ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The Bloody Mary Club novel is based on my script optioned by a Hollywood Production company for an Emmy-winning actress. Of course, being an asset type of gal, I took the money and bought a mink coat! It was the only sensible thing to do with crazy Hollywood money. The Bloody Mary Club came inches from becoming a TV series. After seeing the waist high stacks of scripts in the producer's office that were "in development," I took charge and turned my script into a novel. Two years later and after seventeen rewrites, and agonizing advice from my two literary agents to "make it more 'Sex in the city', make it more 'Desperate Housewives,' with a hint of 'scarier'," I stopped listening to them and rewrote version eighteen back to my original vision. Just when the stars were about to align again, everything came to a halt with a surprising breast cancer diagnosis which...thank goodness...was caught in the early stages. However, it caused me to lose my sense of humor and forget about my novel. It just wasn't important any more. Six years later my funny bone has come back and The Bloody Mary Club lives. So, to the A-list actress, the TV production company and my the two ex-literary agents and host of publishers who couldn't make it happen in the midst of the gloomy economic climate, here it is...finally...for fun...and you know how to reach me! And darn this global warming, I only wish it would snow so I can wear my mink coat.

Here's a hot tip:

After a grueling day of buying and selling stocks, I like to unwind with a ade-to-order delicious bloody-well-prepared drink. Since I am so particular bout my Bloody Mary pick-me-up, I thought I'd share my recipe with you in the ope that if I ever visit, I will get the perfect Bloody Mary with minimal instruction.

Enjoy!
Gina Van Story

The Perfect Bloody Mary

Ingredients:

Russian vodka, 150 Proof
Tomato juice (freshly squeezed Roma tomatoes, otherwise, juice from a bottle not a can)
Worcestershire sauce
Tabasco sauce
Lemon
Sea salt and
fresh cracked pepper
Crushed ice, no cubes

Garnish with colossal shrimp. My girlfriends rev their garnish motors with pickles, celery, fat olives and lime wedges.

Directions:

Fill a crystal glass with half crushed ice.
Pour in a healthy amount of vodka;
add two squirts of Worcestershire sauce, four dunks of Tabasco sauce.
Squeeze a wedge of lime over top, then run the wedge around the rim and add it to the glass.
Fill it with freshly squeezed tomato juice, salt and pepper the top.
Drape a few shrimps.

Slip in the Boz Scaggs "Silk Degrees" CD and lido shuffle down that tantalizing red liquid remedy.

PROLOGUE

October

"Not even a frigging dead cat bounce." Gus Reno glared at the red figures flashing on his computer screen. He spun his chair away from the desk and peered out the window at Richmond's winding James River. American Union Bank trading department was turning into a messy hot zone. Bleeding red. The diagnosis: financial Ebola.

"Mr. Reno, sir," the heavy Southern drawl of his trading assistant, Dulene Slater, erupted over the intercom. "The Feds are on the line."

Gus reached for a black binder parked on his desk labeled "Trading Log" and opened it to the last page. With a red pen he underlined the figure "$500 million" over and over. "Mr. Reno...please...it's urgent."

Gus slammed the binder closed and returned it to its place.

"Good Lord, they need to talk to you."

He strode over to the glass partition wall that separated his office from the lesser traders and gazed lovingly at his state-of-the-art technical cinder box. Traders hunkered behind sloping panels packed with computer monitors, television screens, and phone banks. Each pod was a virtual command center in control of millions of dollars of bonds, options, notes, bills, and zero coupons. They'd all lose their jobs. Pity.

Dulene approached the glass window and gestured to him. She held up the phone. Gus shook his head "no." She lifted a coffee mug. He signaled "no." She hoisted a plastic bag filled with dry-cleaning. Gus stared blankly at Dulene, then dropped the blinds.

The red-glowing computer screen summoned him. He slid behind his desk, took out a micro-recorder, and dictated in a labored thick voice. "I can't control the weather or on-time landings, the stock market or interest rates. In my experience, the market comes your way, if you just wait it out. Well, I've been waiting and waiting and covering my tracks, but after today, I can't..."

The office door opened and light flooded his dim fortress. Dulene rushed toward the desk with a bag of dry-cleaning slung over her back. "For Christ's sake, Mr. Reno, there are six urgent calls on hold for you. What's going on?"

"I don't want to be disturbed. Get out and stay out."

Dulene walked backward toward the door. "It's triple witching, all our trades have to be settled today." She took a defiant step forward adding, "Before noon."

When the door closed, he continued dictating in a matter-of-fact voice. He ended his session with: "I'm proof. You can't buy your way out. It doesn't work. I don't think even Andrew could find a cash-rich bank to buy to fix my mess. Well, that's about all I have to say. Some little old ladies will starve. Have a good day."

He ejected the cassette, dropped it into his suit pocket then placed the trading log in a large manila envelope. Looking every inch the master of the trading floor, he exited the office.

Gus stopped at Dulene's desk and tossed the manila folder on top of what she was working on. The thud startled her.

Dulene looked up and forced a smile. "Mr. Reno. It's so nice to see you." She tapped the folder. "What do you want me to do with it?"

"Keep it somewhere safe." Gus dropped the cassette into her open hand. "And when you get a chance, type this." He turned on his heels and walked down the center aisle.

"Mr. Reno, I don't understand. Please come back. Don't do this to me. You can't leave right now."

Gus didn't break his stride.

"Mr. Reno, wait please." Dulene strained to be heard over the trading floor clatter.

Too fast for her, Gus blew by traders manning their pods. When they noticed him, they bombarded him with questions. Ahead, the glass doors, his exit, grew nearer.

Two traders stepped into his path. Gus stepped past them, went out the door, into a waiting elevator.

In the garage, he squeezed his remote car key and the locks on the BMW popped up. Behind the wheel, he turned the ignition and cruised out of his parking spot. Waiting to merge into the street, he gazed at the red-lit instrument panel and broke into a sardonic grin...these numbers he'd control and, goddammit, they'd go up. He tapped the accelerator and the tachometer went from zero to six. At an opening in traffic, he stepped down on the gas pedal and screeched out of the parking lot. West Canal Street became his racetrack. By the time he turned onto Monument Avenue lined with grand Victorian estates, his mood had changed. On I-95 he let out a laugh when the speedometer read ninety miles an hour.

After an hour, Gus spotted the blinking neon red sign on the side of the road announcing "Happy Hour Prices All Day Long" and came in for a landing at Mac's Bar and Grill. Tucked between a gas station and a tire business, Mac's wasn't on Richmond's list of best anything.

Gus squinted as he entered the dark cavern. He found a seat at the bar and eyed the bottles of liquor stacked three deep on a mirrored shelf.

A cheerful bartender with a bad  comb-over popped up from behind the counter with a bucket of ice. Gus pointed to a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label, then threw down two hundred dollars. Th e bartender placed the bottle and a glass in front of him.

Gus poured a generous shot and drank it down, then refilled the glass. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed the flicker of a match being struck, followed by the flare-up of the cherry tip of a cigarette. A woman in the last booth sucked hard on her cigarette, sending a steady stream of smoke in his direction. Another deep drag, then she blew smoke rings. Gus watched the fading smoke zeros float up to the ceiling. He reached into his wallet, took out a crisp one hundred dollar bill, folded it down the middle then propped it up on the bar. He winked at her. She nodded, then joined him at the bar.

"Hey, sugar." She draped her arm around Gus's shoulder. "My name's Delilah."

Gus pointed to the empty stool next to him. "Yeah, and I'm Samson."

"Samson and Delilah. What a joker," she laughed and worked the money into the pocket of her skintight jeans. The bartender handed her a drink garnished with a miniature umbrella. She stamped her cigarette out on the floor, then straddled the barstool.

Gus lifted his glass.

"Samson buddy," she said looking at his ragged fingernails, bitten to the quick. "What a mess. You gotta stop gnawing."

"Screw you." Gus leaned away from her.

They nursed their drinks in silence. After Gus drank half the bottle, he hopped off the stool and took hold of Delilah's arm, "Want to go for a ride?"

Gus drove back into Richmond and pulled into a parking garage in the center of town. He parked in an out-of-the-way spot on the lower level. Delilah, pressed back into the passenger seat, ran her hands over the buttery leather. She touched the burled wood gearshift knob and broke into a crooked smile. Gus breathed deeply when she unbuttoned her blouse. She leaned over and stroked the inside of his thigh. Gus shuddered when she dragged her nails against his zipper. He could hardly contain himself as she slowly unzipped his pants. Angling his seat back, he unlocked the steering wheel, raised it up then pushed her head into his lap. When she made contact, he started the car engine and drove slowly around the lot. He counted the floors as they progressed upward.

Finally the car rounded the last corner and headed into the open air of the roof top lot. Sandwiched between two office buildings, the fading sun cast a long shadow across the empty upper level. Gus's cell phone rang. He accepted the call then set the phone on the dash.

"Don't do anything stupid you sorry son of a bitch!" Dulene shouted over the phone. "Ohmygod. Ohmygod. Ohmygod. Ohmygod."

Gus looked through the windshield at the clear path ahead between the parked cars. His pager went off. He tapped the accelerator and watched giddily as the numbers on the speedometer raced upward. With his cell phone and beeper going off , he smashed down on the gas and watched the needle on the speedometer swing rapidly up to the red zone. Delilah lifted her head to see what was happening, Gus forced her back down. She resisted and clawed at the door handle.

He focused on the open air beyond the building. Gus squeezed the steering wheel tighter then floored it. The car reached full speed, broke through the guardrail and barrier. Defying the laws of gravity, the BMW hung mid-air to the sound of the engine, beeper, Dulene's stream of "Ohmygod's" and Delilah's screams.

Gus felt exhilarated in the weightlessness, his head whirled with zeros. Red pin-dots burst before his eyes. He'd soon become one with the zeros as he headed for the grim landing. The markets would bounce back, he wouldn't.

The front end tilted forward and the car plunged toward the sidewalk. Metal met concrete. It crumpled head first into the pavement with a deafening explosion. The front air bags exploded car and the trunk popped open. Glass and gasoline sprayed the sidewalk. The back seat of the car had been forced forward, and now pinned the passengers in place. Terrified pedestrians ran for their lives and the evening rush hour traffic came to a screeching stop. A bike messenger rode up the back window of a taxi, flipped over his handlebars and landed on the roof. His cursing was drowned out by the BMW's blaring horn reverberating throughout the city center.