“What’s going on?” Suzie tapped the door to Drew’s room lightly. She could see quite well what was going on. Drew was packing. Her question was why was Gene helping him?
“Oh. I was just.” Gene sprung to his feet. He flushed slightly and glanced around the floor like he might have misplaced something there. He glanced out the door with a wrinkled brow. “I’ll go.”
Continue reading Suzie’s House 137: When it isn’t What She Thought
My regular readers have probably noticed a new arc in the story. That’s because I have a special treat for you this week. Susan Helene Gottfried and I have combined our writing talents to bring you a two-sided story. Once you’ve read this, click here to see the other side of things.
“This is great!” Miranda did a little hop, almost bumping one of the security guards keeping the audience away from the stage.
She had really outdone herself on the hair this time. She’d used some kind of temporary dye to put in streaks of neon red, at least Vin hoped it was temporary dye. As if that weren’t enough, she added a half dozen tiny braids that nestled in the general poof of her hair and held stuff like beads, bells, and feathers. When she hopped, the bells rang.
A couple of other ShapeShifter fans next to her gave her sharp looks and grumbled. Vin wrapped an arm around her, feeling protective and indulgent, but Miranda was in no mood to hold still, and hopped so much he had to let go.
Continue reading Suzie’s House 130: In Exchange
“I know! I know! Mom, just leave me alone.” Ben grabbed his papers and books off the kitchen table in a huff.
Whatever happened to her care free boy? Suzie hesitated for several seconds while she processed this latest shock. Ever since he came back from his father’s house, Ben had been different, and not in a good way. When he lost his temper, she didn’t know how to handle him. It was like giving up an angel and getting back a changeling.
She had assumed everything would straighten out over time now that he was where he belonged, but if anything his outbursts had become more frequent, violent, and easily triggered. Something had to be done.
With a twitch of her shirt, she girded her loins and took a step in the direction he’d taken. Before she could get further than the hall, Drew caught her.
“Suzie,” he said uncomfortably. “There’s something I need to talk to you about.”
“Can we talk later? I need to talk to Ben.”
“I don’t think you’re going to get anywhere with him right now.” Drew looked at the stairs with a speculative air. Obviously he must have seen Ben going up to his room.
“Well I have to try. Lately I haven’t been able to talk to him about anything. He’s so short tempered! He never used to be like that.”
“Didn’t he? Maybe he was afraid to show you before, and now he isn’t.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Consider it a mark of maturity.” Drew took her by the arm and guided her back into the kitchen. “I always got the feeling he was a little too sweet and too polite. He’s a teenager now, isn’t he?”
“He turned thirteen right before we meet you.”
“I’ll bet there was a lot he kept bottled up inside.”
Could it be? Thinking that Ben might not have trusted her entirely even before she’d sent him off to his father made her hurt inside. “You don’t really think that, do you? That he felt he needed to be careful around me?”
“I’m sure he loves you. Consider it a mark of his trust in you that he’s willing to say what’s on his mind to you even though you could send him back.”
“I will never!!!”
“Exactly. You know it, and I think he knows it, even if he hasn’t really thought it through. Just give him a few minutes, then go talk to him. Once he’s calmed down I’m sure he’ll be reasonable. Ben is a good kid.”
Suzie nodded. Drew held out a chair for her at the kitchen table. She took it automatically.
In the meanwhile there’s something I need to tell you.
“Is it about one of the O’Connors?”
“No, although that is going well. Sean is in custody with more than enough evidence to put him away, thanks to Christina. Joseph disappeared, but I talked to someone yesterday who says he’s planning on trying to get Sean out through a prison break.” Drew smiled indulgently at the absurdity of that plan.
Suzie smiled too, though the news didn’t really comfort her. “Is there anything I can do to help out?”
“Maybe.” Drew nodded thoughtfully. “I’ll let you know. In the meanwhile, I have to tell you something.”
“Yes?” Suzie tried to be patient, but her eyes went toward the doorway, and her mind kept turning to Ben.
“I know I promised to be with you for the court date in a couple of days.”
She raised an eyebrow, trying to figure out which court date he was referring to.
“The hearing over custody of Ben.”
“Yes?” He wasn’t really going to back out, was he?”
“I’m not sure I’ll be able to be there for the whole thing. I’ll be in court as a witness down the hall for a local matter involving Sean O’Connor. It should be over in plenty of time, but in case it isn’t…”
Suzie sighed in resignation, then nodded. She understood. A part of her regretted his absence, but another rejoiced that he was following through with the man who tried to kidnap Ben. She got up from the table. When she reached him, she paused long enough to put her hand on Drew’s shoulder.
“It’s all right. You do what you have to. Right now, I have to talk to Ben.”
He stayed in the kitchen as she made her way down the hall then up the stairs to Ben’s room.
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Last week, and the week before, we caught Vin and Miranda in bed together. It was not their first time to do it, but it was their first to get caught. Suzie was a bit tipsy at the time, but not so far gone she didn’t know what she was seeing.
Suzie hacked off the tops of two carrots with a vicious swing of a cleaver. She knew darn well a cleaver was overkill for a couple of medium sized carrots, but she swung with gusto anyway.
“Miranda, how could you do it?”
Miranda sat at the kitchen table with her legs crossed, her chin propped up by one hand, the other stirring the coffee in front of her with a dissolute air.
“I tried not to.” Her voice was small, partly muffled by her hand.
“I knew something was going on . I just knew it.” Suzie shoved the carrots into the Cuisenart. For the seconds of life remaining the vegetables, nothing could be heard, which suited Suzie’s mood very well. Then she had about three cups of shredded carrots and all the same concerns as before. “Why couldn’t you have just left him alone?”
“Are you telling me I’m supposed to keep my hands off Vin, but there’s nothing wrong with you boinking Drew?”
“That’s different.” Suzie transferred the carrots to a serving bowl with a lid. “I don’t freak out and turn into a rampaging bitch when I’m in love.”
“No. You turn into a doormat.”
Suzie flinched, then glared at Miranda.
“Sorry. Forget I said that. I didn’t mean it.” Miranda twisted to the side, her mouth an uneven frown.
“See? It’s already started.” Suzie shuddered. Knowing Miranda, things were like to get much, much worse before they were through. She went to the fridge for a lemon. “Besides. Drew and I haven’t done anything.”
With her hand on the fridge handle, she stopped and sighed. She’d had such grand schemes for seduction right up until she opened the door to Vin’s room for fear he was dieing of his bullet wounds. But even though she’d closed the door the instant Vin said, “Don’t you people ever knock?” whatever sparks had been passing between her and Drew were gone. He’d seen her to her room, then simply left her there.
“I thought for sure last night…. Heck, I thought a week ago….”
Suzie shook her head.
“Crimany. We are so messed up. You aren’t doing it when you should be and I am when I shouldn’t. It’s just…. I can’t help it, Suzie. I don’t mean to do anything, but then Vin gives this… this look and…. I can’t help it.”
“Fine. I understand. I’m amazed it didn’t happen sooner. Just promise me one thing, Miranda.”
“I can’t promise I’ll leave him alone, but I’ll try.” She looked at her coffee like an orphan looking at a bowl of gruel.
“No. Not that. What I want you to promise is that this time you’ll step back now and then and clear your head. When you start to get jealous and scared and crazy the way you do, stop and think what it must look like to Vin, ok?
“Ok. I’ll try. I think I can do that.” Miranda didn’t look very sure of herself, but considering some of the things she’d done over the years in similar circumstances, Suzie couldn’t blame her.
“Don’t worry too much. I’ll help.”
Miranda quirked an eyebrow.
“When you get crazy, I’ll let you know. All right?” Suzie quirked an eyebrow at Miranda. “Then all you have to do is stop whatever it is you’re doing and think.”
“All right. I guess that sounds good. Ok, so are we still on for tomorrow night?”
“You, me and Vin chasing Christina around in my car? You know it.”
The previous was Suzie’s House 61: A Compromising Position
This is Suzie’s House 62: You Can and I Can’t?
Next is Suzie’s House 63: Brothers in Arms
We’re going to backtrack in time a little bit this week. Last week we ended with Suzie and Drew coming home from the Cardinal. This week we are starting while they are still there.
Vin jerked awake at the sound of the burglar alarm going off. He found himself still sitting in the living room with the remote in his hand, but the TV was off along with all the lights. He almost called out to Miranda or Suzie that they should check the alarm when it dawned on him whoever tripped it could be here to kill him.
He swore, one harsh word, as he tossed off the comforter someone had draped over him. In a low rumble he added, “better not be a redhead.”
He pulled out the drawer in the side table where he’d stashed his gun a day or two before. Having stood up too quickly made him a little light headed, but it cleared up quickly when he blinked a few times. The gun in his hand felt heavy and awkward. He’d have to make an effort to get down to the shooting range as soon.
Before stepping into the hall, he stuck his head around the corner. A dark shape by the front door stabbed at the panel on the alarm and swore and a rough but feminine voice. Miranda. Vin set the gun on the bookcase in the hall nestled by the door and swept into the hall.
Miranda must not have heard him coming. She nearly jumped out of her skin when he said, “Problem?”
“Oh! It’s you. Do you remember the code for this stupid thing?”
“Sure.” He leaned around her and keyed it in. “So…. Where you been?”
“You aren’t my keeper,” she growled.
“I never said I was.”
“And we aren’t really engaged, no matter what people might say to you.” Her eyes shifted earnestly around his face as if begging him to believe it.
“If you say so.” Vin grinned. He liked the way her mind was working.
“Aren’t you supposed to be in bed?”
“I think I’ve napped enough.” He stretched carefully, lifting his right arm much higher than the one in the sling. “I’ll go join Suzie and Drew in the kitchen.” He’d noticed the kitchen light was on when he went into the hall.
“They aren’t here.”
They weren’t? “Neither of them?” If neither of them were home, and Miranda was just getting back, that meant his entire support team had abandoned him. Admittedly, he’d been out of the hospital for a couple of weeks now. He wasn’t a little boy. He could take care of himself.
“What were you all doing?”
“We went out.” Miranda stuck her chin out – always a bad sign. When she got her back up, she could be hard to live with.
He sniffled a couple of times, and stuck out his lip, watching closely to see how she’d react. “You all left me here? All alone?”
“We went to the Cardinal, all right? But Sean and Joseph weren’t there so…”
“You tried to crack the case without me?!” Anger blazed through him hot and immediate. “After forcing me to agree let both of you join me when I investigate them you went ahead and did it without me?”
“You were asleep.” Miranda wiggled her head apologetically. “I tried to sneak out, but Suzie caught me. And then Drew caught the two of us. And…. And… I’m sorry. I should have insisted you come too. But you didn’t miss anything. They weren’t in either place.”
“The Caribou. Drew and Suzie were dancing and I got bored, and we thought Sean and Joseph would be at the Caribou all along and… Look, it’s a long story and you look tired.”
“I don’t feel tired.”
She put her arm around him like a nurse, or maybe more like a wife. Clearly, she intended to take care of him. He liked that idea, liked it a lot. He didn’t put up a lot of resistance when she started up the stairs still bracing him. Last time she tucked him in had worked out just the way he liked.
“I worry about you, Vin.”
“Yeah? How much?” He gave her a grin.
“More than you deserved.”
She got him as far as his bed, then stood over him, wringing her hands.
“Aren’t you going to undress me? I’d do it myself, but I have so much trouble with buttons and sleeves.”
“You got yourself dressed well enough this morning.”
“And now I’m hurting because of it. Come one, Miranda. Help me out here.” He meant with more than the clothes. He could tell by the twist in her smile she took both meanings.
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The previous was Suzie’s House 60: Taking Advantage
This is Suzie’s House 61: A Compromising Position
Next is Suzie’s House 62: You Can and I Can’t?
She was killing him, all soft and warm and leaning against him. Her eyes were a little blurry with the beer and the lateness of the hour. He told himself not to let her feathery touches go to his head, or rather his lower regions.
She couldn’t feel too good about men right now, after having run into her ex, yet she hadn’t gone cold on him. Drew hoped her less-restrained reaction to him had more to do with her faith in him than in the amount of beer he’d poured down her throat.
“Suzie.” He stopped dancing – if you could call what they were doing dancing, crammed so tightly together on what passed for a dance floor at the Cardinal bar. “Suzie, let’s go home.”
“Yeah.” She nodded drunkenly, a silly smile on her face, her arms around his neck, making no effort to release him. “Good idea.”
Now he had a problem. He had a bulge in the front of his pants that wasn’t going away. He’d been waiting on it for a long time already, but with Suzie holding him so tight, it just got worse. He had an urge to hold something over his front like a teen-age boy grabbing a pillow to hide behind. He could just hear Vin saying “Smooth move, Ace.”
“Come on Cinderella, time to leave the ball.” He winced at his own poor choice of words.
Gently prying her fingers loose, he turned her around. With his hands on her hips he was able to guide her out of the bar while keeping himself covered. They staggered out of the hot, humid room into a cool, humid night. A handful of stars winked down on them. In this muggy land, the stars hardly ever showed in full force. He wished they did, so he could stand close to her and point at constellations.
“I’m not the designated driver,” she said as he guided her to the passenger’s side of his car.
“You most certainly are not.”
“But I’m not really drunk! You don’t have to be a gentleman or anything, because I’m only a little drunk.” She let him ease her into the seat and reach across for the buckle.
“I’m sure you’re not,” he assured her as he moved away.
She wouldn’t let him go. She grabbed on to his head, and kissed him until he stopped trying to back out. Only when his heart started racing and the zipper on the front of his pants started to crimp and bind did he pry himself away.
“Just remember, I know what I’m doing.” She nodded to the windshield as if talking to a phantom there.
“Yeah.” He closed her door carefully before getting in the driver’s seat.
“Still, I’m glad it’s you driving.” She curled up on the seat with her knees toward him, put a hand on his shoulder, and closed her eyes.
Drew sighed. Looked like he’d plied her with a little too much beer. He wasn’t going to get lucky tonight.
He parked behind the house, and carried her in through the kitchen. She came alive in his arms as he juggled her to get the burglar alarm turned off, and he reluctantly put her on her feet.
“Vin? Miranda?” Suzie stumbled forward a few feet into the room lit dimly by the light over the stove. “Shouldn’t she be back now?”
“What do you mean back?”
“She was going to the Caribou to find Joseph and Sean, remember?”
“Oh. The Caribou.” He had wondered where Miranda thought she’d find the deadly brothers. “Oh course.”
Suzie blinked owlishly at him for a minute or two, then her eyes went very wide and she put her hand over her mouth in a cartoon-style surprise. “I wasn’t supposed to tell you that.”
“It doesn’t matter.” Drew looped and arm over her shoulder. “Let’s get you to bed.” He guided her toward the central hall, which lead to the stairs.
“But what about Miranda? What if she runs into them?”
“I’m sure she will be fine.”
She stopped on the staircase, refusing to go up, and shook her head in a wobbly way. “But what if she actually finds them? Oh! I never thought of that. We have to go rescue her.” Suzie tried to turn toward the kitchen, but Drew simply guided her all the way around until she faced the steps.
“She won’t find them. I shot them. If they aren’t in the hospital, then they must be some other place licking their wounds. Regardless, they won’t be in any bars.”
“Oh.” Suzie blinked at him a couple of times. Then her eyes narrowed. “You knew that all along, didn’t you. You knew what we were doing and you let us because you knew we wouldn’t get hurt.”
He answered with a hint of a smile as he gently pushed on the small of her back, trying to get her up the stairs.
“You, Drew **, are a bad man. A very bad man.” She said it with a grin of admiration, and an unsteady wag of her finger.
“Oh, I don’t know about that.” He cozied up behind her so he could be sure she wouldn’t fall, wrapped an arm across her middle, and walked her up.
She was sloppy and loose in his arm, but didn’t fight him so they made it to the upstairs hall with only one incident, that being when she stopped to kiss him after having kept her head craned around for half the journey so she could look at his face.
“Suzie,” he groaned. “You’re killing me here.”
“I can tell,” she taunted with a provocative wiggle.
Tucking under an arm while she clung to him like a high-school date, he headed for her bedroom.
“Are you sure Miranda will be all right? Maybe we should check on her.”
“I’m sure she’s fine,” he told Suzie, but he noticed Miranda’s door stood open though the light was off. Generally when Miranda went to bed, she closed the door. Wasn’t it bar time yet? He glanced at his watch. Not yet, but close.
Suzie planted her feet in front of Miranda’s room. “What’s her door doing open? She knows I hate it when she leaves it open. She’s such a slob.”
“I don’t know.” Drew gently tugged on her, but she had her feet spread in a solid stance and didn’t budge. “Maybe Vin went in for something.”
“I’m pretty sure it wasn’t open when … Vin! We should check on him.” Suzie spun on her heel and marched off the way they’d come, no doubt intended on knocking on Vin’s door.
“He’s probably resting, Suzie. We should leave him alone.”
“I won’t wake him up.” Suzie wobbled into a chair, making it clatter loudly. “I’ll just make sure
“He’d probably rather Miranda did it.”
“Of course he would.” Suzie gave Drew a sharp look over her shoulder, or rather a look that would have been sharp if her eyes had focused better. “But she isn’t here. We will have to do it.”
Exasperated, Drew scrambled to keep up with her, keeping her from bumping into the walls. “At least be subtle about it. Don’t go slamming the door open or anything.”
“Of course not.” She grabbed the doorknob, then hesitated. She rested her forehead on the wooden door, then rolled it toward Drew, still leaning into the door. “Do you hear breathing?”
Drew put his ear to the door. It was muffled, but clear. “Yes, I do.”
“You’re probably right. We should let him rest.” Suzie let go of the knob.
From deep within the room came a low, almost tortured sounding moan. Vin must be in horrible pain to make such a sound. Drew and Suzie shared a wide-eyed look of alarm. They threw open the door.
Vin and Miranda looked up from the bed like dogs caught raiding the kitchen table.
The previous was Suzie’s House 59: Chance Encounter with the Ex
This is Suzie’s House 60: Taking Advantage
Next is Suzie’s House 61: A Compromising Position
Welcome Fiction Friday readers and Girls Scout Cookie entrants. This is the post to leave a comment in for the chance to win Lemon Chalets.
When we left off last week Miranda had gone to the Caribou bar in search of the men who shot Vin and run into the CIA agent Christina instead. Now we return to the Cardinal Bar where Miranda left Drew and Suzie slow dancing.
Suzie could feel Drew’s body plastered to hers from breast to thigh. She had her arms around his neck and he had his around her waist, the better to pull her closer. The music was slow, and if anybody on or off the dance floor objected to the way they danced – from side to side an inch at a time – they weren’t saying anything.
Drew leaned back, putting a little distance between them, and Suzie sighed in disappointment. For a while she’d been able to forget everything that had gone wrong in her life and simply herself. She supposed you couldn’t sway on a dance floor forever. But instead of leading her to their table, Drew lifted her face toward his, and kissed her.
“My God, Suzie! What do you think you’re doing?” The voice was all too familiar. Rob. Her EX-husband, who had the power to make her flinch even as she told herself he had no right to cop an attitude on her.
Suzie let Drew go, but didn’t try to break free. She took a deep sigh.
“What do you want, Rob?” She sounded every bit as bone-weary as she felt whenever she looked at him.
A girl was with him. She couldn’t have been a day over 21, if even that. Long, black hair plaited into an I-Dream-of-Jeanie do, Madonna bustier, teenybopper attitude, she fit right in at The Cardinal. She clung to Rob, who – with his balding pate, bear belly, and worsted wool suit – didn’t fit in at all.
“Who is she?” The teenybopper sneered her question.
“My wife.” Rob answered with little attention to his date or the truth.
“You’re married?” The teenybopper’s lip curled up in revulsion. Rob grabbed the girl’s wrist, but she pulled free and disappeared into the crowd.
“Now see what you’ve done? It’ll take me weeks to fix it.” He would try to shift the blame. Couldn’t he take responsibility once in his life?
“Rob, where’s Ben?”
“Your son. Where is he?”
“Oh. Home, I guess. He wasn’t back from school when I left. Why do you ask?”
Suzie put her forehead against Drew’s shoulder and groaned. First thing in the morning she’d have to call around and see if she could find someone better to take Ben until it was safe for him to come home.
“What’s it to you? You’re the one who dumped him on me with no explanation.”
“You need to keep a close eye on him. Some guy tried to pick him up a while ago.” That was as much explanation as Suzie intended to give her ex-husband.
Rob grunted with a distinct lack of interest. He was busy looking around, probably worried about his precious reputation. He’d never had a realistic idea of how people thought of him.
“Are you at least dealing with Mrs. D,” Suzie asked.
“Who? Yeah, sure. Sure.”
The girl who had been with him stalked past, chin up and in a severe huff. Suzie found it hard to take the attitude seriously in a girl half her age. Rob turned like a dog catching the scent of a bitch in heat. He took a step toward the girl, his hand stretched out to her. The pose was ultimately pathetic in a man old enough, but not mature enough, to be her father. He was a visual reminder of the mistakes Suzie was capable of when she didn’t hold herself in high enough esteem.
“This is your fault,” he snapped at Suzie, gesturing toward the girl as she disappeared in the crowd. “You shouldn’t even be in a place like this. You’re too old.”
“And you aren’t?” Suzie shot back.
For a minute she thought he’d hit her. His face went to a blotchy red and he balled his fist. Suzie stepped away from Drew, her own hand tightening for a punch which she dearly wished to unleash. Rob glanced from her to Drew, then took a couple of steps backward.
“Never mind. You aren’t worth it.” He turned in the direction the girl and gone and fled.
For the first time since Rob spoke, Suzie looked up at the man she thought she might take as a lover. He hadn’t moved an inch, but the transformation was complete. He looked like the kind of stone-cold, calculating, rock-solid man it takes put a bullet in someone. If she reached around him now and found his gun and holster she wouldn’t be surprised. Actually, it might really be under his loose-fitting shirt. She’d had her arms around his neck, not back.
She told herself the thought of him as FBI through and through shouldn’t be such a turn on.
“Is he always like that?” Drew spoke with his eyes still on the part of the crowd where Rob had been.
“I didn’t divorce him on a whim,” Suzie answered.
Even though she was a little tipsy from the beer, she was pretty darn sure she wasn’t making a mistake this time as she put her arms around the man.
The previous was Suzie’s House 58: At Cross Purposes
This is Suzie’s House 59: Chance Encounter with the Ex
Next is Suzie’s House 60: Taking Advantage
You know, Miranda’s a big girl. Sure she left the Cardinal Bar with a bit of attitude, but that doesn’t mean she HAS to get into trouble. Does it?
“Come on, Baby. What’s the matter? ‘My not good enough for you?”
A month ago, Miranda might have considered the man. He had a good head of hair, broad shoulders, a nice tan, and strong jaw. He also had a full compliment of alcoholic fumes.
He was already sitting at the bar when she arrived, but moved closer when she tried to get the bartender to talk. A month ago, she’d have gotten the drunk’s phone number even if she didn’t intend to take him home, but now, she found him repulsive.
She knew what the difference was, and it freaked her out. She couldn’t take another man seriously because she’d already slept with Vin. Though right afterward she said it was a mistake, and wouldn’t happen again, she couldn’t help comparing all other men to him. They didn’t exactly come out on top even when she visualized him sleeping in front of the TV, remote in hand, skin pale and clammy.
“No.” Miranda turned back to the bartender. The sooner she got what she needed the sooner she could check up on Vin. “Are you sure Sean and Joseph have never been here before?”
“No, I didn’t say that. It isn’t like I take names before I serve beer. I can tell you this, no one going by those names is a regular.” He nodded as if pleased to have come up with the comment.
“Have you seen two red haired men, mid-twenties, gray eyes, thin…”
“What are you, a cop?” The drunk asked. He leaned forward and tried to look down Miranda’s black, stretch-knit top.
“Want me to take you in? I’m sure there’s still room in the drunk tank.” She knew she should have been more polite, but she’d had her nose out of joint since leaving Drew and Suzie hanging all over each other at the Cardinal.
That had certainly backfired. Instead of Drew staying at the house like she’d expected, he insisted on coming along, which meant they HAD to go to the Cardinal. Then he’d enjoyed himself pawing Suzie on the dance floor.
Miranda didn’t much care for the Cardinal anymore. It was a wild and crazy place, which suited her up until a few years ago when she looked around and realized she was the oldest woman there. Now every time she went there, she felt old and lonely. And pathetic. The Cardinal made her feel like a looser.
She sipped her beer as she looked around at the handful of people in The Caribou. She didn’t much care for it here, either.
Apparently her comment to the drunk about taking him to the drunk tank took a while to get through to the man next to her. He finally reared back, almost falling from his stool.
“Hey! You can’t throw me into the drunk tank. I’m allowed to be drunk here. Aren’t I Lenny?” The man blinked owlishly, a slight wrinkle of concern between his unfocused eyes.
“Be nice to the regulars.” The bartender glowered at her over a glass he dried with a dishrag.
Miranda leveled a look at him. She might not be a regular, but she was a customer and deserved more respect. The bartender, a balding, over weight man who probably owned the joint, shifted uncomfortably, and put the glass down.
“So? Have you seen them? Two red-haired me. Brothers. Christina said I could find them here.” It wasn’t really a fib. Christina had said she meet them here, not that Miranda should come here to get them.
“I know the two you’re talking about. Came in by themselves a couple of weeks ago and left with Christina.”
“They don’t come here all the time?”
“No, can’t say that they do. Least wise, not while I’m here.”
So Christina had told the truth about something. But probably not everything. The thing was, she didn’t seem anything like Miranda’s boss, who was a congenital liar. She didn’t seem to be lying to make herself look better. Miranda could sense it, but couldn’t make sense of it. The one thing Miranda was sure about was that Christina wasn’t the woman’s real name.
They might not even be talking about the same Christina. Except how many Christina’s hooked up with two redheaded men in the Caribou?
Miranda shook her head at herself. The point was they were back to square one with no leads on either the man who shot Vin or the one who tried to kidnap Ben. Miranda took a tentative sip of her beer while she tried to figure out where to go next.
Vin’s face came to the forefront. He was home, suffering, with no one there to watch out for him. She was wasting her time here when she could be there. She slammed down the rest of her beer and stood up.
“Hey Baby! Where you going?” The drunk on the stool next to hers seemed to have forgotten all earlier insult.
Miranda cut a look his direction. She could tell he was the kind of guy who would follow her home. He was already getting off his bar stool.
“I’m going home to my husband.” She only said it to get him off her case. As soon as the words were out of her mouth a cold draft ran down her spine.
The fact was, if she wasn’t careful, it could become the truth.
Miranda turned toward the door. Two women stepped inside together. Miranda’s neighbor, Cindy, and Christina.
“Hey, Christina!” the bartender called. “You know this lady?” He jerked a thumb toward Miranda.
The previous was Suzie’s House 56: Dancing Around the Subject
This is Suzie’s House 57: Miranda at the Caribou
Next is Suzie’s House 58: At Cross Purposes
In last week’s episode Drew caught Suzie and Miranda sneaking out to investigate Sean and Joseph. He was aware of what they were doing, but believed they would be safe enough, so he didn’t try to stop them. He joined them instead.
“I thought you said they were at the Caribou.” Suzie leaned across the little table, and shoved aside an empty beer bottle to hiss in Miranda’s ear. Actually, yell with restraint so as to be heard over the music but not by the throngs around them. “What are we doing here?”
“I couldn’t very well tell him where we were really going.” Miranda nodded toward Drew, who pushed through the crowd of college age kids with a couple of beers in his hands.
“One for you.” Drew put a beer in front of Miranda. “One for you.” He put another in front of Suzie. “And a Near-beer for me.” He settled in the chair next to Suzie, then dragged it over so close his seat bumped hers. “So which is it, 80′s retro night or fetish night? From the lack of clothes, it’s hard to tell.”
“You can say that again,” Suzie muttered.
Two women standing near the table were busy stripping one another while the bartenders ran around with their butts hanging out. Had the Cardinal always been like this? Suzie hadn’t hung out here much before. She couldn’t remember the last time.
“It’s fetish night,” Miranda answered with confidence. “No disco balls.” She took a swig of beer.
Suzie eyed hers with misgivings. The last time she had a beer it had lead to another, and another, until she was so drunk Rob had to carry her home. For weeks, no, make that years afterward he reminded her of how bad she’d looked and out of control she’d behaved. She really didn’t think dancing on top of a table was really so bad in and of itself. A lot of other girls had been doing it at the time because the dance floor was so full. But she didn’t want to end up on a tabletop tonight.
“I’ll be the designated driver,” Drew offered with a gentlemanly air, which in Suzie’s book meant he had ulterior motives.
“That’s okay. I’ll pass.”
“You won’t get drunk off of one beer,” Miranda scoffed, gulping more of hers down.
Knowing Miranda, it would be easier to take a polite sip than suffer the constant hounding. Suzie gingerly took a swallow. When that didn’t make either of her companions look away, she took a deeper draft.
“So, this is what you do for fun.” Drew quirked an eyebrow at Miranda before giving the teenyboppers in the room a disdainful glance. His eyes were sharp, and maybe a little mocking as they came back to Miranda.
Could he know what they were up to? Probably. It wouldn’t take a genius to figure it out. Still, if he didn’t say something, Suzie wasn’t going to say anything. He wasn’t going to keep her from running her own investigation until and unless he let her in on his.
“Yes. This is fun.” Mirada put her chin out belligerently. Luckily, Drew didn’t take the bait.
“Let’s dance.” He grabbed Suzie’s hand and stood.
“No, I couldn’t.” Suzie tried to pull free, but he held tight.
“Come on. Let your hair down. Live a little.” Drew tugged on her.
“You sound like Vin,” Miranda muttered. She looked a little put out and a little lonely – not a good combination when it came to Miranda.
Suzie wasn’t in the mood to deal with her. She told herself that was why she let Drew guide her into the throng, but when he pulled her close, she had to admit there might be another reason too.
“Are we supposed to be slow dancing?” She didn’t expect him to answer.
“Do you care?”
In reply, she moved closer, slipping her arms around his neck.
She shouldn’t encourage him, certainly not in a public display of affection, even one so mild as slow dancing to a fast song, but it felt so good to be held.
“So tell me, where were you and Miranda really planning on going?”
Suzie stiffened in his arms, and tried to pull away, but he merely tightened his hold.
“I’m not upset. Just want to know.”
“Here,” she lied. “We were coming here, like we said.”
“Mmmm hummmm.” He said with complete insincerity. “I believe you.” He said it against her neck where it buzzed and tickled.
“Would you stop that?” She scrunched her shoulder up in protest.
“Sure. So why did you think you’d see them here, anyway? Got a hot tip I should know about?”
“See who?” She tried to give him a look of wide-eyed innocence, but couldn’t quite pull it off.
He laughed at her. Laughed. She pulled away, but he spun them around like a cowboy doing the two-step, hip to hip and arms steady. He kept her going, teasing, letting her put some distance between them then closing it through what might have been three songs if the alternative rock band on stage could be said to play songs.
Hot and sweaty, she finally insisted they go back to the table for a drink. Miranda sat alone, looking more peevish by the second. A group of Latinos behind her jostled her and she turned around to give them what for only to face a wall of backs. Knowing Miranda that wouldn’t go down so well.
“I’m going home,” Miranda said as soon as they came close.
Drew’s mouth opened like he was going argue, but nothing came out. He shrugged. “All right. See you there.”
Suzie pulled herself loose to talk to Miranda out of his hearing. “Drop by the Caribou on the way home, all right?”
“I was already planning on it.”
The previous was Suzie’s House 55: Ladie’s Night Out
This is Suzie’s House 56: Dancing Around the Subject
Next is Suzie’s House 57: Miranda at the Caribou
We left off last week with Drew catching Miranda and Suzie in the kitchen while they were trying to sneak out.
“Who are you supposed to be? Emma Peel?” Drew eyed Miranda’s outfit with mild interest. She looked like she was playing the part of a cat burglar. Not a real cat burglar. A real one wouldn’t wear patent leather. Too shiny.
“This is the latest fashion down at the Cardinal.”
“You’re going to a bar now?” Actually, she probably would throw caution to the wind and head off for a night of carousing while two killers stalked the members of this household.
“Why not?” She squared her shoulders and lifted her chin defiantly.
“Um… because it’s dangerous?”
“I’m not going to drive. Suzie is.” Miranda reached into the butler’s pantry and dragged Suzie out.
Suzie was wearing a pair of black jeans and a black T-shirt. Drew couldn’t remember the last time he saw her in jeans. She was always wearing skirts and dresses.
“YOU’RE going to the bar?”
“And what’s wrong with that?” Suzie lifted her chin defiantly, giving Drew a sinking feeling.
“Nothing. Nothing at all. Not a thing.” He shook his head and tightened his lower lip against all the different ways Suzie going to a bar at all, let alone tonight, didn’t add up. “Only…” He shouldn’t say anything. Anything he said now was likely to backfire on him the way things did when you dealt with women. He wasn’t a talkative man. Why couldn’t he shut up? “Are you sure you want to go tonight?”
“Why wouldn’t we?”
Drew bit his lip. Why indeed. It wasn’t like they didn’t know about Sean and Joseph. It was like they were courting danger, just asking the two men to come after them.
Which, come to think of it, maybe they were.
His refusal to let anyone in the house help him with his investigation hadn’t gone down very well. Looking over the black outfits on both woman, right down to Miranda’s eye makeup, he got the feeling they weren’t going out for a night of carousing so much as gunning for certain men.
Like Hell he was going to let them! They had no idea how dangerous confronting either Sean or Joseph could be. Hadn’t Joseph nearly killed Vin already? He’d have killed Drew in the neighbor’s stairway given half a chance. If Drew hadn’t shot them…
Come to think of it, both men had taken the bullet from Drew’s warning shot. They’d been mobile, but seriously wounded. The odds either might be found at any bar so soon afterward were fairly low.
So what the girls planned to do wasn’t exactly safe, but it wasn’t exactly dangerous either. He could let them go without letting them know he was on to them.
But what was the fun in that?
“I don’t know,” he said slowly. “It can be dangerous out there. Two gorgeous women such as yourselves are bound to attract unwanted attention.”
“Who says it’s unwanted,” Miranda muttered.
Suzie pulled her lower lip in between her teeth and worried it.
“You’re bound to get hit on. What would Vin think?” He addressed the comment to Miranda, but kept an eye on Suzie to assess how she’d react to the idea of getting hit on.
Suzie kept chewing on her lower lip, which didn’t tell him nearly as much as he wanted to know. Miranda started to get the stubborn lift of a chin, then crumpled into a face full of doubts. Drew wasn’t entirely sure what was going on between Miranda and Vin, but her reaction now told him there was something.
“Maybe you should both stay home,” he tossed out casually, knowing full well they wouldn’t agree. He had to work to keep the grin off his face.
“No!” Suzie said over Miranda’s nearly incoherent sputtering.
“I don’t think I could let the two of you out of the house and still face myself as a man.” He shook his head slowly, but firmly.
“You can’t stop us!” Suzie said, crossing her arms.
“We have a right to go if we want to.” Miranda also crossed her arms.
“All right, then.” Drew flexed his shoulders, limbering up like a prizefighter. If he recalled correctly from reading the Isthmus, tonight was a dance band retro-80′s night at the Cardinal; the perfect excuse to get Suzie into his arms. “We’ll all go. I haven’t been out for a night on the town in a long time. This should be fun.”
The previous was Suzie’s House 54: Miranda Takes Steps
This is Suzie’s House 55: Ladie’s Night Out
Next is Suzie’s House 56: Dancing Around the Subject
In last week’s episode of Suzie’s House, Suzie decided to take on the case against the red headed men regardless of how Drew feels about it.
Suzie tried to sneek out of the kitchen and down the hall, but heard Drew’s footsteps right behind her. She couldn’t let him follow, not for what she had in mind.
“Aren’t you cook tonight,” she asked.
Drew hesitated in the doorway. “Yes? So?”
“It’s already 5:30. I don’t know what you plan on cooking, but I’ll bet we end up eating late.” That got him turned around. Good, because she really, really didn’t want him to hear what she had to say to Vin and Miranda. “Oh, and Drew? It better not be another pizza. One more call to Dominoes and I’m going to serve liver and onions for my next meal.”
“I like liver and onions,” he grumbled when she was already to the living room. Still, she was fairly sure he’d try to actually cook something, which meant she’d have a few minutes in which to build her case.
Vin still sat on the couch with the remote in his hand and the TV off just like before, but Miranda stood by the window, looking out on the beautiful view of the interior of the house next door. That window was only a driveway’s width from the neighbors, whose window lined up with it. At the moment the shade was drawn. Miranda might as well have been looking at a brick wall. At another time, Suzie would worry about Miranda’s mood, but right now, she was too wrapped up in her own concerns.
“Vin, I want you to tell me everything you know about this Sean, and this Joseph fellow.”
She couldn’t have shocked him more if she’d walked up and set a porcupine in his lap.
“I can’t do that! It’s an ongoing investigation. We’re talking the FBI here.”
Suzie put her chin up. “I’m going to help.”
“Did Drew agree to it?” Vin’s eyes narrowed and his lips tightened. He must know Drew well.
“No,” Suzie conceded slowly. “But I’m going to do it anyway.”
“I won’t help.” Drew crossed his arms. Or tried to. He winced and ended up rubbing his wounded shoulder instead. Suzie refused to sympathize. Yet.
“Did you know Drew is thinking about taking you off the case?”
“He can’t do that!” Vin actually put the remote down. He looked like he might even stand up.
“It’s his case.” Suzie shrugged as if she didn’t care. “He can do what he wants.”
Vin’s eyes narrowed. “He can cut me out of the loop, but he can’t keep me from doing my own investigating.”
“Good. I’ll help.”
“But!” Vin sputtered.
“And I’ll help too!” Miranda put her hands on her hip and her chin out. If Vin didn’t know what a fight he would be in for if he tried to cross Miranda now, he wasn’t half as smart as Suzie thought.
Vin’s eyes went wide and his chin pulled back. He looked from one to the other of them with a growing sense of panic as Suzie put her hands on her hips in imitation of Miranda. He opened his mouth. Suzie expected an argument and was fully prepared to pull out the big guns, but put them away instead when Vin closed his mouth and nodded.
“All right. You’re in. Both of you. Let me catch you up to date on what little we have so far.”
Suzie grinned. The warmth of victory spread from her chest right to her fingers and toes. She was going hunting for bad guys. When she caught up with them, they’d better be prepared to meet their maker, because she was going to them everything they had done to the people in her household.
Previous Suzie’s House
Next Suzie’s House
The previous was Suzie’s House 52: Mixed Up With Muffins
This is Suzie’s House 53: A Little Conspiracy
Next is Suzie’s House 54: Miranda Takes Steps
When we left off last week Ben had just left and the remaining members of the house were discussing the two red-headed men, trying to sort out which had done what to various members of the household. Suzie headed off to the kitchen, and Drew soon followed.
Suzie pulled out the restaurant bowl – a stainless steal bowl nearly two feet wide from rim to rim. She didn’t even bother to get the recipe from the file. She had dumped a box of Raisin Bran into the bowl, poured in a quart of buttermilk, and pulled out her 5-Cup measuring cup before she realized Drew was in the room.He leaned against the doorjamb leading to the hall, his arms crossed over his broad chest.
“A penny for your thoughts.”
Suzie turned away with a shrug. She didn’t want to share her thoughts right now, especially with Drew. If he realized what she was thinking, he’d be upset. She poured in the oil, then started cracking eggs. One hit the side of the bowl too hard and turned into a gloppy mess in her hand.
“Hey,” Drew said quietly, coming up on her side. He cleaned the egg off with a paper towel. “I’m here for you if you need anything.”
“I’m fine.” Her voice was strained, but she pretended it wasn’t. As soon as she could get her hand back, she mixed in all the wet ingredients.
“I feel bad about Ben. I know you had your reasons for sending him off to live with his father, but I can’t help but think he’d be better off here where I could keep an eye on him.”
Like when he ran into the house next door and shot at a pair of murderers and was too busy to notice that Ben had followed him? Ben had almost gotten kidnapped. Again. Suzie quirked an eyebrow, but refrained from comment. She couldn’t really dump the responsibility for Ben on Drew. As Ben’s mother, most of it rested in herself. Well maybe it was about time Ben’s father took some of the responsibility. She measured out most of the flour and dumped it into the mixing bowl, but didn’t mix it in right off.
She measured the salt, baking soda, and sugar into part of the flour, stirring it right into the measuring cup. It was lazy cooking, but she wasn’t about to dirty an extra bowl just to mix the dry ingredients, and this way the baking soda would be mixed in thoroughly enough.
“Remember, as soon as we crack the case and arrest these guys it’ll be safe for Ben to come home,” Drew said.
“That’s right. And Miranda and I can help.” Suzie’s heart filled with hope. She turned to Drew with a smile on her lips, prepared to dive right in. Helping solve the case and put these men away would give her something to work toward, as well as something to take her mind off of Ben’s every moment away from her.
“Well, I’m not so sure about that. I was thinking of taking Vin off the case, and he was trained for this kind of work. I don’t think it would be right to drag you or Miranda into it.”
Suzie glared at Drew, willing him to understand. He crossed his arms and looked stubborn. Sometimes he irritated her so much she wanted to lash out. Wouldn’t he be surprised to receive a spanking with a wooden spoon – a batter covered wooden spoon. Instead of embarrassing them both, the turned to the enormous mixing bowl.
Suzie pushed the wooden spoon around harder and faster, far more vigorously than necessary. If Miranda walked in now, she’d say something catty about the way Suzie liked to cook when she was upset. Suzie made herself stop.
“I’m not going to change my mind,” Drew said as if she’d argued.
“Yes you will,” she muttered. Even if he didn’t, she was going to take matters into her own hands. “I’ve never been able to sit on the sidelines when it came to something I cared about.”
She took a gallon sized jar from the shelf where she kept three or four of them. She liked the kind with the wider mouths, but had to be careful with them now that the friend who used to work for Porta Bella restaurant no longer kept her supplied with empties. She carefully transferred the mixture from the bowl to the jar, not bothering with a funnel. Then she put the jar in the refrigerator.
“Aren’t you going to cook that?”
“No. You are. You and Miranda and Vin, when it’s your turns to cook. It’s Six Week Muffin Mix. Just pour it into a muffin tin and stick it in the oven. I’ll put the instructions on the side of the jar later.
Drew nodded, looking entirely too serious for muffins. But then, it wasn’t really muffins they were talking about. It was their lives and how they should be lived.
Suzie’s House is fueled by your comments. Not only do your comments encourage me to continue, they often provide direction and inspiration. That’s right, this is an interactive story. If there is something in particular you would like to see, let me know and I’ll try to work it in.
Drop by Sunday for a copy of the recipe.
The previous was Suzie’s House 51: Something to Think About
This is Suzie’s House 52: Mixed Up With Muffins
Next is Suzie’s House 53: A Little Conspiracy
In last week’s episode of Suzie’s House, Christina, the CIA agent, pays a visit. While she’s there, Suzie calls Ben’s father to have him come take Ben permanently.
Drew watched Vin watch Miranda as they sat in the living room waiting for Suzie. Poor Vin. He wanted so much from Miranda, who would give so little. They were both on the couch, but might as well be miles apart.
“What do you think?” Drew asked as soon as the front door closed behind Ben and his father. It wasn’t Ben to whom he referred, and he assumed everyone knew it until Miranda spoke up. “What will we do without him? It won’t be the same without Ben.”
“It’s only temporary,” Suzie said. She moved to the arm of the couch and patted Miranda’s shoulder as if to comfort her but Drew didn’t miss the owlish, almost shell-shocked expression on Suzie’s face. She was already hurting for herself and her son.
Drew had brought devastation into this house. If he’d had any idea it would be like this he never would have listened to Vin, let alone actually moved in. Well, what was done was done. He had already volunteered to move out and been soundly refused. Though with this new threat…. No, put it aside. The matter was settled.
“I meant Christina. That was her name, right? The woman who was at Cindy’s party?”
Miranda nodded. “That’s what she said.”
“You think it might not have been her real name?”
“I don’t know… When I first opened the door and she told me her name…. It’s probably nothing.”
“If you ask me, there was something fishy about the whole thing.” Vin sprawled closer to Miranda. He had one hand on the remote, but the TV was off. “I mean, what did she want? Just being friendly? I don’t buy it.” Vin tried to put an arm across Miranda’s shoulder, but she shrugged him off.
“She talked like an airhead, but I think she’s probably pretty smart,” Miranda said.
“She seemed to know a fair amount about our shooter and his brother.” Drew tapped his teeth with the edge of a playing card from the deck on the side table. Sometimes it helped him think. “Think any of it was the truth?”
“Depends on why she was here.” Vin’s eyes narrowed thoughtfully.
“I think their names are right,” Miranda said firmly.
“I don’t know.” Miranda shrugged. “Something about the way she said them, like they just popped out of her mouth. It was everything else that I didn’t believe. I think she knows them really well. I think if she wanted to she could just lead us to them.”
“You may be right.” This time when Vin put his arm across her shoulders, she didn’t seem to notice.
Drew took a moment out of his analysis of the strange visit to marvel at Vin’s determination. If Miranda was really what he wanted, power too him. Drew was glad he’d found a far less prickly and more receptive woman in Suzie.
Suzie sat stiffly in some antique kind of chair on the other side of the couch from Drew. The two of them could be bookends to Vin and Miranda’s huddle. Her eyes were glazed and fixed on the floor. Any minute now she’d be excusing herself to go cry. When she did, Drew wanted to be there to offer a shoulder.
It was the least he could do after having brought to bear the forces that made her send her son away.
“So,” Drew cleared his throat. “Was it Sean or Joseph who tried to abduct Ben? Which one is The Smash Master? And which one shot Vin? The sooner we can close the investigation, the sooner Ben can come home and Suzie can get back to a normal life.”
Suzie’s head came up fast. “That’s right. Once we have them in custody, it’ll be safe for Ben to come home.”
Drew nodded as much to reassure her as to agree.
“Well off hand I’d say it was Joseph who shot me,” Vin said. “Which would make it Sean who tried to abduct Ben.”
“It doesn’t matter which is which,” Miranda said. “What we need it to catch them both!”
They all agreed about catching them both. Drew didn’t argue about the need to know which was which because Suzie got up with a murmur about supper and headed for the kitchen.
“Besides, we don’t even know of either name is right. Just because Christina believes it doesn’t mean it’s so,” Vin said.
Drew got up and headed for the kitchen. Over his shoulder he made one last comment.
“I think the next time we see Christina we should put a trace on her.”
The previous was Suzie’s House 50: On the Case
This is Suzie’s House 51: Something to Think About
Next is Suzie’s House 52: Mixed Up With Muffins
I know, it takes me forever to – ehem – come to the point. But I’m there now. So Suzie isn’t here. It’s on the newsletter this week.
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The previous was Suzie’s House 40: Cat Scratch Fever
This is Suzie’s House 41: Coming to the Point
Next is Suzie’s House 42: A Little Understanding
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