#SampleSunday – Mistaken Identity

It’s been a long time since I posted an excerpt from my cop/sf/farce novel, FORCE OF HABIT, which is still only 99 cents at Smashwords and Amazon. So here goes.

Bel Schuster is a professor on a Trooper teaching ship (space ship, that is). Freldt Saymack is a bookkeeper who is being extorted to cook the books at the Inn where Bel and her cohorts are enjoying a restricted shore leave. Bel wants to trade clothes with Freldt so she’ll have something to take back to the ship as a souvenir. Freldt has reported the extortion to the police and is expecting a police operative to meet her and arrest the criminal when he arrives. The skulking man is a different criminal entirely. It’s a very silly book.

FORCE OF HABIT – excerpt
Marian Allen

Cover of Force of Habit - A blank puzzle with one piece levitating.Bel introduced herself to the card-player, remembering to give a herself a descriptive title.

Bookkeeper Freldt Saymak seemed less antsy, as she dealt cards for two. Bel wondered if she supplemented her bookkeeper’s income with card sharping; maybe she thought she’d hooked a sucker. Maybe she was just lonely.

Her next words echoed Bel’s thoughts.

“I’m so glad you’ve come. I haven’t seen…anyone I know come in.”

“The day is young,” Bel said.

Freldt lost the last of her jitters in the face of this professional placidity. “Your work must require a lot of patience,” she said.

Now, how does she know I’m a teacher? Does it show?

“A lot of patience,” Bel said. “And how.”

They played three games, each time reducing one another’s hands to chaotic jumbles. Both took satisfaction in this outcome, the object of Coup d’État being to make the other guy lose, rather than to win oneself.

And all the time, Bel had her eye on Freldt’s jumpsuit, peplum and earrings. Finally, she said, “Nice outfit.”

“Thank you. I’ve been admiring yours.”

“Have you, now? Well.” Bel gathered the cards into a stack and shuffled. “What do you say to a trade?”

“A trade?”

“Your suit for mine. We’ve got the same build, about the same height, look to be about the same heft… We could go to the ladies’ room and switch. Both get a new outfit out of it.”

Freldt understood. What a relief! Dear, clever operative. They would trade clothes, and the operative would take her place. The Stokk Gord Pron would spew his nasty criminal innuendos directly to an Officer of the law, and she, Bookkeeper Freldt Saymak, would be out of the loop.

“Yes! Wonderful idea.”

She stood and led the way back through the lobby and into a room with “Female Humanoid” stenciled on the door in Llannonninn and Allesesperanto.

They changed, and stood side-by-side before the wall-sized screen (so much more realistic than a mirror, as it showed you what you really looked like, rather than what you would look like if you were put together backward).

“I was right,” Bel said. “They fit fine. They look good on us, too, don’t you think so?” Lilac had always been Bel’s color.

To Freldt, how well they looked didn’t matter. What mattered to her was that the operative had the same hair, skin, and eye color as she did, or close enough to pass to the unsubtle eyes of a Stokk.

“Should we both go back to the table?” Freldt adjusted the collar of her new blouse. “Or should I leave now?”

Leave? While you still have your jewelry? “Oh, stay,”said Bel. “Maybe I can get those earrings off of you.”

“My earrings! Oh, of course.” Freldt blushed. Lucky Operative Bel Schuster was so good at her job. She removed the baubles and gave them to Bel, who put them on.

“Stick around for a while,” Bel said. I think I’ve got a live one.

As they passed through the lobby, a beefy man hunched himself over the brochure rack and watched them out of the corners of his eyes.

Another operative, thought Freldt.

Weirdo, thought Bel.

They went back to the table. It amused Bel when Freldt Saymak took the seat Bel had before, leaving her to take Freldt’s. Obviously, the woman did have a sense of humor.

They were no sooner seated, when the man from the lobby slipped into the bar and oozed around to a dim and distant table behind a potted plant.

Freldt congratulated herself: I spotted him as an operative when I first saw him, before Operative Bel Schuster ever came in. She wanted to point the man out to Operative Bel Schuster, to make up for her slip with the earrings, but she refrained.

Wotan Hessaphess wobbled over and clapped Freldt on the shoulder.

“Another dead Trooper on the table,” he said, saluting the empty bottle. “How about another?”

Freldt looked to Bel for help. Bel nodded, and Freldt said, “Fine.”

“Fine,” Hessaphess said. “Call out the reserves, eh? Where’s the little Trooper’s room?”

Freldt gave him directions, and he maneuvered himself away.

“Isn’t he on duty?” Freldt watched him weave his way out. “Should he be drinking?”

“He might walk funny,” Bel said sourly, “and he might talk funny, but nothing could make him think funny….”

So head on over and pick up a copy of the whole thing. If you do, and you read it, please leave a review, however short.

I also have free stories linked from my Free Reads page, so do hop over there. AAA-aaa-and, I’m part of Smashword’s July special event: LONNIE, ME AND THE HOUND OF HELL, MA’S MONTHLY HOT FLASHES, and THE KING OF CHEROKEE CREEK are all FREE this month with the coupon code SSWIN.

You’re welcome. 🙂

A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Coup d’État is a real game. What’s the weirdest card game you’ve ever played or heard of? Write a scene of people playing it.



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “#SampleSunday – Mistaken Identity

  1. Jane

    July 8, 2012 at 5:48pm

    Fizzbin is definitely the weirdest. I once played Fizzbin with my brother Jim and was beaten when he achieved a Dr. Pepper, since we was holding a 4, 6, and 10.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Marian Allen

      July 8, 2012 at 9:22pm

      Oh, excellent! Yeah, Fizzbin is a good one. So is Mau. I played Mau with someone once and was doing so well, I had to throw the game in the interest of peace. heh

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply
      • Jane

        July 9, 2012 at 9:00am

        Wow. Just visited your link to Mau. Sounds really boggling.

        Permalink  ⋅ Reply
        • Author

          Marian Allen

          July 9, 2012 at 9:30am

          The boggliest part is that the new players are never told the rules. You have to infer them as you play. o_O

          Permalink  ⋅ Reply

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