Here is the first chapter of LAC 15. Please remember it’s first draft. And, yes, you are correct: It does not yet have a title. It’s supposed to get an S-word this time.
Dear Mayor and Girl Friday,
We appreciate your invitation to spend a nice relaxing weekend at the mayor’s mansion. Unfortunately, we are unable to attend as we will be running away together for the weekend.
Alberta Cojones & Heady Heaper
Okay, we didn’t actually RSVP that, but we probably should have. I sure as hell wanted to. Claudia, on the other hand, dusted off her 30s persona with great anticipation. I knew, though, that she wasn’t quite as trusting as she came across. Easily, I discovered that when I tried shoving clothes into our duffle bag, finding little room to spare with the fifty-two bazillion teabags she had stashed. Prohibition or not, the gangster would have her Earl.
For me, I figured this weekend at the mayor’s mansion would be even more difficult than the last one. Then, we ‘simply’ had to determine who the hell stole Bimbo Babe. This time, Ginny and Laura had made Alison and Janice promise to make the activity “cutthroat,” and Ginny had gone so far as to push for pitting partner against partner. Short of poker and a ‘friendly’ spitball war, I was not at all fond of anything competitive, let alone cutthroat, with Claudia. It just didn’t jibe with my wussy nature.
Regardless, there I was, Heady Heaper, unscrupulous gossip columnist, pacing and smoking in our driveway, awaiting my ride to the mayor’s house. Per couple-cleaving instruction, Claudia left nearly an hour prior, after we greedily kissed about a thousand times, knowing we would soon become strangers—or much, much worse. Recognizing my anxiety—and most likely knowing its source, she gave me the “mess with and be messed with” lecture, and we once more vowed to come out the other end of the weekend together, no matter what.
I had just tossed my extinguished butt into the garbage can when I spied a familiar car pull into the drive. Despite myself, I smiled and eagerly approached.
“Hey, humdinger,” I greeted before I fully opened the car door.
“Hey, dilly!” She seemed genuinely happy to see me, and the mutual feeling uplifted me from my juvenile gloom and doom.
I slid inside and promptly looked into the jam-packed backseat, just as Maggie’s thrusting index finger ordered me to do. “You got the stuff already?” I questioned in a way that truly manifested the shock I felt. “I thought I was supposed to help.”
“I got done with work early, and since I was supposed to stay away from Susan, I thought I’d take care of it.”
I thanked her, feeling quite satisfied—and perhaps a tad guilty—that I had gotten out of carrying boxes from Alison’s apartment to the car. See, the mayor was in the process of moving in with Girl Friday, and we were tasked with a little help “since we were coming over anyway.” We were happy to oblige, and my happiness proved twofold, thanks to Maggie. Regardless, I volunteered, “Since you loaded it all, I’ll unload it once we get there.”
She nodded and then said, “This weekend’s going to be a nasty one, isn’t it?”
“No,” I assuredly said, perhaps having morphed into my favorite gangster or something. “It’ll be fun, I’m sure.” Jesus!
“Yes, but isn’t this supposed to be something cutthroat?”
“Oh, is it?” I queried with a snicker, knowing damn well my bullshit reeked much further than a car’s width.
Her hand came over to swat me. “You know darn well it is,” she said. “And I’m not sure I like this. Last time was bad enough, and Susan and I were on the same team.”
“We didn’t have teams … did we?”
“Figuratively,” she replied with another swat. “You know what I mean.”
“Oh, yes, then. Figuratively, yes, I do. Claudia and I were on the same team, too, at least for the most part,” I admitted. “Claudia says this will be a fun weekend.”
“That’s what Susan said, too.”
“And besides, how cutthroat can Alison and Janice be?”
“Alison, not so much, unless, of course, she’s under the influence of a red bull of a massage therapist.”
We laughed at the sound of that, and groaned at the truth in it.
“It’ll be fine,” I assured the both of us.
“I know. I know.”
Much too quickly, Maggie turned onto Janice’s street and moseyed up the block. I saw a flurry of activity at street’s end, which for all intents and purposes was the mayor’s mansion. We both guessed that we were the last to arrive, and that made me think something was amiss, as without the trip to Alison’s apartment, we should have been first. Maybe I was just paranoid; that would not have been a first.
Suddenly, Maggie slammed on the brakes as a van began reversing on our side of the street. Grabbing the armrest, I recognized the van … and then I recognized the driver’s head. “Jesus, don’t mess with Kris,” I warned, and we both started laughing.
We waited until Kris did her maneuvering and we figured she shoved the thing safely into park. Then, Maggie backed the car into the driveway, coming to a halt next to the van, in front of Claudia’s car, catty corner from Holly’s little red guy.
“Well, it’s been nice knowing you, humdinger,” she said as she killed the engine. “Welcome to the 1930s. Time to turn into Heady Heaper and Joan Evves.”
Indeed! Despite the modern vehicles and the fancy-schmancy house, everyone’s attire made it look and feel like the 30s, an era I suddenly warmed up to when that green-eyed, pinstriped gangster zipped to the car and opened my door.
“How’re you doing, Heady?” she inquired with a huge grin.
“Hey, Alberta,” I replied and instinctively eyed her from top to bottom. Damn, she was sexy hot in that getup, and there was no way she’d ever be a stranger to me.
She ducked her head inside to greet Joan and to tell her that Vanna, AKA Susan, was in the kitchen making coffee.
“What?” I gasped. “No Fritz and Swede?” When she woefully shook her head, I asked, “How can a mansion not have a butler and a chef? I was really looking forward to—”
“Well, if it isn’t Dr. Amah Fraud,” someone suddenly roared, and the snotty tone caused all eyes to seek Ginny.
I flew out of the car to look. … Oh yeah, there she stood, hands on hips, murder in her eyes, and just half her upper lip snarling into a smile.
Kris jumped out of the van’s driver seat, saying, “Do not start with me, Ginny.”
“It’s Gertie, Kris, not Ginny!” Holly said, and Ginny instantly sent a hand to grasp her arm, scolding, “Holly, dear, don’t fall for the baloney she fed us last time. She knows damn well who I am. She’s a big shit.”
Kris simply laughed. “I love you, too, Gin.”
The mayor and her girl Friday suddenly appeared in the garage. The red-headed one clapped her hands to commandeer our attention.
“Welcome to a nice relaxing weekend at the mayor’s mansion,” the mayor said, and we groaned quite excessively. When we settled down, she told us, “I really appreciate everyone bringing some of my things over. It’s a huge help.”
Girl Friday reiterated the thanks and then informed us that she’d unload everything, that we could go into the house for coffee. That also received groans, and with everyone’s help, all vehicles were quickly emptied and locked up for the night. Sleeping bags and duffle bags in hand, we headed inside, dumping our things and following the coffee aroma into the kitchen.
Vanna had just begun making a second pot of coffee when we infiltrated the place. Cups and a filled carafe made the rounds. Alberta brewed an Earl as she stared defiantly at the government officials, who obviously and silently found humor in the situation. I did, too, but I was not dumb enough to laugh.
We milled about a bit, as we usually did, filling the room with chitter chatter about importantly unimportant things.
Soon, we were ushered into the living room, and I think most of us dreaded what we were about to learn. Okay, as I looked around the room, I realized not all of us were dreading. Just the damn crybabies were. Didn’t that just frickin’ figure?
The mayor and Girl Friday stood in front of the fireplace. The smirks I expected were simply pleasant smiles.
Girl Friday began, “We have a lot of business to take care of before dinner, but we thought it’d be a good idea just to give everyone a chance to introduce themselves again.” She looked to her co-conniver, who skillfully took the cue.
“I’m still the mayor of Granton,” she said with a boastful grin. “I haven’t been run out of office yet.”
“I’m still her girl Friday, and last time I joked about the other days of the week. This time, I don’t have to.” She grabbed and kissed Alison’s hand, and we applauded, probably because they both looked so damn happy.
The mayor gestured to Holly, who said, “I’m Carolina O. Reef, artist and collector of art—legally and illegally.”
Laura received a prompting kiss and introduced herself, “I’m Samantha Shovel, a very private dick willing to bend her ethics just to get the girl.”
That statement, as you probably guessed, instigated kissy-face crap between them and groans from us. I didn’t join the obnoxiousness, although it probably would have felt good to do so. Instead, I stared at them, still trying to gauge how close they were to Holly-and-Laura normal. Truth be told, I had been doing that a lot lately, ever since I encountered the Angry Arsonist and her bonfire two short weeks ago. I figured they were okay, but I needed time to prove it to me—unequivocally.
An elbow in my side caused me to blurt, “I’m Heady Heaper, gossip columnist for the Granton Journal.” I reciprocated the elbowing.
“I’m Alberta Cojones, gangster, bootlegger, and all-around bad girl.”
Bad girl? Jesus, was that what I liked?
The traveling elbow prompted Ginny to say, “I’m Gertie Stone. I run a coffeehouse for the literary elite.”
A nearly fatal elbow made Kris chuckle. “I’m Dr. Amah Fraud, the notorious psychoanalyst who stole Bimbo Babe and who tortures children with turkeys.”
Laughing with the rest of us, Maggie managed, “I’m Joan Evves, activist and savior of those turkeys.”
“And blackmailer of the thieving torturer!”
“Okay, yeah, that, too.”
The elbow appeared again, this time in Susan’s side. “I’m Vanna Sully, still a boring teacher who would still love to run away to a villa with my turkey rescuer and a mimosa.” She quickly pulled Maggie into their own version of kissy-face.
Girl Friday cleared her throat, and our attention returned to the authorities in front of the fireplace. “Okay, now for the business that’s going to make everyone bitch and moan.”