Lights OutI did a bad thing.

My name is Carlton Smythe. At the age of 53 I fell in love with a woman who wasn’t my wife, and engaged in a criminal act as the result. I suppose you could say that it was more a matter of lust than love, but let’s not parse words. The woman who turned my otherwise mundane, boring life upside down was Gina Ellanado.

God, she was beautiful. I met her in a Buenos Aires bar when I was on a business trip. We had drinks (that she drank beer added to her appeal), and enjoyed dinner together. Does “smitten” adequately describe my reaction to her? Certainly not. I was immediately head-over-heels in love with Gina, and two subsequent trips to Argentina found us tangled in sheets and pledging our undying devotion to each other.

The only obstacle to my living happily ever after was my spouse, Cynthia, back in Toronto. Let’s get something straight right now. I never hated Cynthia. I got her in a family way when we were in college, and her father, Walter Wiggins, a titan of Canadian industry, informed me that his “little girl” was going to be my wife, no arguments accepted. (Cynthia eventually had a miscarriage and was unable to bear children). I have to admit that marrying into the Wiggins wealth wasn’t a bad deal for a pale, skinny, electrical engineer with few prospects. Unfortunately, when Mr. Wiggins died he left behind not only Cynthia but also Cynthia’s mother, Gladys, a gorgon who defined self-righteousness, and who cast a suspicious eye on my frequent trips to Argentina. I didn’t hate Gladys Wiggins either, although her overbearing nature could be suffocating at times.

So there I was, married to a wealthy woman, and madly in love with Gina, my voluptuous—and willing—Argentinean bombshell.

What to do?

What would you do?

I had been employed as an engineer at a large Toronto power company but had been “downsized,” a convenient metaphor for being fired. While there I befriended a distinctly unsavory French Canadian engineer. Paul Saison was a drunk, an inveterate gambler, and possessed questionable personal hygiene habits. However, he did have his uses. It occurred to me that if I could choreograph a massive power outage up and down the East Coast I could sell the exact date and time of the blackout to other people, and raise enough money to support Gina and me in luxury. The only problem was my “customers” would be bad guys—and I didn’t know any. Ironically Cynthia provided the solution.

Dominick Martone was reputed to head up the Ontario branch of the Mafia. I’d met him through my wife’s work with a Canadian opera company. One night I got up the courage to approach him with my “business deal.” To my surprise he bit, and that launched me on the road to crime, and to dealing with dangerous characters with the blood of others on their hands. Whenever I considered backing out, I thought of my lovely Gina, womanly, sensuous, soft and round in all the right places, and professing her everlasting love for me. So I forged ahead, and needless to say, things didn’t work out exactly the way I had planned.

I won’t go into the details, except to say I made a few mistakes. But what did I know about being a criminal? Cut me some slack when judging me. I was an electrical engineer, unemployed, married to a woman I didn’t love—not that Cynthia isn’t a lovely lady, (we won’t talk about her mother)—and seduced by the fleshly delights of Gina Ellanado.

Okay, so now I’m slipping into justifying my actions, something I’ve pledged to myself not to do. As I admitted when I started this mea culpa, I did a bad thing. Admitting guilt is the first step towards redemption, according to people who know about such things. But while I wallow in self-pity at times, I also have my moments when I smile at the memory of my adventure with the lovely Gina Ellanado. Would I do it again? Maybe not. Probably not.

But then again you never know what you’ll in the future. Do you?

Carlton Smythe is the good-natured main character in Lights Out!, the stand-alone novel by Donald Bain (Severn House—May 2014). This mild-mannered pushover, blinded by his lust for a Latin siren, becomes a criminal mastermind of sorts, a role for which he’s decidedly ill-suited.

Meet the author
Donald Bain is the author or ghostwriter of more than 115 books, including 43 in the “Murder, She Wrote” series, and more than 25 in collaboration with Margaret Truman in her Capital Crimes series. He has continued that series following Ms. Truman’s death.

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