Low Moral Compass 4 Chapter Preview
Updated: Aug 4, 2019
CONTAINS ADULT LANGUAGE
© 2019 by Joe Harwell Publishing, 9023 E. 46th St. #54213 Tulsa, OK 74155-0231
No part of this material may be reproduced in any way without written permission of the authors. This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or deceased is purely coincidental.
“A murder for hire novel set in 1980s Tulsa where sex is the currency of payment.”
Low Moral Compass back cover teaser.
Handsome, successful telecom executive Clive Hill is a guest at an after-hours business mixer at the Red Lion Club in the Camelot Hotel. So is attractive, successful, business owner Sina Griffith. Instantly attracted to each other, conversation quickly turns to skipping the mixer and going upstairs to a room. Clive is a single, former Special Forces sharpshooter. Although Sina is married, both have a very Low Moral Compass. One thing is certain, there will be Hell to pay for this unheavenly match.
Chapter 1. The bar
Surveying early arrivals while signing in at the Chamber of Commerce after hours business mixer at the Camelot Hotel, Clive Hill saw familiar faces along with several new ones entering the Red Lion Club. The familiar include real estate agents grasping for leads, advertising sales people struggling for business in Tulsa’s down market, and a growing crowd, who’ve been unemployed since the oil bust, hoping to network a job.
New female faces always catch Clive’s attention, especially the shapely brunette talking to Rick Cast, one of his telecom competitors. Having just won a large telephone system bid away from Rick, Clive was equally determined to relieve him of the brunette. She is curvy in all the right places like a stack of warm pancakes with butter and syrup dripping off of her and Clive couldn’t wait to sample her tasty looking lips. Writing the name Gary and O.T.C. on a name badge and applying it to his jacket, Clive headed for the bar, noticing the brunette glance in his direction.
Recognizing his old military buddy Van Edmonds tending bar Clive said, “When did you start workin’ here?”
“Couple of weeks ago. My fiancé has been on me to find somethin’ with better hours and fewer female distractions.”
“How’d you sell her on the idea of a hotel bar having fewer female distractions?”.
“I’m not sure she’s convinced, but it’s a part time gig anyway.” Placing a napkin on the bar and grinning as he read Clive’s nametag Van said. “Guess you’re here more to meet women than get sales leads.”
“I’m always here for the ladies. Besides, you know my middle name is Gary.”
“It seems to work, and your dad will never know. Having the usual? They’re half price til seven o’clock.”
“Sure. Make it a double.” Clive returned his attention to the brunette wearing the most perfect little red dress paired up with slingback pumps and black stockings. The kind with a line that went up the back of the leg like a map leading to places that would make a man divide and conquer anything just to be there. Her hair flowed like a dark river down her back, which only highlighted her amazing caramel skin. She knew what she was doing for sure. Highlighting all of her assets in such a way that you were hypnotized the minute you caught sight of her.
Turning slightly to Van he said, “What else is new with you?”
“Nothing really,” Van replied while pouring liquor from bottles into a glass to mix a Long Island Iced Tea. “I get people drunk and they tell me their secrets.”
“Anything worth retelling?”
Placing a metal shaker on top of the glass Van said, “There were a couple of guys in here last week talkin’ about moving their office, but I didn’t get too involved or give them my real name. They’re with a collection agency that’s been after me on an old medical bill I can’t pay till I get my tax return next spring.”
“I know those blowhards,” Clive said as Van placed the drink down on the napkin. Pointing to his competitor talking up the brunette Clive continued, “They put out a phone system quote request and wanted it dirt cheap. I let Rick have it because there was no money to be made on it.”
Van laughed and said, “You know when to walk away, don’t you?”
“Always.” A slender blonde wrapped in a short red dress walked by giving both of them the eye as she approached two, well-dressed young men at the end of the bar. “Damn,” Clive muttered. “There’s a tight package.”
“I’ll say,” agreed Van. “We met when I worked at the country club before I was engaged. She was taking golf lessons.”
“We played golf and tangled in the sheets a few times.”
“What’s she like?”
“She knows how to grip a driver for long balls and her putting is excellent. She almost never misses the hole.” Van replied.
“You’re a sick bastard,” Clive retorted.
“I know. Back then she was in management at a manufacturing company that was hit hard when the economy tanked. She’s been outta work for quite a while. Lately she’s working the business mixer circuit selling herself as a self-improvement, personal assistant guru or something like that, charging seventy-five an hour with a five hour minimum. Suckers like those fancy dressers pay her to schedule their lives and probably more interesting things, too.”
“Personal assistant? So that’s what they’re calling it these days. Hell, I could use some some self-improvement but I bet she would end up paying me instead.”
“You’re a sick bastard, too.”
“Ain’t we all.” Turning his attention back to his competitor and the brunette Clive asked, “What do you know about the curvy gal Rick’s tryin’ to hustle?”
“I was sure you’d seen her around. Her name is Sina Griffith. She and her husband own a janitorial supply, office cleaning and forensic remediation business. He’s quite a bit older, and from one of Tulsa’s old money families. I think they’ve been married around seven years. She took over marketing for the company early last year.
“What the hell is forensic remediation?”
Van placed the Long Island on a napkin and said, “It’s the hottest thing going, according to cops I know. Cleaning up after a shooting used to be spraying the blood and guts away with a hose. Now, private companies are contracted to go into apartments, homes and businesses to get rid of any trace of blood, guts and brains before the space can be occupied again. They get big money for it, too.”
“Damn, we’re in the wrong business.” After taking a big sip from his drink Clive raised the glass in a salute to Van and said, “That’s what I’m talkin’ about.” Taking a credit card, a twenty-dollar bill and a business card from his wallet Clive said, “Start a tab and keep the twenty. If the brunette comes this way, give her my card and tell her I want a bid on cleaning my office.”
Van took the three items and said, “I’ll hang onto her for you. Here’s a little tidbit you might find interesting. She’s a coonass.”
“No kidding? Real, or a fake like the guy from New Orleans in our unit at Fort Huachuca?”
“She’s the real deal.”
A heavily accented male voice behind Clive said, “Hey boss. ” He turned to see Torki, an always-smiling Iranian limo service owner say, “I see you everywhere.”
Clive shook his hand and said, “How’s business?”
“Never better.” Leaning close and lowering his voice Torki said, “You scheduling a late night rendezvous?”
Sliding past him to avoid more conversation Clive said, “Maybe. I’ll page you.” Seeing the brunette glance at him again, Clive took another drink from the Long Island and moved toward her.
On his way, a tall, fiftyish looking woman with extremely short, bottle blonde hair almost jumped in front of him said, “Well, hello there.”
Pissed about being stopped on his way to nab the brunette, Clive tried to move past her. Extending her right hand to further block his escape and holding out a cheap looking business card in her left hand she said, “I’m Marianne Kingery, owner of Sweet Scents Candles. Who are you with, Gary?”
Bypassing the hand she extended, he took the business card and said, “The Oklahoma Tax Commission. Is Sweet Scents a home based business, Marianne, or do you have a retail store?”
Stammering a little she replied, “Home based.”
Turning the card over a couple of times before placing it in his pocket he said, “When I come back, let’s discuss your sales tax permit. Now, if you’ll excuse me.”
She backed off and Clive could barely contain a grin as he walked away, knowing she would avoid him for the rest of the evening. His father, Gary, was retired from the Oklahoma Tax Commission.
Chapter 2. The game begins
Rick bristled up like a dominant lion being challenged by a rogue male as Clive approached. Although fierce competitors, Clive and Rick were normally civil to each other in public. Smiling broadly as Sina looked at him, Clive patted Rick’s shoulder and said, “How’s the wife and kids?”
Straining a half hearted smile Rick responded, “They’re at a little league game. How’s your girlfriend?”
“She left me weeks ago.” Reaching for Sina’s arm Clive continued, “Hope I’m not interruptin’, but as friend referred me to this beautiful lady to see about a cleaning service for our office. May I borrow her a minute?”
Sina took Clive’s arm, smiled and said, “Will you please excuse me, Rick?”
Knowing he’d lost her Rick said, “Sure. I’ll catch up with you later.”
After they stepped away Sina said, “Thank you. I was about to fake a headache to get away from his boring ass.”
Clive chuckled a little and said, “Was he selling telephones or foot massaging service?”
Giggling she replied, “Both, I think. I wouldn’t let him touch any part of my body, even if I had leprosy and he was the cure.”
When they reached the bar Van sat another napkin down, looked at Sina and said, “My friend here didn’t waste time gettin’ you away from the competition. He’s looking for a bid on cleaning his office.”
“So he conveyed,” she replied, leaning against the bar between two chairs while turning to take Clive’s drink from his hand. She sipped it, smiled and said, “ Make two more and put them on my tab.”
“I got ‘em.” Clive insisted.
Sina handed the drink back to him and said, “You’re a prospect. The person making the sale always pays, so don’t argue.”
Clive glanced at Van, then back at Sina and said, “Okay, but the next one is on me.”
“Deal. Now, where is your office?”
“On 55th off South Mingo.”
Van made their drinks and Sina continued, “How many individual offices are there and how often do you want them cleaned?”
“We have five offices, a reception area, storage room and bathroom. I guess we need it cleaned a couple times a week.”
“Pretty standard,” she replied. “Who’s cleaning it now?”
“Well, we are. I mean, the staff.”
“I understand. Tell you what. We’ll clean it free for two weeks. Then, if you like what you see, tell me what it’s worth and we’ll go from there. Sound good?”
Van handed Clive’s business card to her and said, “Here’s the address.” He handed Clive his credit card and continued, “Sounds like an offer you shouldn’t refuse, ole buddy.”
Taking the credit card and leaning closer to her, Clive said, “He’s right. Maybe it will convince the owner to spend the money.”
“Done deal,” she said extending her hand. “I’ll come by tomorrow and get keys so our staff can get in after hours, if it’s okay?”
Shaking her hand Clive smiled and said, “That was easy. You’re quite a salesman, I mean, saleswoman.”
“No selling to it,” she said. “If you can’t give it away, you can’t sell it at any price.”
Clive kept holding her hand, chuckled a bit and said, “So I’ve been told.”
Van put their drinks on the bar and said, “Enjoy.”
“We will,” Sina said, releasing Clive’s hand and reaching for the drink.
Clive said, “So, what’s next?”
“Tell me your life story,” she replied.
Clive chuckled and said, “Okay.” He motioned to Van and said, “He and I used to sneak up on people and blow there heads off but I’d much rather hear your story. Van said you’re from Louisiana.”
Without reacting to the blow their heads off line she said, “I’m from Plaquemines Parish. Did he tell you how to pronounce my name, because most people get it wrong?”
Van cleared his throat, raised an eyebrow and said, “We didn’t get that far.”
She pushed her hair back and said, “The actual spelling is, S-i-n-a, Sin, plus an a. Real simple, but most people get it wrong.” Clive smiled broadly and was about to speak when she continued, “Tell you what. Walk me out of this crowd and I’ll tell you one more thing about me, if you’ll tell me one thing about you, other than you’re a former killer.”
Clive looked in Van’s direction, then back to Sina and said, “Fair enough.” Extending his arm to her, she took it and they walked past the candle lady who appeared very relieved to see him leaving.
When they reached the lobby Clive turned to her and said, “You have a beautiful smile.”
“Thanks. But our deal is, you are supposed to tell me something about yourself.”
“Okay. Something about me. I’m a Pisces, I like football, I work way too much to stay ahead of the competition, and since I laid eyes on you, I can’t stop wondering what it would be like to taste those pouty lips. At the risk of offending you, I would love to know if you’d grant my wish and come back to the room I reserved, just in case I drink too much, or by luck of the gods, met the most sultry, amazing woman in the state.”
“You don’t have a room reserved, Mr. Salesman, and no, I’m not offended, but I am married.” Pausing a moment she continued, “I have a hospitality suite upstairs to entertain prospective clients, but I have to ask, if we go up there, are you’re really serious about what you said? If so, you need to know something I wouldn’t share with just anyone. Something that may make you look at me differently.”
Moving closer he asked, “I’m serious. What is it?”
“I’ve never cheated on my husband. Never. He’s been good to me… in every way imaginable, save one. One that he had no control over, though God love him, he has tried. Sharing this is starting to scare a girl a bit. Since a stroke a couple of years ago, he hasn’t been able to be a full fledged man in the bedroom. Side effects of medication and the stroke itself significantly diminished… his stamina and virility just aren’t what they were. I can’t tell you the last time he took me like he did when we first married. The bitterness and self loathing he suffers from not being able to ravage me is ruining him, and our relationship.”
Turning away she said, “I’m sorry Clive. You’re an attractive, sweet man and I shouldn’t involve you in my problems. Please forgive me. Let’s just drop it.”
Clive put his drink on a table, placed both his hands on her arms and said, “I’m the one who should apologize. Forgive me for stepping over the line. You really caught my attention and I’m very attracted to you.”
She turned around and looked into his eyes for a few seconds, then placed a hand on his muscular chest and said, “There’s a good band playing in the club soon. I’d love to dance with you.”
“I’d love to dance with you, too. Let’s find our own music and dance upstairs, I’m not looking for a one-time thing, Sina, and if we go upstairs, it’ll be serious. I can’t explain it, but there’s something about you that really speaks to me and it’s way more than sexual attraction.”
Staying close she whispered, “I’ve never felt comfortable mentioning my problems to anyone. You’re tempting me like no one else has before, but dancing in public is the best I can offer right now.”
“I’ll take anything you’re willing to give me and be the most grateful man on the planet.”
Thanks Clive. Let me make a pit stop and a phone call before going back inside.”
Kissing his cheek before departing she said, “I’ll meet you at the bar.”
Chapter 3. Retribution
Rick was standing at the bar when Clive reentered the Red Lion Club. Wanting to drive one more nail in his coffin regarding Sina, Clive stepped beside him and said, “Sorry I blew it for you by asking about the wife and kids, ole buddy.”
Rick turned to face him and said, “You better watch out boy, that gal will chew you up and spit you out.”
Clive let out a low chuckle and said, “I’m counting on it.”
Rick continued, “Her husband is well connected, so if she doesn’t do you in, he will. Either way, it’ll be fun to watch. I give it two weeks for one or the other to bring you down hard.”
“Damn, Rick. You need to chill. Let me buy you a drink. Hell, if you’re after her that hard, take her. I’ll move on. There are plenty more.”
Van came and stood on the other side of the bar and said, “You guys okay? I see nostrils flaring. How about one on the house to wash down a chill pill.”
“Screw both of you,” Rick said before walking away.
After he left Van said, “What’d you do to him?”
“Rained on his parade, just like I planned.”
Van laughed and said, “Ahh, the woman.”
“Yes, the woman, Go ahead and pour me one on the house.”
“Comin’ up. One for the lady, too?”
“Wait and see if she comes back.”
“Lost her, huh?”
“Na, but wait anyway.”
Pointing toward the door Van said, “I’ll make your drink in a second. I’m takin’ a break till she finishes walkin’ over here.”
Turning around Clive watched Sina crossing the room and said, “I like the way she moves through the air.”
A few seconds later Sina leaned against the bar beside Clive and said, “You guys look like you’re up to no good.”
“Guilty as charged,” said Van. “I guess break time is over.” Glancing at Sina he said, “Another one?”
“Sure, and put it on my tab.”
“This one’s on me, remember?” said Clive.
She smiled at him, then returned her attention to Van and said, “Make ‘em doubles.” She sat on a barstool, put her purse on the bar and continued, “Where are you from, Clive?”
“Right here in Tulsa. Now, remind me of the name of the Parish you’re from in Louisiana?”
“Where is it?
“It’s the last seventy miles of delta where the Mississippi empties into the gulf.”
“Sounds beautiful and exotic.”
She laughed and said, “You haven’t been to southern Louisiana.”
“Just New Orleans.”
“Well then, you haven’t seen the real Louisiana. It’s cajuns, snakes, gators, poverty, the oil business and dirty politics.”
Van placed their drinks on napkins and said, “A buddy in our Ranger unit was from Louisiana and called himself a coonass.”
Sina picked up her drink and said, “You’re sayin’ it wrong. It’s connasse.”
“French?” asked Clive.
“Cajun,” she replied after sipping the drink.
“Okay, then explain Cajun, because our buddy said there’s a difference.”
Sina sipped her drink again and said, “Why do you wanna know?”
“I wanna know everything about you,” Clive replied.
“Y’all hash through the biography and history lesson,” Van said. “I’ll check back with you later.”
As Van went to see other customers, Sina leaned closer to Clive and said, “Did you expect me to come back?”
“I hoped you would, and I’m glad you did.”
She turned her drink up and finished it, then said, “The call I made was to my husband and I need to leave. I’ll see you at your office tomorrow, say around four-thirty?”
“I thought we were gonna dance, and what about the difference between Cajun, and how did you say it, connasse?”
“Very good, you’re a fast learner.”
“It’s one of my best qualities.”
“Well then, till tomorrow. Maybe I’ll dance with you then.”
Sina put a twenty dollar bill and her business card on the bar, then touched his hand with hers before walking away. Clive turned to watch, taking in her form and sway.
Van came back, picked up the twenty, handed Clive the business card and said, “Nice tip. You run her off?”
“Na, said she needs to get home.”
“That’s married women for you. The husband always gets top priority, even if they’re unhappy with him. As I recall, you like it that way.”
Watching her exit the bar Clive said, “Damn, she’s got the curves and the moves. That husband better straighten up and take care of her or I may just take over.”
“Be careful, ole buddy. You’ve never liked ‘em clingy, or are you changin’ your ways?”
After Sina exited the club Clive stared at the business card and said, “Man doesn’t live by Long Island Iced Tea alone.”
Van chuckled and said, “Maybe not, but how ‘bout another one?”
“Keep ‘em comin’.”
Chapter 4. The visit
Clive noticed a black, Buick Grand National pull up in front of his office at 4:25 and park next to his meticulously restored, red, 1963, split-top Corvette. Sina stepped out of the Grand National wearing a sleek tight fitting, pinstripe, navy Armani pantsuit.
Clive thought, “She could make painter’s overalls look sexy.”
Holding a small purse, notepad and pen, he observed her writing something down before walking to the building. More than that, he noticed the way she moved, oozing confidence and purpose with the grace of a goddess. It made him ache for her all the more.
He got up from his desk as she entered the front door. A moody, off the rack receptionist by the name of Ginger looked up from her filing to heavily sigh out the words, “May I help you?”
Sina spotted Clive and said, “I’m here to see Mr. Hill.”
Ginger stood and said, “He’s…”
Clive cut in and said, “Come to my office. Hold my calls, Ginger.”
Sina followed him and Clive closed his office door when she was inside and said, “You look great.”
“Thanks. So do you.” There was an awkward pause, then she said, “Your office is very organized.” Taking a hankie from her purse and wiping it across the top of a bookshelf she examined it and said, “No dust. I’m impressed. If the rest of the offices are like this, you don’t need my service.”
He smiled and said, “I cleaned up a little.”
Stepping closer she said, “Trying to impress me?”
“ In my experience, first impressions are everything. Is it working?”
“ It might be. I was certainly impressed with you yesterday. Now, let’s talk business before I forget why I’m here.”
He chuckled and said, “Okay, business first.” She sat down and he sat on a corner of the desk and said, “I told the owner you were coming out to give us an estimate.”
“What did he say?”
“He’s not opposed to hiring a cleaning service, but said he’ll take it outta my commission if there’s ever a problem.”
“I assure you, there won’t be a problem.”
“I’m sure of it. So, what do you need to know?”
Placing the notepad in her lap she said, “There are smudges and dirt on outside glass and front door and a cigarette butt canister out front. Does the building management take care of that, or would we?”
“No, the landlord handles it, but they’re always behind.”
“I’ll talk to them about taking it over. We’ll clean the inside of the glass door and all the windows, empty the trash, vacuum, dust and mop any tile floor twice a week.”
Clive said, “The storeroom is also the break room, of sorts. It has a tile floor and so does the bathroom.”
“Got it. Does it have an air sanitizer?” He gave her a puzzled look and she said, “I’ll put one in.”
“Oh, the box on the wall that puts out a spritz of air freshener.”
“No, but we could use one,” he said grinning.
“We’ll make sure the bathroom is sparkling clean and deodorized.”
“Ginger will be so pleased.”
“I’m sure she will. Do you have a drinking fountain?”
“A water cooler we lease from Culligan. They handle anything it needs or we give them a shout, hey Culligan man.” He tensed a little after attempting the joke.
“Okay. I need to do a walk through and take a look in all the spaces, then I’ll quote a price.”
Standing and opening the door of his office he said, “This way.”
After touring the offices and introducing Sina to the staff, they returned to his office. She took one of her business cards from her purse, leaned over, placed it on his desk and wrote on it before offering it to him and saying, “Since you’re such a sweet man, and, we already clean two other spaces nearby, we’ll do yours for $180 a month. If that sounds okay, give me a key and we’ll start the two week trial tomorrow night. My husband or I will come out the first time to make sure things are done right, then I’ll be come by after the trial to seal the deal. If you’re satisfied we’ll set up billing.”
Pushing his door almost closed Clive moved toward her and said, “I can’t imagine not being satisfied with you.”
She chuckled and said, “Easy there, Mr. Salesman. This is business.”
“Okay, but you still owe me a dance and some conversation.”
“Do you really wanna dance and talk?”
“You know what I want.”
She picked up one of his business cards from a holder on the desk, then took her business card back, gave it a light kiss, leaving the impression of her red lips on it. Handing the card back to him she said, “I may page you later this week if things free up for me.”
“I told you, I’ll take anything you’re willing to give.”
“What if it’s not free and you have to earn it?”
“Just name the price,” he said.
“Not everything can be bought with money, but I’ll entertain an offer.”
“I’m open to a trade.”
She touched him on the chest and said, “I’ll keep it in mind.” She walked past him and out the door, saying goodbye to Ginger.
After she left, Harold, one of the young installation techs poked his head in Clive’s office and said, “Is she gonna be our new cleaning lady?”
“She owns the company, but I doubt if she does the work.”
Stepping into the office and walking to the window to observe Sina getting in her car Harold said, “Whew, she sure works it. Works it real good.”
Clive laughed and said, “That she does, my friend. That she does.”