When a songwriter praises your use of language in a novel, it’s hard not to glow like radium.
Millie turned enough to touch Darcy’s face with the back of her hand. “I know, dear. I don’t think you’re in any real danger or I wouldn’t ask you to do this.”
Darcy nodded. “I’ll be okay. I just had to wind up for it.” She smiled a big fake smile at me in the mirror, mussed up the back of my hair, and got out.
Millie and I went off to do battle with the rest of the family.
“Well, now. I’m not here about what Gil wanted. You’ve clearly already taken care of that, according to the papers. I’m here on my own. He seemed confident you could help him, so I thought, if Gil trusts you, maybe you can help me with a little something.”
It was thin as the decaf in an office coffee pot, but I figured I might as well let her run with it.
“Well, that’s different. Tell me all about it.”
She sure was good at that smile. I kept almost believing it.
“Since Gil is dead he can’t finish the job.”
That settled that.
“I need you to kill someone for me.”
And that, my dears, unsettled that.
I’d given up saving the situation. Yes, I knew, and I hadn’t told her. Yes, this Gertrude and Sam thing was my idea, and we’d blown it sky high. Yes, Darcy, I love you, and you hate me, and once again I’ve managed to destroy the best hope I had for any kind of salvation through a relationship.
She didn’t spit on me. She didn’t slap me. She didn’t even look at me. Or anyone else.
She just walked out, leaving the door swinging open as she went.
Sam started to follow her, but Millie held her hand and stopped her.
I don’t know how long I stood there, but after a few years of it, I left, alone, and took a cab home.
Made a stop on the way there and bought a bottle of Old Overholt.
No point buying something expensive when you can’t be sure any of it is going to stay down.
“Could she have put Gil up to hiring me?”
“Why would she do that?”
I hadn’t thought about it. I was still slapping pieces into the puzzle to see what fit where. Would have been nice if I could see the picture on the cover so I knew what we were trying to piece together.
“No idea. But if she’d wanted him to do it, would he?”
She nodded. “Oh, yes. Absolutely. He believed every word she said, even if she’d said the exact opposite the day before.”
“And does she have reason to wish your father harm?”
That got a shrug. “Who knows? Like I said, we’re not close. She’s not close to father by any means. And it might have cost her a job.”
“Revenge doesn’t always calculate the risks first.”
But then, I hadn’t either, or I wouldn’t be knee-deep in these folks and their shenanigans.
“Come over here and lie down on the bench.” She pulled my arm and the rest of me back to the little corner spot where some folks drank their coffee instead of buying it and going home to make their own.
“There. On your back. These straight edges will keep tearing apart if it’s not taped well, and I can’t do that if you’re standing up.”
I eased down on the bench and put my hands behind my head so everything was out of her way. She did things with wet stuff, cleaning and moisturizing or something like that, then rolled out three hundred yards of gauze and an entire roll of tape. Somehow it all fit on my chest. Somehow, it made me feel a whole lot better. I might even get out of here without too many awkward questions.
“So who knifed you? And why?”
My front door does not have an annoying habit of failing to stay latched.
It latches just fine. I make sure of it.
So it concerned me not a little that it was ajar when I rounded the top of the stairs.
I froze, then stepped back a bit. I stopped on the top stair and leaned my forehead against the wall, which put my good ear almost in the hallway where it could listen better.
These old wooden floors creak if you look at them. Nobody was moving in my place.
Which meant one of two things: nobody was in my place, or they just weren’t moving.
Waited an extra few days for a cover blurb well worth waiting for.
Then, and only then, discovered (via Smashwords’ Premium catalog feedback) that there were some formatting issues no one caught.
Formatter was on vacation.
All fixed now. Cover updated. Proof ordered.
It was supposed to arrive tomorrow.
UPS just updated the delivery date to Friday.
When I’ll have left for a long weekend.
And when it’s supposed to be a rainy, blustery day, a bit like last night when the top 20′ feet of the pine tree near the house dropped into the field.
So, I’ll come home late Monday and hopefully find an undamaged proof of A Long, Hard Look which I’ll inspect and approve.
And then, finally, we’ll ship those preorders.
Which means you can still preorder an autographed copy, if you like.
It’s edited and proofread, and almost ready to be formatted.
James, the world’s greatest proofreader, found some logical inconsistencies in the story.
Tom, the editor, agrees with me that, in his words, “It isn’t an equation, its an ebb and tide of hypotheses.”
So, today I check the proofreading notes, make my final font choices, and send it off to Leigh Anne Aston to be formatted.
She’ll have it back by Monday(ish) and then we upload it to CreateSpace, order and check the printed proof, and then you all order a handful of copies each for your reading groups, friends, family, and others.
Yeah. That’s the plan.
They didn’t call me a cab, but they didn’t shove me down on the pavement either. I did the former for myself and skipped the latter.
I could have walked. It was a beautiful day. Warm, enough breeze to make the warm comforting instead of oppressive. Sky was blue enough, considering the size of the city and the buildings in it.
I’d had enough of the Mills/Mulligan/Breville/whatever family. There was one person I knew I could talk to without explaining or arguing or thinking too hard. Though I didn’t have anything urgent to say, my need to be with someone unoppressive was reason enough for the cab.
We piled into Millie’s car and drove to Sam’s apartment, just a few blocks from the Mills Building. I felt like a school of fish, swarming from the office to Millie’s to Sam’s to who knew where.
Fish do that when there’s a shark chasing them.
It didn’t seem necessary to be secretive about going up to the apartment. Either Gertrude was watching us or she wasn’t, and I didn’t have a brilliant way to avoid being spied on by someone who meant it. I couldn’t even keep her from coming into my apartment and cutting me open.
The apartment was dark. … more … “A Long, Hard Look (Chapter 40)”
She was a dozen yards from the car before I stopped gasping like a fish and got out.
I waited until I’d caught up so I didn’t have to yell. That, and I didn’t have the breath to speak. Or the words.
“What on earth are you talking about? How am I supposed to do that? You said she wouldn’t want to know? You’re not making any sense.”
I guess those were the words.
“It’s not logical, it’s emotional.”
“Okay, I get that. What about the rest? How am I supposed to let her know this without her resenting that it’s not coming from you, without her not flying off the handle and punching Everard Mills in the nose?”
We leave on a long-planned “workation” (Sue’s word for a working vacation) next Tuesday.
We found out yesterday that the house we rent was sold, and we have to be out, surprise! 3 days before we’d get back from our trip.
In order to fulfill our obligations and keep our word to all and sundry, we’re moving everything into storage this weekend, packing for our trip, and winging this whole “finding a place to live when we get back” thing.
But my writing has taken a hit, because I’m scrambling around packing, choosing, sorting, finding, and breathing.
I’ve been posting a new chapter every weekday. For the next few weeks, I’ll only be able to post 2 or 3 times a week.
I hope you’ll stick around and check back for this erratic schedule. I can’t wait to see what happens to Phil and Darcy. And that Gertrude — what is she thinking?
“Are you going somewhere?” I didn’t understand why she’d stood.
“To talk to Sam. She’s behind this and I want to know why.”
Millie stood. “You don’t know that, Darcy. Gertrude could still be involved.”
“Millie’s right. I believe that you see Sam’s hand in this. But that doesn’t rule out Gertrude pulling the strings. Besides, you told me Gertrude was behind us meeting at the library, behind your boss pushing his buttons. She’s involved.”
I took a step back. A half a step. The typing rooms are small.
That threw her. The waterworks shut off.
“How do you know that? We don’t have the same last name. How could you know that?”
She was making me nervous. It came out in my voice.
“Apparently it’s a running gag. You’re the second sister to claim him today. First was a tall blonde. Nothing like you at all.”
It was one of those days when breakfast wanted to be cheap whiskey straight from the bottle.
They came less often lately, but they came. Five years isn’t long enough. Maybe there is no long enough.
Since I sleep above my office I can hear when someone opens the door and goes in. The window rattles and the door jams a little so there’s a short sharp shriek when it opens, and again when it closes, glass rattling the whole time. One potential client glared at it and left without a word.
There’s nothing written on the door, fancy “Private Investigator” signs or things like that. Officially, I’m neither: private, nor an investigator.