Ha! Now that I’ve learned the layout of the author’s office a bit better, it did not take much effort to swipe the first chapter of the as-yet-unnamed, nowhere-near-complete Lesbian Adventure Club Book 10. Jesus, you guys are enjoying August while we’re still freezing our butts off in February. The author needs to write faster, huh?
Etiquette: I think I skipped that class. Do I tip the guy or not? It wasn’t as though he served coffee or anything. No, he just stared at me in the rearview mirror. Screw the tip.
I shoved the fare at him, offered my thanks, and slipped out the taxicab’s door and into the dark, cold February evening. It all felt odd, very, very odd.
I zipped up the front walkway and put the doorknocker to good use. I always had a fondness for knockers. Well, two I could fondly recall anyway. Jesus, shut up, Kate! Well, I was nervous: I rationalized. Desperate to calm myself and stay warm, I bounced on the balls of my feet.
Soon, the big oaken door leisurely opened, and my eyes nearly popped out of my head. “Charles! What the hell—”
“Good evening, Miss Heaper,” he formally greeted. “You’re late, and I don’t mean fashionably.”
“Charles, what the hell—”
“The name is Fritz. Fritz!” he irritatedly corrected as he pointed to his name tag, pinned ever so perfectly on the breast of his neatly pressed black tailcoat. “I’m the butler,” he groaned. “Why I let you girls talk me into things will forever remain a mystery. But, I do look damn good in tails, don’t I?” With a sudden boyish smile, he spun like a ballroom dancer.
“Jesus, Charles—I mean Fritz—get a hold of yourself. I’m freezing my butt off out here.”
In an instant, he became very serious, graciously bowed, and finally let me into the house. In the foyer, he took my duffle bag and then helped me out of my jacket, saying, “Allow me, Miss Heaper.”
“Jesus, Fritz, a girl could get used to this. Would you be interested in coming to work for Claudia and me?”
“Claudia? I don’t know anyone named Claudia. Did you perchance mean Alberta?”
“Yes, Alberta. A beautiful woman with the greenest eyes you’ve probably ever—”
“That’s her! But Alberta? I sleep with a chick named Alberta?”
“I don’t know, do you?” He cocked his face at me as he snagged my jacket on the coat tree. “You might want to find out her last name before you commit to something like that.”
“Why? What’s her last name?”
He smiled deviously, ignored my plea, and said, “If you’ll follow me, Miss Heaper, I’ll take you to the study. They’re expecting you. Everyone else was punctual.”
I followed and harassed him all the way, but he would not give up the name. Now, I was really nervous. I had not seen Claudia—er, Alberta—since that morning when we parted ways for work. The Lesbian Adventure Club instruction packet mandated that we not to see each other all day and that we arrive separately via taxi at Janice’s house by seven o’clock, our secrets in tow. Thirteen hours—plus the twenty-five minutes I wasted waiting for the frickin’ taxi—had passed, and I would not be reunited with Claudia. Oh, hell no. I was about to meet Alberta. For some strange reason, I felt, um, sluttish, and even stranger, I liked it.
A moment later, Fritz and I stood in front of wooden double doors. He softly cleared his throat, and then his white gloved hands grasped the handles. Slowly, he opened both doors and announced, “Madame Mayor, Miss Heady Heaper has arrived.”
Mayor? Jesus, what the hell was I walking into?
“Please come in, Miss Heaper. I’m very pleased you could join us.”
Twice, I had to look to see who the hell said that. Then, I had to look a third time because I couldn’t frickin’ believe it. Alison casually leaned with a crooked arm against the fireplace mantle. She exuded authority from both manner and attire. A black draping dress hung mid-calf, and she wore more diamonds than a July night at Crappie Cabin.
My widened eyes traveled to the other end of the mantle, to a similarly dressed but jewel-less Janice. She wore a shit-eating grin, and I had just opened my mouth to speak when my line of vision became completely blocked by a green-eyed beauty in … an oversized pinstripe suit and fedora! Holy frickin’ shit!
Discombobulated, I stared at her as she approached, carrying with her a luscious smile and an outstretched hand. “Hi, honey,” she said. “You’re late. I missed—”
Instantaneously, the room shook with uh-uhs and no-ways, groans and ghastly moans.
“If we can’t, you can’t!”
“Tell them, Mayor!”
“Back off, Alberta!”
“Oh, shut up, you loud mouth dames!” Claudia shouted. “Or I’ll get one of my goons to fill you with daylight!”
The bitching and moaning continued nonstop until Alison bellowed, “Fine! You’re going to whine all evening. I just know it. So you have exactly two minutes to say hello to your sweetie. Then, it goes back to 1930 and strangers in a room. I mean it!”
In an instant, Claudia wrapped her pinstripe arms around me, and I followed suit. The brim of her fedora collided with my editor’s visor, and they both went flying. We ignored the midair mishap and held each other.
“How come you were late, honey?” she asked as we pulled apart. “Are you feeling okay? Is everything okay at work?”
“Everything is fine,” I assured. Then, with a smidgeon of embarrassment, I explained, “I’ve just never taken a cab in Granton before. I expected it to be like New York City. Poof! There’s a cab! I had to frickin’ call and wait. I suppose everybody did, huh?” I kissed her and asked how her day went, but before she had a chance to render her verdict, my eyes landed on her name tag. “Alberta Cojones!” I shrieked.
Not only did I sleep with a chick named Alberta, but she had balls! Holy shit! But still, she was my Ms. Ballsy.
Alison started clapping to get everyone’s attention, and as she did so, I actually got to take a gander at the rest of them. Again, my eyes had difficulty believing. I cracked a trench-coated Laura. “What the hell are you? A flasher?”
“Shit, not me, Sutter. It’s that gorgeous one who’s flashing. Christ, I need a drink.”
I followed her thumb as it went over her head to point behind her, and there I found a scantily clad Holly. Holy shit! “Holly, where the hell are your clothes?”
“These are my clothes,” she offendedly replied, tugging on her flowery, short, really, really short, plunging, really, really plunging silk robe. I would have owned my slight exaggeration, but the opportunity evaporated when she grabbed my arm and pleaded, “You’re not a photographer, are you, Kate? I thought for sure Laura was going to be the photographer, but she says she’s not. How can that be?”
“Listen up! Listen to the mayor!” Janice bayed. “Or I’ll have all of you dragged and dumped outside the city limits.”
Oh yeah, despite it being a completely different era, this was most definitely the Lesbian Adventure Club.
Alison said, “We’ll be having drinks and hors d’oeuvres, but please don’t fill up. Dinner will be served shortly. We’re a bit behind schedule thanks to Miss Heaper.” She smiled and winked at me.
“I’m sorry,” I said, and I was. “You could have started without me.”
“No, we couldn’t have. Everybody needed to be here. I’ll explain in a moment.” She went to the door, summoned butler Fritz, and, I assumed, gave him orders. She turned back and said, “Since most of us are strangers, we’ll need to introduce ourselves. I’ll go first.” She paused and then detailed, “As you’re probably all aware, I’m the mayor of Granton. You’ve probably read in the papers that my office is corrupt but don’t believe it for a moment—at least if you know what’s good for you.” She scooted to Janice and clutched her hand. “This is my girl Friday.”
Janice cracked a gloating smile and added, “And Saturday and Sunday and Monday and—”
The mayor of Granton cuffed Girl Friday. As a reporter, I should have been taking notes, thorough notes. This was big news, a mayoral scandal in its sordid unfolding.
A strange racket in the hall caused everyone to about-face, and we watched Fritz roll a beverage cart into the study. Following him was Sam; at least I figured it was Sam. I recognized his shaven head even with the chef’s hat, but some big-ass bushy thing resided on his upper lip. It was either vermin or a fake mustache. For as persnickety as he could be, he seemed oblivious to it, intent on balancing a silver serving tray on each palm.
Fritz stood in the center of the room and announced, “As you all know Prohibition is the law of the land, but I do have a wonderful selection of soda pop. Just name your poison, ladies.”
Poisons were named, and hors d’oeuvres were snagged from Sam as he made the rounds. When he got to me, I idiotically greeted him by name.
“The name is Swede,” he coolly corrected, and then he lowered a tray in front of me. “I made those stuffed mushroom caps you love so much.”
“Crabby ‘shrooms! Yes!” With great greed, I plucked two and kissed my thanks onto his cheek, being careful not to piss off the critter ‘stache.
Damn! A weekend such as this could spoil a girl.
Mayor Alison again seized our attention. “Let’s go around the room and make introductions, shall we?”
“Yes, Mayor,” Girl Friday said with yet another huge grin. “Why don’t we start right here?” She madly pointed at Laura, who shot her an evil look.
Laura asked, “Verbatim off that silly sheet of paper, I suppose?” When they nodded, she warned, “You’ll pay for this—both of you.” She cleared her throat and flatly said, “My name is Samantha Shovel, and I am a dick.”
Needless to say, laughter erupted. The mayor and her girl Friday high-fived, and the weekend just kept getting better and better.
Ginny, looking rather spiffy in a thirties-style dress, went next. “My name is Gertie Stone. I own a coffeehouse downtown called ‘The Lost Generation.’ It is frequented by some rather influential writers.” She seemed rather pleased with her new persona.
All eyes shifted to Kris, who was wearing a skirt and blouse, a bolero, and weird-ass wire-rimmed round glasses to complete the vintage ensemble. “My name is Amah Fraud.” She stopped to roll her four eyes at our hostesses. “I am a psychoanalyst in private practice, specializing in ego psychology and child analysis.” She seemed less than pleased, but I figured it was more because of her name.
We all looked at Alberta. She looked damn good to me. The dame made me dizzy.
“My name is Alberta Cojones,” she proudly announced. “I am not a gangster like the coppers would have you believe. I am merely a shrewd businesswoman.” She started laughing and turned to me, taking the opportunity to snap both my sleeve garters.
I assumed that meant it was my turn, and my mind quickly recalled the character description from my instruction packet. “My name is Heady Heaper. I write a gossip column for the Journal, called ‘The Trash Heap.’” Risking wrath, I deviated from the script and added, “I know everybody’s business, and I’m taking notes.”
“You do anyway,” Maggie joked with a crack to my arm. I cracked her in return, and she proceeded to introduce herself. “My name is Joan Evves, and I am part of a women’s movement that believes our resources would be put to better use working toward world peace not blowing people up.” Then, she obviously veered from the blessed script as well. “I easily predict that in another eighty years, people like me will still be needing to advocate the very same thing because those in power will still not have a clue! Will we ever learn? What will it take? We should be—”
“Thank you, Miss Evves!” the mayor loudly interrupted. She smiled at her even while she glared. Her eyes slowly turned, and she called, “Miss Sully.”
Susan said, “My name is Vanna Sully, and I am a teacher. … Is that not the most boring, nondescript character sketch you’ve ever heard or what?” She started laughing. “Am I really that boring, you guys?”
“Join the women’s movement,” somebody roared.
“Yeah, I like how women move.”
“Movers and shakers.”
“And jigglers. We can’t forget the jigglers, can we, Miss Shovel, you big dick?”
“My God!” Fritz shrieked. “You sound like a bunch of dirty old men at a filthy truck stop!”
The Swede nearly overturned his serving trays. “Charles, how the hell do you know what dirty old men at a filthy truck stop sound like?”
“It’s Fritz! Fritz! Fritz! Fritz! How many times do I have to say it?”
“Well, Fritz old boy—”
Suddenly, the mayor banged a gavel on the little gavel-banging thingy on the desk. She laughed just as hard as we all did, but still, by the fiftieth bang, we got the idea that she meant business. Once we finally calmed down, she looked for Holly to complete the introductory circuit. Unsurprisingly, Holly was most happy to oblige.
“My name is Carolina Reef. My middle initial is O, making me Carolina O. Reef.” She looked around the room as though she expected gasps or applauds or something to lime-light her very presence. “I’m an artist. No duh! I paint mostly flowers, though, and some say my beautiful paintings are highly, highly erotic. They say the same thing about the photos I pose for.” Her hands raced to her hips for a display of indignation, and she peered at Alison and Janice. “The love of my life is supposed to be a photographer. Why did you make Laura a dick and not a photographer?”
“Well, if you’re an artist, it makes sense she’s a detective, doesn’t it?” Alison challenged.
While they argued, I watched Laura, and I instantly knew the dick was in distress. As though camera lenses covered her eyes, she ogled Holly. I wondered how long she’d tolerate being a stranger to her. She took a stiff swig from her soda bottle and in the process caught me studying her. I smiled, and she returned it right before making a frantic cigarette-smoking gesture. How the hell did she figure we’d pull off that little endeavor? I half-assed smiled, quarter-assed nodded, and completely looked away.
My attention returned to the matter at hand, just in time to hear Alison conclude, “Welcome, everybody, to your relaxing weekend in the mayor’s mansion.”
“Just a weekend?”
“You’re not going to mess with us?”
They both shook their heads, but I was not convinced. Riddled with skepticism, we exchanged glances and wordless accusations. I shot questioning eyes to Fritz, and he merely shrugged. Swede did the same. This was messing with us.
Janice said, “Swede, we’ll be heading into the dining room now. You may begin serving as soon as you’re ready.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he replied before bowing and taking leave.
“Shall we, girls?” Alison asked and headed for the door.
Everyone filed out, but I straggled. I bent to retrieve Alberta’s fedora from the floor and then pivoted to reach my visor. Before I had a chance to stand upright, the gentle introduction of a hand on my trousered rear caused me to freeze just to let it linger. Then, I swooped my hand behind me to seize the culprit. With a subsequent upward spin, the most beautiful woman in the world stood a mere inch from me.
“You’re pretty damn cute for a reporter,” she flirted with a wild smile. “Can I talk you into letting me buy you dinner?”
I squelched laughter and feigned indignation. “Why, Alberta Cojones, are you hitting on me?”
“Uh huh.” She brushed her lips against mine. “Is it working?”
Jesus! She could probably hit on me with a hammer, and it’d work. Still, her being an intimate stranger proved rather intoxicating, and I did not want to relinquish the buzz—not just yet. So, I said, “It might be working. If you’re on the dessert menu, that might—”
A grand ahem came from doorway. Guiltily, we both glanced to Girl Friday, and after a quick kiss stealing and hat donning, we obeyed her get-a-move-on grimace.
The three of us had just made it into the hall when Janice called, “Mayor, I do believe we forgot something—or rather, we forgot someone.”
Aha! The rest of the story!
Alison snapped her fingers. “Oh my, you’re right.” With that, she herded everyone back in the study. “Would you like to get her, Girl Friday?”
Laura snuck up behind Alberta and me and whispered, “Don’t trust them for a second.”
Alberta laughed and snootily challenged, “Is that a shot in the dark, Miss Shovel, or the opinion of a professional dick?”
Laura elbowed her. “Mark my words,” she said.
And I did. I marked her words right there where I stood: betwixt Cojones and a dick. Oh, lucky me.