Little Black Dress

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DROP DEAD DALLAS (Mystery & Cozy Mystery, Book Award 2023)
Shooting Stars Traveling Circus (Action Adventure, Screenplay Award 2023)
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Logline or Premise
Evan Tyler's weaponized little black dress makes her absolutely deadly. Infiltrating the Paris couture scene, Tyler and her team hunt designer Anton Hrevic who, with his models, is intent on world manipulation. Tyler uses both her assets to l uncover secrets that could unravel the global economy.
First 10 Pages


She had never been one for bars or nightclubs, but how else was a good girl like Evan Tyler going to find a bad boy in Paris?

“How many in your party, Mademoiselle?” the host repeated in English when his initial question in French brought no immediate response.

“Jus’ mysay-elf,” she answered with a diphthong more suited to Paris, Texas than Paris, France.

The thin man looked at his tablet and then shot her a pitying glance over his Poirot mustache. “Without reservations, I can seat you at the bar.” He stared as if he had asked a question, and Evan got the distinct impression that he hoped she would reject the offer and leave.

“Merci.” She matched the lilt in her voice with a dip in her step as she followed him through the Pub Saint Michel. Her heart pounded as she climbed the neon-treaded staircase, or maybe that was just Daft Punk’s “Digital Love” pumping through the sound system. The nightclub smelled like old wood, lemon oil, cigarette smoke, and trouble.

Keep your chin up, the little voice in her head whispered. Project confidence. You can do this.

Evan felt conspicuous; a misfit in a dark room crowded with couples sharing designer drinks and easy conversation. The black leather booths on the street level were filled, but the upstairs bar still had a few empty seats. She nodded to Moustache and took the center stool.

Her electric blue strapless dress hugged her curves and usually drew a response, but no one here bothered to notice. She tugged at the purse strap on her bare shoulder and tapped the toes of her three-inch heels on the brass footrest. She resisted the urge to check her lipstick in the mirrored wall behind the bar. You look fine. Take a breath.

“American?” the barman asked. He was taller than Evan, with a strong square jaw and shoulders to match.

“Yes, sir. How did you guess?” Evan nodded, pushing a loose auburn curl behind her ear.

“May I get you a Cosmo? Or maybe a Mojito?” he said with a broad smile.

“I’d just love a plain dry martini with an extra olive, s’il vous plait.”

He nodded and turned away to work.

She considered all the things she’d given up over the last few years. She had traded the glamour and pay of a modeling career for one that required extensive travel and, among other things, the forfeiture of any real relationships. For a split second, she missed home.

She couldn’t honestly say that she loved her work, but Evan knew that she made a difference, and for now, that was enough. She had worked hard all day, and tonight she just wanted to find a man.

She used the bar mirror to scan the room. The tables behind her held couples and threesomes, speaking French, Russian, Italian, and English. Saint Michel was popular with both locals and tourists. Most were looking for love, and a few were looking for trouble.

To her left, a large arch-topped window overlooked the bustling street below and the Seine River just beyond. To her right, a man sat alone in a shadowed booth. THE man.

He was perfect, she thought. Mid-forties, slim, but not athletic, gray at the temples, decent looking. He grinned in her direction.

The barman slid the drink in front of her, and before she could thank him, he pointed to the man in the corner. “Compliments of Monsieur.”

This is it, Evan. Girl, you can do this. He’s your man.

“Merci.” She turned her barstool and made eye-contact with him. She raised her drink and smiled.

Don’t mess this up.

He looked her up and down with eager eyes. With his gold-ringed pinky, he gestured to the seat across the table from him.

This is it.

She inhaled every particle of audacity from the air and stepped down from the barstool.

“Please join me,” he said with a sharp Eastern European accent. “Good evening.”

Evan set her drink on the table and took her purse in hand as she slid into the booth seat next to him. “It is a good evening—for me.”

His grin broadened, and he looked as if he was about to say something clever, but as soon as he felt the muzzle of Evan’s .40 caliber Springfield in his ribs his face turned ashen, and his hands began to tremble.

“I’m unarmed,” Shelby Templeton said. His accent was gone.

“I’ve got him,” Evan whispered.

“Good job, Agent Tyler. Bring him out.”


“That’s the slimeball,” Senator Stanton Grey said. He paced the floor with crossed arms as he watched Shelby Templeton fidget in the interrogation room behind the two-way mirrored glass wall. On any other occasion, the fifty-six-year-old Texas politician looked polished and composed, but at the moment even the creases in his Armani suit looked angry.

Eleanor McKinnon-Grey dipped her chin toward her husband. “Are you sure?”

“That’s him, Elle. He had a different accent before, but that’s the same man that invited me to the party.” He tilted his head and squinted as he looked over Templeton, then turned back to his wife. “Are you going to get him?”

Eleanor nodded. “Oh, yeah. We’ll get him, honey. You go on home, and leave this one to me.” She stretched up on her tip-toes to kiss her husband goodbye. “Call if you need anything. I should be back in DC next week.” Her confident voice and tender touch seemed to smooth the wrinkles from his forehead.

Stan hugged her and gave her his signature wink as he left the room.

Eleanor loved that wink.

Now back to work. She brushed her golden hair back from her face and tugged the hem of her navy-blue jacket into place. Tucking the folder of photographs and notes under her left arm, Eleanor marched to the next room where Templeton waited.

“You can’t keep me here. I’m an American citizen,” he said when she entered. Eleanor could see in the mirrored wall that he studied her curves as she turned to close the door. His gaze settled on her narrow ankles.

Eleanor took her place on the other side of the steel-topped table from him and sat down. She stared at him for several seconds without saying a word. She considered how quickly Evan had been able to track him down and take him into custody. Good girl. Maybe she envied Evan a little. But looking at Templeton, maybe not. She’d rather be in the field than at a desk, but this—she was good at this. Eleanor would wait a few more seconds, listening to him breathe through his mouth. She allowed time for his imagination to generate a host of nightmarish consequences for all his sins.

Eleanor always appeared cool and collected. She rarely let down her guard. She knew from experience things could go south quickly if she did. She fixed her gaze on Templeton’s twitching nostrils and let her long black lashes rise and fall in rhythm with her breath.

“Did you hear me? I’m an Ameri—”

“I heard you, Mr. Templeton. I have your file right here.” Her deep alto tone rolled at an even pace.

“Then you know you can’t detain me without cause.”

“Oh, I have plenty of cause, Mr. Templeton. You’re in a great deal of trouble. We know that you sell government secrets, and we intend to stop you.” Eleanor’s full pink lips formed a Cupid’s bow as she spoke.

Templeton looked distracted by Eleanor’s perfect mouth. He seemed to strain to keep up with what she said.

“I’m sure you’re being manipulated into this treasonous business,” she added. “We can help you out of it, but you’ll have to cooperate.”

“Treason? Secrets?” He looked scared. “What are you talking about? Who are you?”

Eleanor leaned against the back of her chair and blinked serenely. Her blonde curls slipped off her shoulders as if on cue. She noticed Templeton’s breath quicken.

“I work for the American government, Mr. Templeton.” She opened the file folder and carefully placed half a dozen surveillance photos in front of him. Each shot depicted him shaking hands with a different United States Senator and the same thin blonde woman draped over each senator’s arm. The photos appeared to have been taken at parties at various times and locations.

“It’s not illegal to have friends,” Templeton said. Perspiration beaded at his hairline, and the crease across his forehead deepened.

Eleanor knew she had him. “Of course not, but you seem to only make friends with senators and other government officials.” She paused for a second. “And blondes.”

She used her Georgia peach accent to charm him. He attempted to smile casually but then appeared to surrender.

“What do you want me to tell you? I just set up parties for friends. I don’t sell secrets. I just like to help people have a good time.” Dark, damp circles formed under his arms. He twitched and shifted in his seat.

Eleanor waited for more. She could almost hear his heart pounding.

“I don’t sell drugs, either,” he pleaded. “I’ve seen them at the parties. At some of the parties. But someone else brings them. I don’t mess with that stuff.” He straightened his posture for a few seconds and then slumped back in his chair again.

She licked her lips. This was too easy. If it weren’t for Templeton’s profuse sweating and shattered nerves, she would suspect he was playing her.

“And I don’t pimp out the girls. That’s someone else, too. All I do is set up the parties and invite the right people.” Templeton tapped his fingers on the table and chewed on his lips. After a few seconds of silence, he stopped tapping and shifted his hands to fumble with the buttons on his shirtsleeves.

Eleanor nodded but said nothing. She knew Templeton was on the verge of implosion.

“His name is Hrevic,” he said with a quick burst of energy. “Anton Hrevic, the fashion designer. But he’s more than that. You’ve got to protect me. He has people. He’ll kill me if he finds out I talked to you.”

Eleanor turned to look over her shoulder at the mirrored wall. She raised her eyebrows and smiled. She knew how entertaining this must be for the two agents behind the glass.

Eleanor stood and walked around the table directly behind Templeton. She placed both hands on the back of his chair and stared coldly at his reflection. She could see the panic on his face. She could smell his fear. “I’m going to let you talk to a friend of mine, Mr. Templeton. I want you to tell him everything about these parties that you set up for Mr. Hrevic. Don’t leave anything out. Do you understand?”

Templeton sighed and nodded. “Yes. I understand.”

Two men from the next room entered, leaving the door ajar for Eleanor to exit.

When Templeton saw the open door, his flight instinct took over, and he jumped up to run. Before he managed to take a full step, Eleanor grabbed his wrist and twisted it sharply behind his back, paralyzing him in his tracks. She pushed her elbow into the center of his spine and pinned him face down against the table. The two men drew their side arms, training them on Templeton’s head.

With her free arm, Eleanor signaled them to stand down. She leaned over her suspect and whispered in his ear while she pulled tighter on his wrist.

“Don’t do that again, Mr. Templeton, or I’ll rip off your arm and feed it to you. I can’t protect you if you behave foolishly.”

She reached out and took a pair of handcuffs from the man nearest her. She cinched them around Shelby Templeton’s wrists as he blubbered, “I’ll tell you anything you want to know.”

She helped him stand upright and placed him in the custody of her fellow agents.

“Take good care of him, men. This is the one we’ve been waiting for.” She directed her icy gaze back to Templeton and said, “Don’t hold anything back. We’ll know. And we have our own ways of dealing with traitors.”


Eleanor kept her eyes focused and her breathing steady as she sat across the mahogany desk from the Director of InDIGO, the International Discretionary Intelligence Gathering Organization, for whom she had worked for the last six years.

“Anton Hrevic is a nobody,” Max Fischer said. “He’s a blip on the radar. Every time we try to put him under a microscope, he comes clean in the wash.” He twisted the chunky gold ring on his right index finger and then tapped it heavily on his desk blotter.

Eleanor winced at his mishmash of metaphors. She preferred precision. Liked things neat.

“Wouldn’t you like to finally have something concrete on him?” She sat forward in her chair and raised her eyes to study the original Degas that hung on the wall over his century-old credenza.

The old stone storefront looked like an ordinary boucherie on an ordinary street on the poorer side of Paris. No one would suspect it housed the French offices of an international intelligence agency. The smells of raw and curing meat and sausages from the butcher shop below seeped into the office and tickled her nose. She took a second to clear her mind and refocus. She didn’t want to be distracted and refused to let Fischer intimidate her.

“Only if it’s actionable.” He huffed as if he were tired of the subject already. “I don’t have the budget or manpower to send agents chasing ghosts and rumors.” Fischer tugged at his cufflinks, adjusting his sleeves under his cashmere jacket.

Eleanor raised one eyebrow. She longed to call her boss out whenever he talked about budget restraints. InDIGO’s resources seemed infinite when the job was important to Fischer. Not to mention the man didn’t own a shirt that cost less than two grand. But she could play nice.

“Sir,” she said with a honeyed tone. “I think this is the perfect situation to try out the LBD.” Eleanor had been careful not to bring up her pet project until she had to, hoping he’d suggest it first.

“Of course that’s what this is all about. You don’t care what Hrevic may or may not be doing out here. You just can’t wait to get your hands on that dress.” Fischer pressed his lips into a thin line. His eyes narrowed to match.

“Sir, with all due respect, this is exactly the kind of assignment for which the dress was designed. It’s not as though I’ll be the one wearing it.” Eleanor wished her words back. Of course, she’d have loved to be wearing the Little Black Dress, but her last field assignment prevented that from ever becoming a reality. She swallowed hard and leveled her tone, knowing that Fischer had to sign off to even get this operation off the ground. She offered him facts. She knew he preferred cold hard facts. “Shelby Templeton provided ample information on how to access Anton Hrevic. We have his addresses. His automobile information. His associates. I’ve already got a connection with the French police who can help with anything else we might need.”

“Humph.” Fisher shook his head. He crossed his arms and leaned back in his leather chair. “I suppose. Get your team together. No more than five. You have two weeks. If you want any more than that, I need results. Proof. Real evidence. Not some weasel in rayon crying for protection. Not another Templeton. You can’t accuse a world-renowned fashion designer of espionage and then say ‘oops’ when you find out he’s innocent.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” She stood. “Evan Tyler and Rowan Kirk are already here in Paris. They’re the ones who brought Templeton in for us.”

“Well, what a coincidence.” Fischer’s voice smacked of sarcasm. “What about Parker?”

“I can have Hedge here with the package in twenty-four hours.” Eleanor’s heart rate quickened.

“I bet you can.” Fischer smirked at Eleanor. He didn’t bother to stand.

Her excitement smothered his snide remark. “And don’t worry. I’ll see who else is nearby to complete the team. I can keep a tight rein on the budget.” Eleanor pursed her lips and allowed them to relax into a contented smile. She felt like purring. She smoothed her skirt and picked up her attaché.

“You don’t ever turn it off, do you?” Fischer said, turning his chair to face the ballerinas on his wall.

“I wouldn’t make a very good agent if I did, would I?”

Eleanor left Fischer’s office with a broad smile on her face. “It’s finally coming off the hanger,” she whispered to herself.