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by Claire Applewhite
Description: Mistaken identity or delicious deception? Sultry blonde Barbara Lacey saunters into the Night and Day, a St. Louis bar, where she waits hours to deliver a mysterious envelope to a man that never appears. She reluctantly entrusts it to bar owner Alfie Greenblatt, and steps into the alley. Moments later Alfie hears the crisp pop of a bullet. He calls Sergeant Reggie Combs to investigate. Was Barbara's death an accident, or murder? Helen Tattaglia approaches her neighbors Elvin Suggs and his partners Cobra Glynes and Dimond "Di" Redding of the Grapevine Detective Agency. She hires them to trail her "abusive" husband; she also suspects her in-laws, who live across the street, have arranged for her murder. The detectives are skeptical but they accept the case. They soon discover Helen's sordid past, including another woman named Barbara Lacey. Frustrated with the case, Detective Reggie Combs turns to his friends at the Grapevine Detective Agency for help. The shady dealings of the Tattaglia family begin to unravel, while they reveal the secret in the envelope.
eBook Publisher: L&L Dreamspell/L&L Dreamspell, 2011 London, Texas
eBookwise Release Date: December 2011
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [304 KB]
Reading time: 185-260 min.
"What do you mean we can't go clubbing on Saturday?" Cobra said. "Saturday night is mine. Remember?"
Valerie gazed into a cheap mirror over her dresser. Same old fight, fast and furious. She whisked another coat of inky mascara onto her lashes; tiny spikes smeared around her eyes. She felt like a haggard raccoon, trapped in the cluttered bedroom. Bracing herself, she faced him. "You know, Cobra," she said, while she swabbed beneath her eyes with a Q-Tip. "I kinda liked it at first, the way you always wanted to be together. Nobody ever cared about me like that before. And it was nice." She felt the rising tension beneath Cobra's facade; the...ding, ding, ding of tiny warning bells echoed in her brain.
Weird, she thought. Really weird. He didn't speak--just stared at her with a blank look--like someone he didn't recognize. Right now, at this moment, she believed he had been in 'Nam, killed other guys before they could kill him. Even with all his problems, he survived. Well, hell. In the survivor department, Cobra had nothing on her. "But, when I have a date..."
Cobra stabbed the air with his index finger and glared. "You mean, when you're hookin'."
Valerie turned her back and fluffed her platinum hair with light, brisk strokes. This guy was too much. Reminded her of that Torrez guy back at the Jewel Arms--the one that latched onto her last year. Why did guys have to get so dependent? She studied her glamorous face in the mirror. "We have been through this a thousand times," she said. "I am an actress. I have to think about my career."
"What career?" Cobra leaned back against a pillow. He lit a cigarette, and took a puff. The springs in the thin mattress creaked.
"See? That's what I'm talking about. You just don't get it, Cobra, you really don't. I have got a good gig going here. I am an impersonator. I look like Marilyn. I act like Marilyn. Yeah, go ahead and laugh, but I do. I get paid for it, too. That's when you know you're good, honey. When they lay the green on you."
"The green isn't all it's about, and you know it. You can trick yourself into believing anything you want to. I don't care anymore." Cobra's voice crackled with emotion. "But, dates for money is hookin'. Ain't nothing else."
Cobra looked hurt or angry, Valerie couldn't tell. Right now, it didn't matter. She didn't care. "You know, honey, I think it's time we break up, 'cause nobody tells me what I can do on my Saturday nights--or any other night for that matter. I got bills to pay just like everybody else. And, I got dreams."
Cobra chuckled. "Dreams. Right. When was the last time you worked? As an actress, I mean?"
Valerie pressed her manicured hand on her rounded hip. Her spine stiffened, fueled by dogged obstinacy. "I guess you haven't seen my latest commercial."
Cobra's eyebrows arched in curiosity. "Commercial? Which one is that?"
Valerie almost smiled. "I sell floor cleaner."
"No kiddin'." Valerie lifted her powdered chin. "I'm the one that puts the big red bowl of Barksalot Chunks on the white kitchen floor. You know, for the German shepherd."
"You sure you're not selling hairspray?"
"Oh, shut up, Cobra! You're just a jealous, mean-spirited wannabe."
"Oh yeah, and what do I wannabe, Queen Barksalot?"
Valerie scowled at him, and swallowed her brewing tears. She didn't want things with Cobra to end this way. Hell, she didn't want them to end. Once upon a time, she thought he believed in her, her and her dreams. But now...
"Go figure it out yourself," she finally said. "Now, get out."
"Look, Valerie, I'm sorry, I just..."
"You'll never make it without me."
Valerie grabbed the wiry man by the collar of his shirt and yanked the cigarette from his mouth. She placed it in her own, where it bobbed from the corner of her crimson mouth. Inches separated their faces. "Whether I make it or not is my business. Find the door, Bubba."
As if he had been sitting on a dirt pile, Cobra rose and brushed the knees of his jeans. "Have it your way, honey. Just remember, you asked for this. I'm outta here."
He thrashed his way to the front door. His tongue tasted the tang of his tears, and his head throbbed. For a moment, he ached for Valerie to stop him, while he struggled to feign an indifference he didn't feel. Whatever Valerie was, she was a helluva good time. The door slammed. He stood alone. Well, maybe that was just the way it was meant to be.
So be it.