The pitch is simple enough: Baller is an Agatha Christie mystery on acid, with a suspended NBA player and a porn star filling in for Hercule Poirot. These unique pals are attending a private party at a posh resort in the mountains when a blizzard rolls in. The lights go out, a murder is committed, and things quickly spiral out of hand. None of the prestigious guests who have gathered at WinterCrest are safe. A game with no rules is being played and deadly gifts have been scattered throughout this remote retreat. Can our pair of unlikely heroes figure out who is responsible and save the day, or will they suffer a gruesome fate?
I provided an excerpt in my previous blog on Baller that details what happens when one of the deadly gifts mentioned in the pitch is opened by one of the guests at WinterCrest. You can enjoy that excerpt here. Today, I'm sharing another excerpt that provides an introduction to the main characters of Baller, Luke Wilson and Devil Wood.
An excerpt from Baller (Warning: Adult Content)
Jagged black spikes loomed on either side of the winding road, proud monuments of earth and stone thrusting up into a bleak winter sky that was all but obscured by the falling snow. The road was narrow and curvy, a winding strip encompassed in metal guardrails that would give way upon impact, spilling into the rocky crevices that beckoned below.
Luke tightened his grip on the wheel; he still had complete faith in the Jeep and his ability to operate it in these conditions, but he had never seen a storm gain strength and tenacity with such speed. He was reminded of a dog devouring food at a frantic pace, eating as though such an opportunity may never present itself again. As they continued on, a white haze seemed to overtake them, the blinding mist swelling as the snowfall intensified. The wind ripped through the night, driving the precipitation into swirling torrents that danced through the air.
“Dude, can you even see to drive?” His passenger wondered.
Luke smirked. “It’s not so bad.”
“Shit. It’s a good thing you’re the one behind the wheel. It’s really coming down. These roads will be covered in no time.”
“They salt these roads.” Luke continued to crane forward, focusing on the narrow stretch of pavement that was quickly being blanketed.
“Well, they don’t salt them enough. I think we’re going to wind up spending the night at this bullshit affair. If we even get there.”
“We’ll get there. We grew up in West Virginia, man. Bluefield’s our hometown. This ain’t nothing new for either of us. As long as we don’t brake too hard or yank the steering wheel, we’ve got no worries.”
“We? Ain’t no we, man. It’s all you, I’m just watching. And praying.”
“We’ve got no worries.”
“Maybe you don’t.”
“I always thought you were fearless.”
“Shit. That was before I moved to California.”
“Well, this ain’t California,” Luke said, straining to see. He let off the gas a little, squinting as he peered through the falling snow. “We’ll be there in no time,” he said, but there was a trace of uncertainty in his voice that made it seem as though he was trying to convince himself as much as his passenger.
“If you say so.”
“You know you didn’t have to come.”
“Yeah right. The invitation you received was issued for you and a guest. If you show up by yourself, everyone there will think you’re an asshole who doesn’t have a girl or any real friends. And anyways, it’s been far too long, man. I want to hang out with you.”
“Yeah,” Luke agreed. “It has been a long time. A lot has changed.” He was clad in a pair of jeans and a black sweater. He hadn’t shaved his beard in almost a month now and it was becoming unruly, but it suited him. His leather jacket was in the backseat and he was wearing his favorite boots. No matter how many zeros they put on his checks, Luke would always be a country boy at heart. The private party they were en route to was a first class affair, but this was as nice as he cared to dress on a trip to the mountains.
As he veered into a curve, Luke worked the wheel a little too hard and the tires lost their grip on the slippery pavement for an instant. “Shit,” he muttered, gingerly tapping the brake pedal as he nudged the wheel.
The tires regained their traction and they came through it without a hitch, but his friend was shaking his head.
“Yeah,” he said with a grin. “No worries.”
Luke shrugged. “That was nothing.”
His passenger responded with a chuckle.
“Look,” Luke said, eager to talk about something else, “I was thinking about something. Do I really have to call you Devil? I mean, is that what you’re going to call yourself tonight?”
“Why not? That’s what everyone calls me now.”
“Well, I mean, why not just go by Ricky around me?”
“Ricky? Who the fuck is Ricky? It would be Rick by now anyway, wouldn’t it? We’re not kids anymore, dude. Nobody calls me Ricky.”
“What does your mother call you?”
“She stopped talking to me a few years back. But in her letters, she refers to me as Richard.”
“Well, maybe I could call you Richard too.”
Devil shot him a dirty look. “Get the fuck out of here. Richard is my father.”
“What does your mother call him?”
“They haven’t said a word to each other in over three years, but that’s another story. He calls me Dick, but only because he knows that I hate it. You can imagine how thrilled he is with my new life, but it is what it is, bro. Shit, it’s not like we were the happiest family on the block anyway.”
“There’s an understatement.”
“Like I said, it is what is. I’m fine with it. I’m Devil, man. Fuck it. You are what you do. It ain’t a bad gig, I’m telling you. Fuck man, we can’t all be ballers and shit.”
Luke couldn’t suppress a chuckle of his own. “What the fuck are you talking about, man? We’re both ballers.”
Devil thought this over for a moment. “Yeah, but you play ball in the big leagues and I ball chicks while the cameras roll. Both are fantasies, but only one of them will make you rich.”
“You’re not doing so bad.”
“I’m doing okay. What? Am I supposed to think this will last forever? Shit, man. I’m on the road to nowhere and I’ve got my foot on the gas. I mean, yeah, Randy Spears is still kicking, and hell, I used to jack off to shit with him in it. Not because of him, you know, but I’m just saying. He did this scene with Raylene in a bathtub that I used to blow up, man. I totally wore out that spot on the tape. Who knew you could bust a nut that big? It was like he opened up a fire hose on that poor girl.” Devil stopped talking long enough for a wistful longing to creep into his eyes. “I loved that scene, man. It was on a collection I had, one of those tapes with nothing but six hours of scenes. Those were the best, man, just get rid of the lousy plots and enjoy the fucking. Plus, they were funny because the scenes were taken from various movies so there would be little bits of dialogue that didn't make any sense taken out of context. It just sounded like ridiculous dirty talk. 'Damn, baby, you're one hell of a good landlord.' Shit like that. Anyway, I think that one was called Hosed and it was probably the best collection I ever had.”
“You share too much.”
“Always have. That probably says a lot about my career path. Regardless, Randy Spears is an exception to the rule. Most of us don’t make it nearly that long. Guys, I mean. A lot of us wind up impotent, broke, and strung out before we get to have a midlife crisis, and that’s no lie.” This potential candidate for such a woeful fate was wearing pressed khakis and a delicate knit sweater with tan loafers. His short blonde hair was carefully styled and he was clean-shaven. He looked like someone who should have been featured prominently in the Ralph Lauren winter ad campaign.
Luke was forced to slow the mighty Jeep to a crawl as the road wound upward in a precarious series of wicked curves. As he deftly worked the brakes and nursed the steering wheel, he found himself wondering why he had agreed to bring Devil along in the first place. He had wanted to reunite with his boyhood pal, but his friend had changed a lot over the years. This could turn out to be quite embarrassing if his old chum didn’t do a better job of censoring himself at the lodge. His friend had obviously been in California for too long.
Devil was still prattling on, explaining some of the finer points of his lurid profession. “It’s different for girls. They last longer in the industry, and they’re the real stars anyway. They make the real money and on most sets they call the shots. If you’re doing a flick with a slit with clout and she ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy, man, you better believe that.”
“No shit?” Luke wondered, immediately chastising himself for encouraging his friend.
“No shit. Hell, some of the best directors are aging starlets who don’t want to lube up for a paycheck anymore. They’re the real players in this industry. Maybe one day I’ll get my chance to get cozy with one of them. If you’re lucky enough to dazzle one of those dames and she starts using you steadily, that’s your ticket to the race right there. That’s what I’m shooting for. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll get there.”
Luke restrained himself from commenting, hoping the conversation would end there, but Devil continued, absorbed in his commentary. “Like Nina Hartley, man. Nina’s a golden oldie, she’s been doing this as long as I can remember. I bet my dad used to jack off to her.”
Luke shook his head. This was definitely going to be interesting. Censorship didn’t appear to be a concern for Devil. Luke was starting to think that the aloof country boy he had grown up with had been irreversibly altered by his vulgar profession.
“Forget it,” Devil continued, though Luke had lost track of whatever it was that he was supposed to be forgetting. There wasn’t a point to this winding opus, there was a random series of points. Undeterred, the porn star poet marched on, gesturing boldly as he spoke. “It doesn’t really matter. Though Nina is definitely one of the hottest blondes of all time. That ass? Terrific. A perfect ten. Maybe the best ass of all time, and certainly the best ass I’ve ever seen. You could decorate your house with pictures of that woman’s ass and no one would ever object.”
Luke arched his eyebrows. “I know a few people who probably wouldn’t like it all that much. Like my mom, for instance.”
"Your mom might surprise you."
. . .