach. And yes, it was at a wild and woolly SoBe nightclub, but she still didn’t deserve to be called names. That was totally unfair. After all, she was a model and actress, and she had the credits to prove it. Just local commercials for the acting jobs, but she got modeling assignments all the time. And South Beach modeling gigs are the real thing—great production values, top professionals, good money.

Kristi was at Nikki Nikkita with friends, hanging out, the night she noticed the good-looking older man watching her. She figured he was about thirty-two. He was very well-built with long black hair, a full beard, and the most intense blue eyes she had ever seen. Like most guys on the scene, he wore shorts, flip-flops and t-shirt. Kristi never had the least suspicion about his real identity until he told her who he was later on. Shoo-fly was only a tabloid story to her then, one of those things you read about but never dream you’ll be part of.

While he sat at the bar, he must have noticed Kristi’s return looks. As she came back to her table from a trip to the ladies’ room, he intercepted her and chatted her up, taking pains to keep it light and flirty. Often drawn to older guys, Kristi didn’t hesitate to take the drink he offered. Soon after, the girls she was with just laughed when she blew them off and left the club to go out to dinner with him. They thought he was cute too. The name he used was Sam Davidson.

“Is that your real name, Kristi Darnell?” he asked as they left the club.

“What a question!” she said. “Did you think I’d give you a phony name?”

“You’re an actress—I just figured you might have made it up. That happens, right?”

“Not so much nowadays, but yeah, it’s a stage name. My real name is Christy Gore. I hated that. So I changed the spelling of the first name and took the last name from an actress my grandfather used to talk about.”

“Who would that be?”

“Linda Darnell. Ever hear of her?”

“No, but I’ll bet anything the world will hear about you, Kristi.”

Sam was a real flatterer. There was no question he was feeding her a line, but it was done with a friendly smile and she couldn’t take offense. Forward motion was his overall method to break down her defenses. At the same time, he was polite and considerate. If she asked him to slow down, he would smile and apologize, but before she knew it he was making another move. She figured when you really like a guy, you don’t mind that.

Even today, Kristi refuses to talk about sex with Sam—she thinks it’s totally intrusive that reporters and other complete strangers want to know what he was like in bed.

“Just because they have nerve enough to ask,” she complains, “they act as if you owe them all kinds of private information.”

On that very first night, Kristi knew she was in love. From the beginning, Sam had a way of making her feel completely protected and wanted. She must have needed that. Only twenty-two at the time, she was often unsure of herself in that world—casting calls, modeling, even the SoBe nightlife could make her feel lonely and insecure.

Sam moved into her apartment in nearby North Beach soon after they met. He had a little money, and they shared expenses. He talked about being a dropout from corporate life on the West Coast, looking for fun and a better way to make a living.

“I broke my butt on my last job, Kristi. I put my heart and soul into it only to find out I was the only one who cared. That’s not going to happen to me again.”

“What do you think you’ll do now, Sam?”

“Well, there’s a tremendous number of boats and yachts down here. I’d like to start out working for a broker.”

Pretty soon, he was making friends down at a marina on Alton Road. A man named Lou Loiselle had a yacht he wanted to sell, and Sam was helping him get it into shape. Mr. Loiselle liked to take his boat out into the Intracoastal, but he was getting older and didn’t want to bother with the yearly upkeep any longer.

Kristi and Sam would laugh about Lou from time to time because of his mannerisms and his habit of wearing certain clothes whenever he took the bridge—always the blue blazer with the brass buttons and his white captain’s hat with the black peak. She thought he was like a father figure to Sam—except that he was so obviously effeminate.

Besides working on the restoration, Sam did a nice job of describing the yacht for sale. He had fliers printed up and posted around town. Lou was content for the time being to try for a private sale, and he promised Sam a percentage if they sold it before he signed with a broker. Sam saw to it the yacht was listed in boating magazines and posted on likely Internet sites.

Modeling jobs kept Kristi busy just then, so most days she and Sam would wake up at different times and not see each other until late afternoon. She began to notice how moody he could be, and that it did no good to try and draw him out. He could be extroverted and a lot of fun, but in several ways he was the most self-contained person she ever knew.

Kristi would come home to see him lying on the bed, stripped down to briefs and a t-shirt. He wouldn’t say a word unless she spoke first. Hands under his head, he would stare at the ceiling, an empty look in his eyes. If she got up the nerve to ask what he was thinking about, he might not even answer.

One rainy Tuesday a conversation they had alarmed her, had her wondering if Sam should look for professional help. Kristi had come home early after an aborted photo shoot, and Sam was stretched out on the bed in that peculiar way of his.

“Are you day-dreaming, honey? You’re so quiet just lying there.”

“Not day-dreaming, no. Sometimes my thoughts are jumbled up and I think better lying down.”

“What’s on your mind, Sam?”

“A lot of things. There are people who mystify me, you know? Some folks have a way of judging you while they talk to you, like they’re ready to accuse you of something. And you can only wonder about it because they haven’t said anything, it’s what you’re reading in their eyes and their manner.”

“Is there someone in particular you’re concerned about?”

“Maybe. I don’t want to say. I want to put it out of my mind, that’s why I’m trying to relax.”

“Don’t you want to talk to somebody about this? It would bother me something awful to feel that way.”

“I’d rather you didn’t think about it, Kristi. I’ll work through it. I don’t want to blow it out of proportion and get mad. It’s not good for me to get angry.”

There was something terribly disjointed about the way he was thinking; she could tell he was trying to control it by slowing down. He spoke softly in a kind of edgy monotone. Kristi didn’t feel afraid for her own safety, but she was afraid of what he was capable of doing. He was very strong, and when his mood turned, you could see his jaw set and his muscles flex. Combined with the overly intense stare she sometimes noticed, the effect was unnerving.

Sam had very few clothes for a guy who was in corporate life previously. He mentioned donating most of his business wardrobe to charity. He did have one rumpled, dirty suit when he first moved in. After a trip to the cleaners, it stayed on its hanger in the bedroom closet. He never wore it that she could recall, just held on to it as a memento of his life in San Francisco. Kristi came to the conclusion that his career had been a terrible failure, and she wondered why he would want a reminder of that.

In truth, she was beginning to wonder about a lot of things. When Sam told her Lou Loiselle had died suddenly, she didn’t understand why it wasn’t in the newspapers.

“Lou’s from Fort Lauderdale, Kristi. I’m sure it’s news up there. He was just visiting Miami, living on the yacht.”

“But you’re still going out to the Marina most mornings, Sam. What’s that all about?”

“Lou’s sister called and told me to keep showing the boat, babe. She wants it sold.”

Kristi said nothing to Sam, but Lou had told her he had no family left. Could she be mistaken? No, she was sure. And it must have been her curiosity—or her dread—that brought her down to the Marina early one afternoon a few days later.

She only half expected to find Sam there, but he was gone. As she walked down the pier toward the yacht, she ran into Cindy, a middle-aged lady whose husband owned the boat across from Lou’s. They conversed for a bit while the bright sun warmed her shoulders and the boats rocked gently in their slips.

Cindy mentioned that no one had seen old Lou for a while. She claimed Sam didn’t know where he was either. Kristi tried to cover her confusion with a shrug and a smile that wouldn’t jell, then cut her visit short before Sam could show up. What could this possibly mean?

When she got up the nerve to question Sam about it that evening, his look was hard, his manner impatient. Then he laughed. A sharp, rasping laugh, full of sarcasm. For the first time, Kristi felt afraid of her lover.

“I killed him, Kristi. I killed the old fag. He was drunk, he tried to touch me, wanted to blow me is what he said. I grabbed the fire extinguisher and bashed his faggot head in.”

As he spoke, the look on Sam’s face ranged from hot anger to indifference.

“We sailed around to the Gulf,” he told her. “The water was calm, sky clear. A perfect day, really, until Lou had too much to drink. Then he got way too friendly.”

He related it as if it were a story he heard somewhere—some filthy, contemptible anecdote that he’d just as soon forget.

Why didn’t she run? Why didn’t she tell somebody? Instead, she wanted to take care of it for him. For the only guy who had ever made her feel safe and wanted, Kristi thought she could return some of that. To this day she struggles with it—becoming an accomplice to the murder of a dear old man she knew and liked. It seemed to her the greater good was to protect the man she loved—this murderer she couldn’t seem to part with.

“What did you do with the body, Sam?” she asked.

“I weighted him down with chains and an anchor and dumped him in the Gulf. I don’t think there’ll be a problem. He’s not coming back up.”

When they made love that night it was consuming, feral. The fear she felt jacked up the excitement of his lovemaking while she told herself he would never hurt her. No, not his Kristi.

She lay in his arms afterwards while he talked about people crossing him, how it made him feel. Suddenly, she thought about that Dolce & Gabbana suit he never wore hanging in the closet. She remembered the stories in the tabloids about the well-dressed killer Shoo-fly out west, the big, good-looking psycho murderer who sliced people up and ran away. It was then she knew she was in love with a man beyond all redemption. How could she get away from him? Did she even want to?

He must have sensed her suspicions about him. The next evening, as they strolled the beach barefoot, he confessed that his real name was Sam Porter, the one the newspapers called Shoo-fly.

Everybody knows the story. He narrated every detail as if confession might help him understand what he was. She heard about the fuzzy, spotted vision, the rush of wind in his ears, and the labored breathing. When he got that way, he couldn’t stop until he saw the blood flow.

Kristi stopped working—the pressure she felt was paralyzing. Her life had changed, and she wanted to leave Florida. But she couldn’t take that first step. Sam seemed to be watching her for signs of—what?—betrayal, help.

Before long there was a newspaper story by Rupert McAllister that said Helena Swann wasn’t in San Francisco any more, had left for parts unknown. He seemed to hint she might be in Europe.

“No . . . not Europe,” said Sam. “They’re wrong about that. She has relatives up north.”

Kristi felt her heart sicken when he talked about those women—his wife and her notorious sister Helena. Angela was the one everybody thought was so regal, so perfect. Did he want to go back to her? This was jealousy, and Kristi knew it.

“No, not that. I could never face Angela again.”

“You’re in love with her, aren’t you, Sam?”

“No. I never loved her. But she loved me, and she helped me when no one else would. I owe her a lot.”

Kristi felt her face flush and her eyes fill. Sam drew her close, stroked her face with a big hand, and stared through her with his searchlight gaze.

“Do you love me, Sam? I have to know how you feel.”

“My feelings for you are very strong, Kristi, and I want to be with you when I get back.”

“Get back? What do you mean? Where are you going?”

“I can’t tell you, baby. It’ll take about a week. I’ll call before I come home.”

But he never did.