My Only Vice

By: Elizabeth Bevarly


AS HE WATCHED the seemingly endless parade of nearly naked, thoroughly sweaty female torsos gyrating wildly to electronic funk music, it occurred to Sam Maguire that small-town life wasn’t exactly what he’d expected it to be. Of course, the reason for this particular parade of naked, sweaty female torsos wasn’t to earn its owners a living, however dubious, which would have likely been the case for such a display in the big city. No, the reason for this particular parade of naked, sweaty torsos was more to keep its owners in shape—however dubious.

That was beside the point.The point was that a naked, sweaty female torso was a naked, sweaty female torso, and it was a sight to be revered, whether under the strobe lights of Buster’s Bootie Call in Boston, or under the Art Deco fixtures of Alice’s Aerobics Attic in tiny Northaven, two hours away. So Sam would, by God, revere them. Even the ones at Alice’s that hadn’t quite gotten around to that in-shape thing yet. Hell, it wasn’t as if the bodies at Buster’s were exactly ready for their close-up. The tattoos on most of them had headed farther south than Tierra del Fuego.

Sam’s reason for watching these torsos, however, wasn’t much different from what his reason for watching them in the big city had been. A stakeout was a stakeout, too, whether it was in Boston or Northaven, even if the criminal element here consisted less of drug pushers and vicious pimps and more of dognappers and petty thieves. Even at that, Mrs. Pendleton’s Yorkie had turned up safe and sound by nightfall just as Sam had assured the elderly woman it would, and she never received one of the animal’s red beribboned little ears along with a ransom note, as Mrs. Pendleton had been so certain she would. The local thefts were no more difficult to solve than the isolated dognapping had been, since most of those were perpetrated by fresh-faced teenagers who didn’t even know enough to hide their tracks, so unaccustomed were they to a life of crime.

Sam’s current case was easily the ugliest he’d investigated since his self-inflicted relocation to Northaven a little over a year ago. Alice the aerobics instructor’s estranged husband had been drinking too much white Zinfandel on the weekends and making threatening phone calls to her. But his crime, too, was a far cry from similar ones committed in the big city, since the worst of Don’s threats had been to spend with wild abandon, using the joint MasterCard he and Alice still shared. To the tune of five hundred dollars if Alice didn’t give him a second chance to make up for his indiscretion with the head cashier at his grocery store.

Nevertheless, Sam had promised Alice he would stop by both her house and the aerobics business on his daily rounds to make sure Don didn’t try anything funny. Well, anything funnier than racking up a three-figure debt on a credit card, anyway. So what if Sam lingered at the latter destination a little longer than he did the former? Alice’s business was open to the public, and was therefore more easily accessible than her home. And her customer base constituted a threat to more people than just Alice herself. Any cop, urban or small town, would make sure he lingered longer in the more open—and consequently more ripe for mayhem—environment.

Especially if that was the environment that had the naked, sweaty, gyrating female torsos. Talk about your mayhem…

The women in Alice’s current class didn’t know Sam was watching them, since Alice had instructed him to enter through the back and observe the studio from behind the wall of two-way glass, just in case he arrived at a time when Don was indeed there trying to wreak havoc. Presumably by doing something crazy like waving around a loaded Juiceman he’d just flagrantly purchased with their credit card—and not on sale, either. But as Sam’s gaze roved down the line of women and he recognized one of them as Rosie Bliss, he was in an even smaller hurry to leave.

Northaven’s resident florist had her lush fall of dark red hair—hair that normally tumbled to nearly the center of her back—piled loosely atop her head, held in place by some invisible means of support. She was wearing a clingy yellow…whatever the hell you called those things women worked out in that barely covered their breasts…over clingy black…whatever the hell you called those things women worked out in that barely covered their asses. Every other inch of her was creamy, ivory—and sweaty; did he mention sweaty? And gyrating, too?—flesh. She was even working out barefoot, unlike the other women, who were all wearing sneakers, and something about the way her toenails were painted a dark blood red made Sam want to…

Well. There was no way he could deny it. He wanted to suck on Rosie Bliss’s toes until the cows came home. Then he wanted to suck on the rest of her until the cows went out again. And he’d hope like hell they never brought their bovine little selves back again.

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