"Leader of the Pack"
"A" side, single (1964)
The rain was pouring down on the Palm Springs desert in
biblical proportions the night he stalked into the spa's
small bar. He was a big man, tall, brawny, the harsh
planes of his face unsoftened by his wet, dark hair. Clint
Eastwood minus forty years and plus forty pounds of pure
muscle. Water dripped from the hem of his ankle-length
black slicker to puddle on the polished marble floor
beside his reptilian-skinned cowboy boots.
She flashed on one of the lessons her father had drilled
into her. A girl as beautiful as you and with a name like
yours should always be on guard for the snake in Paradise.
And as the stranger took another step forward, Eve Caruso
heard a distinctive hiss.
The sound had come from her, though, the hiss of a quick,
indrawn breath, because the big man put every one of her
instincts on alert. But she'd also been taught at the
school of Never Showing Fear, so she pressed her damp
palms against the thighs of her tight white jeans, then
scooted around the bar.
"Can I help you?" she asked, positioning her body between
him and the lone figure seated on the eighth and last
The stranger's gazeflicked to Eve.
She'd attended a casual dinner party earlier that evening -
- escorted by her trusty tape recorder so she wouldn't
forget a detail of the meal or the guest list, which would
appear in her society column -- and hadn't bothered to
change before taking on the late shift in the Kona Kai's
tiny lounge. Her jeans were topped with a honey-beige silk
T-shirt she'd belted at her hips. Around her neck was a
tangle of turquoise-and-silver necklaces, some of which
she'd owned since junior high. Her cowboy boots were
turquoise too, and hand-tooled. Due to pressing financial
concerns, she'd recently considered selling them on eBay --
and maybe she still would, she thought, as his gaze fell
to the pointy tips and her toes flexed into involuntary
He took in her flashy boots, then moved on to her long
legs, her demi-bra-ed breasts, her shoulder-blade-length
blonde hair and blue eyes. She'd been assessed by a
thousand men, assessed, admired, desired, and since she
was twelve-and-a-half years old, she'd been unfazed by all
of them. Her looks were her gift, her luck, her tool, and
tonight, a useful distraction in keeping the dark man from
noticing the less showy but more famous face of the
younger woman sitting by herself at the bar.
Eve placed a hand on an empty stool and gestured with the
other behind her back. Get out, get away, she signaled,
all the while keeping her gaze on the stranger and letting
a slow smile break over her face. "What would you like?"
she asked, softly releasing the words one by one into the
silence, like lingerie dropping onto plush carpeting.
"Sorry, darlin', I'm not here for you," he said, then he
and his Southern drawl brushed past her, leaving only the
scent of rain and rejection in their wake.
Eve froze in -- shock? dismay? fear? "I'm not here for
What the hell was up with that? Granted, life hadn't been
going her way lately, but though she knew not to depend on
men, surely she could depend upon their reactions! Blonde
hair and blue eyes, long legs and big breasts . . . they'd
never failed her before.
What did it mean? What was the world coming to? Rain in
the desert. Men underwhelmed by her beauty. Next the dead
would rise from their graves. A shiver rippled down her
spine. Come to think of it, just a few weeks before that
had actually happened.
"What the hell are you doin'?"
The sound of the man's next words released Eve from her
paralysis. She spun around, but his wide shoulders blocked
her view of the person he was speaking to. Eve could
imagine her, though, huddling in her corner, big-eyed, her
broken arm hugged tight against her thin body. She
remembered the feeling herself, she remembered feeling
lost and helpless as the darkness closed in, squeezing the
air from her lungs, choking her throat. Her first
experience with the claustrophobia that could still make
Then the light, the voice. "What a pretty girl. I'd never
The man's impatient tone banished the memory, and Eve's
pulse skittered. A second shiver bolted down her spine.
Move, she ordered herself. Get between them again.
Or get out, her weaker self reasoned. You're no Wonder
Woman, we both know that. Do what you do best.
Look out for #1.
Trapped by indecision, Eve heard the scrape of the
barstool's legs and tensed. If Jemima Cargill decided to
run for it, Eve would be right behind her. The Clint-clone
looked that dangerous.
The younger woman's fingers gripped the man's slicker
sleeve and yanked him forward. "Oh, sod off, Nash," she
berated in a soft, pseudo-British voice, "and sit down and
have a beer."
To Eve's surprise, he merely grumbled, then obeyed. Jemima
Cargill, Hollywood's latest and greatest waif-actress,
looked over her shoulder, all enormous dark eyes and sharp
pointed chin. "Would you mind serving the dope a drink?"
Eve obeyed too, moving around to the other side of the
bar, her wariness easing a little now that the big man was
sitting down, even though he couldn't look less dopey as
he narrowed his eyes at the young woman seated beside
him. "Don't mess with me, Jem. I've been doing the whole
trains, planes, and automobiles thing for the last" -- he
squinted down at the watch on his burly wrist -- "thirty-
"I didn't call for the cavalry," Jemima answered, her
British accent evaporating into her usual California-
speak. "As you can see, I'm just fine."