Picture

 

                                                                                                      Chapter 1 
 


   He was drunk, but not dead drunk.

    Quite the opposite. He had reached that point of intoxication where he felt brilliantly happy. Every thought that raced through his brain seemed remarkably clever and amusing. He felt smugly pleased with himself.

   The world around him was spinning as he half-stumbled down the pathway, his legs unsteadily rushing him forward. The path was well lit, which was good, because the night sky was so very dark.

   Those crazy nudists have the right idea, he thought, as the cool air rushed against his naked body. He was turned on by being outdoors and naked, especially as he thought about what lay ahead of him.

   He could barely wait until he reached the hot tub. He had a big date.

   He had carefully stashed his clothes where no one would notice them, and now he figured he looked just like one of the regular nudists at Xanadunes.

   Not that he had encountered any of them along the way. Most of them were still up at the disco, jumping around in the flashing lights. Some of them were back there at the party in the big house. The place he was hurrying to was in the opposite direction, on the other side of the grounds.

   All around, the windows of the condos were dark.

   He wondered whether the water would be too hot for getting a good boner going. Maybe it would make him wilt. Hell, nothing would make him wilt tonight.

   After all this time, she had finally responded to his advances. He had pressured her as persistently as he could, and tonight he would reap his rewards. He liked the idea of getting her alone in the hot tub and nailing her right there.

   He reached the gazebo, where the outdoor hot tub waited invitingly. No one else was there yet. She had said she’d arrive in just a few minutes.

   He slid into the water. It was hot, and he jumped up, but then settled in. The jets were already going and the tub was bubbly. He could smell the chlorine rise off the water.

   He sat back, resting his head against the edge of the tub. He was pretty crocked. His head swam. He enjoyed being naked in the water. It felt good.

   “Those crazy nudists,” he said again to himself.

   He imagined the woman he was about to meet, and smiled. She was quite a looker. He relished the idea of finally putting his hands on her body. Hot damn, he thought. He was a lucky guy.

   He leaned back and let the water flow around him. He luxuriated in the pleasurable feeling. He moved his back against one of the jets to let the pulsing spray pummel the base of his spine, and then shifted his buttocks to get the jets just right against his backside muscles.

   “Yow,” he said aloud, as the spray suddenly pounded against his testicles. Got to be careful with those things, he thought.

   He sat back down gingerly and then relaxed. She should be here any minute, he figured.

   He waited. His brain floated in a pleasant drunken haze. He was eager for her to arrive, but was so drunk that he barely noticed the time go by. Then, without warning, a pair of heavy hands pushed hard on his shoulders and he went down suddenly, under the hot water.

   He struggled to get up, but whoever was up there had quickly gotten the advantage and was too powerful for him. He kicked with his legs to find some surface he could push against, but those heavy hands kept pushing him under.

   The chlorinated water shot up his nose and seared his nostrils. The acrid smell seemed to scorch the inside of his brain. He gasped. The burning water tore into his lungs.

   He was frantic now, as the water filled his lungs and his throat. He thrashed, but those strong hands controlled him and he couldn’t stay above the surface.  His head smashed against the tiled seat.

   He tried to pull at the hands, but they held him underwater, pushing him down, keeping him there—it seemed like an eternity—until the bubbles from the hot tub’s jets mixed with the bubbles of the last gasps of air escaping from his body.

   And then, indeed, he went limp all over. 
 
 


                                                                                                     2
 
   Earlier that day, Lee Spinacci stood outside his condo, humming to himself as he watered his plants. He looked up.


   I’ve got to admit, Lee thought, my neighbor has marvelous nipples. He held his watering can in mid-air and watched her approach. He loved the way her nipples pointed and stuck out. He also liked the way she cropped her pubic hair into a neat little triangle. He smiled and admired her as she walked toward him, up the tree-shaded pathway.

   Ramona was carrying a small net bag with a few groceries inside. She had on a white cotton sun hat, sunglasses, and flip-flops. That was all.

   “Hi, there!” she called out in a warm, lilting voice, giving Lee a big wave.

   She’s in a friendly mood, Lee thought, flashing a hand in response. Ramona was a creature of many moods. As she drew near, he looked with pleasure at her long, tanned legs. He moved his gaze upward, to the sparkling jewel that dangled from her silver belly-button ring, glinting in the sunlight. Her full breasts, with those pointy nipples, bounced gently as she came toward him and then slowed down. Her curved figure was a harmony of spheres. Ramona was a beauty, a splendor to behold.

   “How’s it going?” she said lightly.

   “In my tiny universe,” he replied, “things are just fine. In fact”—and he made a flourish with the watering can that encompassed the entire scene—“what could possibly be wrong on a day like today?”

   Indeed, it was a beautiful day—a gorgeous Florida day in early spring. Just the right kind of day to be outside, watering your bushes with the warm, fresh air all over your naked body.

   They smiled at each other. Birds trilled. A small breeze crossed their bare skin and rustled through the thick green trees nearby.

   “Hey there, Ramona!” called a voice from behind him.

   The screen door swung open and then shut with a small bang. Barbara, Lee’s wife, emerged, holding a wooden spoon. She’d been cooking and came outside when she heard Ramona’s approach. “Whatcha up to?”

   Well into her fifties, Barbara was a good deal older than Ramona, and not as tall and slender—or unpredictable. Though quite appealing for her age, her breasts had years ago begun their inevitable downward descent, and she now had a comfortable, pillowy middle, obscuring the hourglass figure she’d had when she was younger.

   Still, Lee thought, she does have a great tush.  Round, firm, and smooth. He considered it an old friend. He followed it with his eyes as Barbara came between him and Ramona.

   Ramona and Barbara had become friendly in the short time they had known each other. They shared girl-talk and ran errands together. But whenever Ramona and Lee were alone by themselves, Barbara made sure to appear within a matter of minutes, or less.

   She’s just being silly, thought Lee. He and Ramona were simply friends. He was the most married man he knew, and he wasn’t about to jeopardize things with Barbara. Still, when you’re standing around naked with an attractive young woman, it’s not unreasonable for your wife to make sure nothing comes of it.

   “Oh, just doing some shopping at the convenience store,” Ramona said. “I didn’t have a thing in my fridge except ketchup and mayonnaise. And you know what it’s like on the weekends—I have no intention of leaving this place if I don’t absolutely have to.”

   Lee nodded. He, too, hated the idea of putting on clothes to go “outside” to the supermarket. The outside world—the “textile” world, as some of his neighbors called it—was just too far away. Not literally. Literally, it was only a quarter of a mile past the gate. You could walk it in less than fifteen minutes. But it seemed light years away from their protected little nudist resort and year-round residential village.

   And, since he was now retired—or semi-retired, as he liked to think—there were fewer and fewer reasons to go outside anymore. Sure, sometimes he and Barbara would get all dressed up and go out to dinner and a movie, or maybe see a play if something special was in town. Or they’d take a ride to catch some new scenery. But Lee usually liked the scenery just fine where he was.

   “If you’re hungry, you can eat lunch with us,” Barbara offered. “I made a soufflé.”

   “Lunch! I’m trying to get some breakfast in me,” Ramona said with a touch of irony.

   “Had a late night?” Lee gave her a mock-devilish smile.

   “Oh, man,” was all Ramona said. Then she added, “We had quite a party over at A-side.”

   Barbara stiffened. She had heard there were wild parties going on lately in the community, and she didn’t like it. Not that she was a prude. Anyone who moves to a nudist village has to have a healthy tolerance for the unconventional. But she didn’t like the idea that things might be getting out of hand. Not here. That wasn’t what she had in mind when she and Lee agreed to change their lifestyle and move to Xanadunes for an early retirement. After all, everyone has their limits.

   They all went inside, where it was shady and cool. Lee and Barbara had fixed the place up in fifties retro, with pink and gray and plenty of chrome, most of their furniture found in local antique shops. It was a modest condominium: two bedrooms, a living room, dining area, and kitchen. Nothing like their previous apartment in a fancy art deco doorman building on Manhattan’s East Side. But now it was their home-sweet-home.

   Lee laid out the plates and Barbara brought over the soufflé, holding a long, serrated knife. Ramona sat down at the kitchen table, her large, round breasts suspended like two soft sentinels over the pink Formica tabletop. She took off her hat and carefully laid her sunglasses on the table. Her eyes were bloodshot, with dark rings around them. Still, Ramona was a beauty. Lee sat down directly across from her. He felt his naked penis stir, move around slowly, and then he willed it back into somnolence.

   “Dig in,” said Barbara. 

 

                                                                                                               3 



    Ramona ate like someone who had just finished an aerobic workout. Barbara watched with pleasure as her cooking was devoured.

   “So, how’s work?” Lee asked, steering the conversation away from the prior night’s activities.

   “Work sucks,” Ramona said. “Bunch of tight-ass lawyers, and half of them want to get into my pants. The other half are too scared that I would sue them if they tried.”

   “Well, they can’t get into your pants here at Xanadunes,” Lee said.

   Ramona looked at him quickly, surprised.

   “Because you’ve got no pants on,” Lee said.

   “Oh. Right.” She had missed the joke.

   “Would it be better if you worked someplace else?” Lee asked.

   Ramona looked at him with an expression that said, are you kidding? “What good would that do?”

   She was right, Lee realized. She’d be hassled and hit on wherever she worked.

   “Okay. So, that’s life. You’re stuck with it.” He sneaked a glance at the soft sentinels again. She was stuck with it, all right.

   “Well,” Barbara said, “I would think modern workplace regulations would have cut down on harassment. And if they do harass you . . .”

   “It isn’t harassment, Barb,” Ramona interrupted, with a sense of weariness. “It’s just the way it is.” She gave a short laugh. “But I can handle it. In fact, I handle it just fine. I’ve got enough of them wrapped around my finger that they’re really quite generous to me. I get a nice raise each year and a bonus at Christmas. I can’t complain. But it sucks anyway. I have to make a living, so I do it. It’s a job.” She shrugged.

   “I remember,” Lee said. “Work sucks. Only problem is, you have to do something.”

   “You don’t,” Ramona said with sudden directness.

   “Well, not anymore,” Lee admitted, thrown on the defensive. “But still, I do some work once in a while, to keep busy. It’s not so easy being retired, you know. You get bored. You lose your sense of purpose.”

   “Oh, that sounds tragic,” Ramona answered.

   “It has its challenges,” Lee said.

   Ramona laughed. “You baby-boomers give me a royal pain. You have it all, and then you complain about it. I will never get the kind of pensions you guys get.”

   “I wasn’t complaining,” Lee said defensively.

   “Sounded like it.”

   “It did sound like it a little bit,” Barbara weighed in.

   “All right, all right. I see I’m outvoted. You’re right, work sucks. Tough noogies. I’m glad I’m retired. And some day,” he said to Ramona, “after you’ve worked your ass off for another thirty or forty years, you’ll retire too.”

   Lee thought of what Ramona’s beautiful body might look like in forty years. The sentinels would have long since fallen off guard and gone to sleep.

   “I can’t wait,” Ramona said. “I just can’t wait.”

       

                                                                                                           4 
 

   After Ramona left, Lee and Barbara cleaned up the kitchen. Lee cleared the table and Barbara slipped on a flowery print apron to protect her front from getting splashed. Her bare behind stuck out uncovered, and she tied a bow that rested perfectly in the small of her back.  


   As Lee gathered a few dishes and carefully placed them into the sink, he gave her fanny a gentle pat, followed by a long stroke. He liked the feel of her behind against the cup of his hand. He went back to gathering dishes. 

   “You know, I’m concerned about Ramona,” Barbara announced, still facing the sink. 

   “What do you mean?” Lee asked. He wondered if she was concerned about Ramona or about what she perceived to be Ramona’s effect on him

   “I’m worried about her,” she said, sounding motherly. “I think she’s starting to screw up her life. Sounds to me like something isn’t right.” 

   Lee thought about it. He pictured Ramona’s happy “hello” as she walked up the pathway. Then he thought of how she looked sitting across from him, hungrily eating Barbara’s soufflé, her large breasts, with those pointy nipples, framing the plate. A pleasant sight.  

   “She looked okay to me,” he suggested. 

   “Yes, I know. I’m sure she looked great to you,” Barbara remarked.  

   “Hey, are you getting jealous? C’mon, I thought we’ve gone over that.” 

   “No, it’s not that. I know a woman can’t expect her husband never to look at another pretty girl, especially if she’s agreed to live in a place like this.” She hesitated. “Well,

    I guess I am a little jealous. I can tell she excites you and, yeah, sure, I’m a little

   jealous . . .” 

   “Well, don’t be!” he interjected firmly. 

   “But that’s not what I’m talking about.” She picked up a dish and started to soap it up. “It sounds like something is going on, and I don’t know if it’s good for her.” 

   “What do you mean? Look, she’s a big girl. I think she can take care of herself.”  

   “I’m not so sure. Did you see her eyes? They looked like hell.” 

   “Well, she was up late. She said so.” 

   “Yes, I know. But it looked worse than that. She looked distraught about something.” 

   “You think so?” 

   “Yes, I do. Unlike you, I’m thinking about what her face looked like. I don’t know if you noticed that,” Barbara said, with an edge of sarcasm. 

   “Hey, no fair,” Lee protested. “I looked at her face. I saw she had rings around her eyes. I do look at faces, you know. At least sometimes.” Then he added, “But it didn’t look all that bad. She said she’d had a pretty wild night.” 

   “What do you think she was up to?” Barbara rinsed off the dishes and carefully placed them in the drainer. 

   “I really don’t know. I hesitate even to start to imagine it. Sex and drugs and rock ’n roll —just the average Friday night in America.”  

   But Lee knew it wasn’t exactly the average Friday night, even at Xanadunes. Outwardly, management tried to run a pretty tight ship. Everyone knew there was no tolerance toward drugs. You couldn’t have a lot of that sort of thing without the police getting very touchy and eager to bust the place. Xanadunes paid a lot of taxes and ran a very upscale resort. Nudism, after all, was turning out to be a popular and highly lucrative tourist attraction in Florida, rivaling Disney World and Universal Studios, but it still bore a whiff of the socially marginal, the not-quite-respectable. So management paid a lot of attention to making sure the community’s policies stayed very much on the right side of the law.  

   Sex and rock ’n roll, however, weren’t at all unusual. Along with beer and wine and strong, ice-cold margaritas.  

   “Maybe you should talk to her when the two of you are alone, just girl to girl,” Lee continued. “I think she’d tell you things she wouldn’t tell me. She confides in you, doesn’t she?” 

   Barbara hesitated. “Well, she did, when we first moved here. We had a lot of fun together for a while. Maybe she was just getting friendly with her new neighbor. But we haven’t spent much time together lately. Or haven’t you noticed?” 

   “Yeah, I guess so. But you still talk pretty often.” 

   “Small talk,” Barbara said. “Nothing very personal. Maybe I became too much of a mother figure to her. Maybe she found me boring. I don’t know. But she’s definitely backed away.” 

   Lee thought about it. They were good neighbors, but Ramona led a very different life. She was still young and worked for a living. Early each weekday morning, she left her condo wearing a skirt or crisply ironed pants, and a very proper blouse, looking all put-together with makeup, jewelry, and high heels, and went clop-clopping off to the parking lot to drive downtown, where she was a secretary at some law firm in a high-rise office building.  

   When she came home, though, she practically ripped off her clothing the minute she walked in. Lee would see her starting to unbutton even before she reached their walk. Ramona spent as little time dressed as possible.  

   “You know,” she had once told Lee, “there’s an office building in Japan I once heard about, where they work in the nude all day. That’s where I should work. The problem is, I don’t speak Japanese.” And then she had shrugged her shoulders and laughed. 

   There were a lot of people like Ramona at Xanadunes—a little offbeat, a little unusual. There were also a lot of plain old retired empty-nesters who decided that hanging around naked was more fun than living in a mobile home and traveling around the country. There were even some families with little kids who grew up thinking that being naked all day was the most normal way to be. 

   It was an odd community, but it worked somehow. Xanadunes was a mixture of permanent residents, snowbirds, and short-term vacationers who rented condos for a couple of days or weeks. The different groups didn’t always mingle. They mostly existed as parallel communities within the same complex.  

   Of course, you couldn’t tell that merely by looking at them—they were all naked. Except the ones who still had tan lines where their bathing suits had been, or no tans at all. Those were the newcomers, just arriving for the season or a short stay. Those were the people you could always identify. 

   “Maybe I’ll take a walk down to the pool,” Lee said, as he put away the last dish. “Want to come?” 

   Barbara untied her apron and pulled it off. Lee always liked to watch as the clothing was doffed and tossed aside. Nude, Barbara was still a good-looking woman. She had smooth, creamy skin, and she kept herself from getting baked and wrinkled, which wasn’t easy in the hot Florida sun.   

   She plopped a big straw hat on her head and hooked her arm in his. “Come on, big guy,” she said. “Let’s see the town.” 
 
 
 
   

                                                                                                      5 
  


   Officer George McClain pulled his patrol car into the parking lot at the 7-Eleven. It was located in a little strip mall off the main road, across from the turn-off that led toward Xanadunes. He was thinking about running inside to pick up a cup of coffee and one of those pre-wrapped, single servings of pie that taste like flaky cardboard with a lot of sweet goo inside.  

   From where he sat, he could see the high wooden fence that marked off the Xanadunes property.  

   He got out of the patrol car and took a moment to look at the sign by the roadside. It showed the silhouette of a man and a woman, bifurcated by a wavy line. An arrow pointed down the road. The sign said XANADUNES, and in small, stylish letters underneath: A NUDIST RESORT

   That sign always irritated McClain. Maybe it was because it stated the fact so boldly, without the slightest modesty. Maybe it was because of that little wink suggested by the fancy lettering. What were kids to think when they rode their bikes alongside, on their way to little league practice or coming home from school? Did they point at it and snicker? What were visitors to think about Mossy Lakes? What kind of town would have such a place in its midst?  

   “Hello, McClain.” 

   He turned to see Nelson Jenkins. Jenkins was a short man in his early forties who combed his thinning black hair over a spreading bald spot. Jenkins also worked on the force, sometimes in uniform, sometimes in plain clothes. Today he wore a Hawaiian shirt and chinos. 

   “Hello, Jenkins. I see you’re decked out in your best.” 

   “Yeah, well, not much goin’ on today. A lot of paperwork, that’s all.” 

   “Lucky you still have your job, with all these budget cuts lately.”  

   “Very funny. What about you? Maybe they’ll recognize you for service well done and hand you a gold watch and a certificate.” 

   “My wife wouldn’t mind,” McClain said. “For ten years she’s been saying I should slow down. Shit, if I went any slower, they could roll me up in a carpet and stick me in the closet.”  

   “Are you complaining? If you want action, go transfer to Miami Beach.” 

   “No, thanks. I’ll stay here where it’s nice and quiet.” 

   “So what are you complaining about?” 

   “I don’t know. I’m just a crabby old bastard, that’s all.”  

   “Yeah, well, you said it, not me.” 

   “Don’t agree so quickly,” McClain countered. “Come on in. I’ll buy you a cup of coffee.” 

   The two policemen entered the 7-Eleven, which was filled with rows of brightly wrapped packaged goods of dubious nutritional value. McClain poured two coffees from the coffee stand and picked out a piece of apple cinnamon pie. He silently motioned to Jenkins to ask if he wanted one also, but Jenkins declined with a wordless wave. They had done this routine many times before. McClain handed one of the coffees to Jenkins, paid, and the two men walked out together. 

   “Thanks,” Jenkins said. “So how is Ann, anyway?” 

   “She’s fine, I suppose,” McClain said. “She keeps herself busy with her gardening. Why do you ask?” 

   “Nothing in particular. I’m just being friendly.” 

   “Oh. That.” 

   The two men nodded, and each headed to his own vehicle. McClain sat in his patrol car, munching his pie and drinking coffee. Then he recapped the cup and placed it, half-finished, into the cup-holder. When he’d started on the force, they never used to have cup-holders in police cars. Now he found them pretty convenient.  He took a last look at the annoying Xanadunes sign.  As he pulled away, he crumpled his pie-wrapper into a little ball, aimed it, and pitched it deftly out the window, into the garbage can. 


 Want to read more?  Order a copy of Murder Au Naturel at Llumina Press or through Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Jexbo and other distributors.  The book is available as a trade paperback or as an e-book.

And thank you for visiting allenbarlowe.com.  We hope you enjoyed your visit!