Joy Fielding The Wild Zone

ISBN 13: 9781847393630

The Wild Zone

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9781847393630: The Wild Zone
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This is how it starts. With a joke. Two brothers, Will and Jeff, and their friend, Tom, are out one night at their favourite bar when they decide to make a bet on who can be the first to seduce a mysterious young woman drinking by herself. Pretty, dark-haired Suzy has an innocent, girl-next-door appeal. 'Just waiting for Prince Charming to hit on her,' jokes Jeff. Little do they know the secrets she hides from the outside world, particularly those having to do with the daily horror she experiences under the watchful eye of her abusive husband. Little do they know she wants him killed. Little do they know another bet is on: who's man enough to slay the villain and rescue the damsel in distress? Another challenge is born, only this one proves to be lethal . . .

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About the Author:

Joy Fielding is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Wild Zone, Still Life, Charley's Web, Heartstopper, See Jane Run, and other acclaimed novels. She divides her time between Toronto and Palm Beach, Florida. Visit her website at www.JoyFielding.com.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

ONE

THISIS HOW IT starts.

With a joke.

“So, a man walks into a bar,” Jeff began, already chuckling. “He sees another man sitting there, nursing a drink and a glum expression. On the bar in front of him is a bottle of whiskey and a tiny little man, no more than a foot high, playing an equally tiny little piano. ‘What’s going on?’ the first man asks. ‘Have a drink,’ offers the second. The first man grabs the bottle and is about to pour himself a drink when suddenly there is a large puff of smoke and a genie emerges from the bottle. ‘Make a wish,’ the genie instructs him. ‘Anything you desire, you shall have.’ ‘That’s easy,’ the man says. ‘I want ten million bucks.’ The genie nods and disappears in another cloud of smoke. Instantly, the bar is filled with millions and millions of loud, quacking ducks. ‘What the hell is this?’ the man demands angrily. ‘Are you deaf? I said bucks, you idiot. Not ducks.’ He looks imploringly at the man beside him. The man shrugs, nodding sadly toward the tiny piano player on the bar. ‘What? You think I wished for a twelve-inch pianist?’”

A slight pause followed by an explosion of laughter punctuated the joke’s conclusion, the laughter neatly summing up the personalities of the three men relaxing at the crowded bar. Jeff, at thirty-two, the oldest of the three, laughed the loudest. The laugh, like the man himself, was almost too big for the small room, dwarfing the loud rock music emanating from the old-fashioned jukebox near the front door and reverberating across the shiny black marble surface of the long bar, where it threatened to overturn delicate glasses and crack the large, bottle-lined mirror behind it. His friend Tom’s laugh was almost as loud, and although it lacked Jeff’s resonance and easy command, it made up for these shortcomings by lasting longer and containing an assortment of decorative trills. “Good one,” Tom managed to croak out between a succession of dying snorts and chuckles. “That was a good one.”

The third man’s laughter was more restrained, although no less genuine, his admiring smile stretching from the natural, almost girlish, pout of his lips into his large brown eyes. Will had heard the joke before, maybe five years ago, in fact, when he was still a nervous undergraduate at Princeton, but he would never tell that to Jeff. Besides, Jeff had told it better. His brother did most things better than other people, Will was thinking as he signaled Kristin for another round of drinks. Kristin smiled and tossed her long, straight blond hair from one shoulder to the other, the way he’d noted the sun-kissed women of South Beach always seemed to be doing. Will wondered idly if this habit was particular to Miami or endemic to southern climes in general. He didn’t remember the young women of New Jersey tossing their hair with such frequency and authority. But then, maybe he’d just been too busy, or too shy, to notice.

Will watched as Kristin poured Miller draft into three tall glasses and expertly slid them in single file along the bar’s smooth surface, bending forward just enough to let the other men gathered around have a quick peek down her V-neck, leopard-print blouse. They always tipped more when you gave them a flash of flesh, she’d confided the other night, claiming to make as much as three hundred dollars a night in tips. Not bad for a bar as small as the Wild Zone, which comfortably seated only forty people and had room for maybe another thirty at the always busy bar.

YOU HAVE ENTERED THE WILD ZONE, an orange neon sign flashed provocatively above the mirror. PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK.

The bar’s owner had seen a similar sign along the side of a Florida highway and decided the Wild Zone would be the perfect name for the upscale bar he was planning to open on Ocean Drive. His instincts had proved correct. The Wild Zone had opened its heavy steel doors in October, just in time for Miami’s busy winter season, and it was still going strong eight months later, despite the oppressive heat and the departure of most tourists. Will loved the name, with its accompanying echoes of danger and irresponsibility. It made him feel vaguely reckless just being here. He smiled at his brother, silently thanking him for letting him tag along.

If Jeff saw his brother’s smile, he didn’t acknowledge it. Instead he reached behind him and grabbed his fresh beer. “So what would you clowns wish for if a genie offered to grant you one wish? And it can’t be anything sucky, like world peace or an end to hunger,” he added. “It has to be personal. Selfish.”

“Like wishing for a twelve-inch penis,” Tom said, louder than Will thought necessary. Several of the men standing in their immediate vicinity swiveled in their direction, although they pretended not to be listening.

“Already got one of those,” Jeff said, downing half his beer in one long gulp and smiling at a redhead at the far end of the bar.

“It’s true,” Tom acknowledged with a laugh. “I’ve seen him in the shower.”

“I might ask for a few extra inches for you though,” Jeff said, and Tom laughed again, although not quite so loud. “How about you, little brother? You in need of any magical intervention?”

“I’m doing just fine, thank you.” Despite the frigid air-conditioning, Will was beginning to sweat beneath his blue button-down shirt, and he focused on a large green neon alligator on the far brick wall to keep from blushing.

“Aw, I’m not embarrassing you, am I?” Jeff teased. “Shit, man. The kid’s got a PhD in philosophy from Harvard, and he blushes like a little girl.”

“It’s Princeton,” Will corrected. “And I still haven’t finished my dissertation.” He felt the blush creep from his cheeks toward his forehead and was glad the room was as dimly lit as it was. I should have finished that stupid dissertation by now, he was thinking.

“Knock it off, Jeff,” Kristin advised him from behind the bar. “Don’t pay any attention to him, Will. He’s just being his usual obnoxious self.”

“You trying to tell me that size doesn’t matter?” Jeff asked.

“I’m telling you that penises are way overrated,” Kristin answered.

A nearby woman laughed. “Ain’t that the truth,” she said into her glass.

“Well, you ought to know,” Jeff said to Kristin. “Hey, Will. Did I tell you about the time Kristin and I had a three-way?”

Will looked away, his eyes skirting the dark oak planks of the floor and sweeping across the far wall without focusing, eventually settling on a large color photograph of a lion attacking a gazelle. He’d never been comfortable with the sort of sex-charged banter Jeff and his friends seemed to excel at. He had to try harder to fit in, he decided. He had to relax. Wasn’t that the reason he’d come to South Beach in the first place—to get away from the stress of academic life, to get out in the real world, to reconnect with the older brother he hadn’t seen in years? “Don’t think you ever mentioned it,” he said, forcing a laugh from his throat and wishing he didn’t feel as titillated as he did.

“She was a real looker, wasn’t she, Krissie?” Jeff asked. “What was her name again? Do you remember?”

“I think it was Heather,” Kristin answered easily, hands on the sides of her short, tight black skirt. If she was embarrassed, she gave no sign of it. “You ready for another beer?”

“I’ll take whatever you’re willing to dish out.”

Kristin smiled, a knowing little half grin that played with the corners of her bow-shaped mouth, and tossed her hair from her right shoulder to her left. “Another round of Miller draft coming right up.”

“That’s my girl.” Once again Jeff’s muscular laugh filled the room.

A young woman pushed her way through the men and women standing three-deep at the bar. She was in her late twenties, of average height, a little on the thin side, with shoulder-length dark hair that fell across her face, making it difficult to discern her features. She wore black pants and an expensive-looking white shirt. Will thought it was probably silk. “Can I get a pomegranate martini?”

“Coming right up,” Kristin said.

“Take your time.” The young woman tucked a strand of hair behind her left ear, revealing a delicate pearl earring and a profile that was soft and pleasing. “I’m sitting over there.” She pointed toward an empty table in the corner, underneath a watercolor of a herd of charging elephants.

“What the hell’s a pomegranate martini?” Tom asked.

“Sounds revolting,” Jeff said.

“They’re actually quite good.” Kristin removed Jeff’s empty beer glass and replaced it with a full one.

“That so? Okay, then, let’s give ’em a try.” Jeff made a circle in the air with his fingers, indicating his request included Tom and Will. “Ten bucks each to whoever finishes his pomegranate martini first. No gagging allowed.”

“You’re on,” Tom agreed quickly.

“You’re crazy,” Will said.

In response, Jeff slapped a ten-dollar bill on the bar. It was joined seconds later by a matching one from Tom. Both men turned expectantly toward Will.

“Fine,” he said, reaching into the side pocket of his gray slacks and extricating a couple of fives.

Kristin watched them out of the corner of her eye as she carried the pomegranate martini to the woman sitting at the small table in...

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