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Vodka Vickie

Vodka Vickie

Case File One of the Investigatrix Series

Nani Nicks

Published by Nani Nicks at Smashwords.com

Copyright 2015 Nani Nicks

 

 

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

The thing nobody ever tells you about having hidden rooms and secret passageways, is that you’ve got to do the cleaning and maintenance yourself. Even if your maid isn’t sure which book spins the bookcase, just her knowledge of such a thing means it’s not so secret any longer. That’s why they’re so dusty or thick with cobwebs; maids want a premium for cleaning your secret laboratory for experiments against the will of God. Preferring, as I do, the secrecy of my hidden third floor, I still would have built it; just some warning would have been nice. Might have prevented me from considering disemboweling this man over a role of painter’s tape. 

Guy has been following me all over the store, not that it’s that big of a store, and he must have seen my list at some point. Painter’s tape is on that list, and he’s holding a roll with a glint in his eye. Maybe the red hair is a bit unusual in this neighborhood, but the body underneath is average in every way; I made sure of it. I’m not in the mood to deal with the pick-up line he’s worked so hard on, so I turn away and head for the cash register. Nobody’s ever going to find my hidden third floor, so it’s not like it really matters how neat the paint job is.

The old man at the register is tired, worried about something. It’s not about the big box store taking away his business, that ship has sailed, but it might be why only creeper and I are in the store. The clerk manages a fake smile for me as he looks up to tell me the total. He reads the card as he swipes it, his eyes getting a look I’m very familiar with. 

“Nancy Andes. Where do I know that name?”

“We’ve not met properly, but my name gets around; I’m a PI.”

He holds out the reusable bag I brought into the store, but doesn’t let go. I knew he wasn’t just worried about his slow business. 

“Can you help us? My wife and I need something found.” 

“I can do that, just need a little bit more information.”

“She’s in the office, go through the back door and I’ll just be a moment.” 

Taking my bag, I turn and head for the office door, helpfully labeled as such. I leave creeper for my new employer to toss out. They probably can’t afford to lose even creeper’s business, so closing the store to talk to me means it’s very important. 

Once through the office door, I see the wife, giving me the classic ‘disapproving librarian’ look; head down and judging me over her glasses. What kind of idiot am I that I couldn’t read the sign?

“Your husband asked me to step in here.” I hurry to explain away her glare, even if she doesn’t move her finger away from the silent alarm button. “I’m a private investigator, Nancy Andes. Came in for some supplies and caught a case, if you’ll throw it to me.”

“Oh, well, I’m Cathy Tufano. Have a seat.”

She pulls her hand away from the alarm to gesture at the chair, since most burglars don’t introduce themselves, not even with a fake name. There are two desks, two chairs and three filing cabinets, just to mess with anyone who likes even numbers. It’s not really a space for entertaining visitors, but I choose a filing cabinet to lean against. 

“I’ll stand; your husband will appreciate being off his feet for this discussion.”

“His name is Wiley. Yes, Wiley is a real name that was around long before cartoon coyotes.” Her emotionless, practiced voice lets me know they get that all the time. 

“I’m sure I read it in a history book somewhere. Matter of fact, it’s probably time for that name to make a comeback.” So my small talk is boring; it’s been a long time since I cared enough to work at it.

The opening door lets Wiley in, and we both look to him. He sinks gratefully into his office chair. 

“Hank didn’t want to leave.” He looks at the wife, apologetically. 

“If this is about that guy and his unwelcome advances, I’ll fix that for free.” I offer, out of the generosity of my little heart.

“Hank’s a steady customer, works as a handyman so he always needs something.” Wiley almost mutters, defensive and embarrassed. Clearly, Cathy doesn’t like Hank and they’ve talked about him before. “I asked him to leave the women customers alone, but he says he’s just being friendly.”

“When he works steady, you sell him more bits and bobs. You’d both do better if he approached women in a professional manner.” I don’t like it, but I understand hard times making people do things they don’t like. “I can talk to him; make sure it never comes back to you.”

“Thanks, but that’s not what we needed help with.” Wiley pushes it aside; not getting enough female customers isn’t too much of an issue. He then looks around, in case somebody sneaked in and planted a camera while he wasn’t looking. The third filing cabinet would have been a good place for an agent from Get Smart to hide, but that’s about it. “I think someone is building a bomb.”

“You’ve got my attention,” I say, because yes, a bomb takes priority over verbal harassment, but I might fix one and then the other. 

“Homeland Security gives us lists, watch out for people buying this combination of things, or buying this stuff in bulk. That sort of thing. Somebody stole some stuff on that list, but I don’t know if it was the same person, if we need to contact Homeland Security. I can’t afford to shut down while they investigate.” Wiley shrugs, embarrassed by how poorly the store is doing.

“I’ll find out if you should tell them. What’s missing?”

“Fertilizer, an ISFE, and a small bottle of kerosene for camp stoves. The gardeners in the city have acidic soils, so we sell calcium ammonium nitrate inorganic fertilizers. About half a 20-pound bag has gone missing, scooped out and carried away.”

“Small plot of land, didn’t want a full bag?” I offer, knowing better.

Wiley frowns at me, and moves on. “We sell hobby stuff that you might need tools to work with, like model rockets. One has been opened, and the ISFE is missing, the igniter safety fuse electric. Fuses of all kinds are on that government list, but I don’t know if one from a toy would work.”

“How’s your supply of water pipe holding up?” Fertilizer, fuse, kerosene to mix with it, and now all we need is a container to make a pipe bomb.

“Actually, that’s all accounted for. Either I’m making something out of nothing, or they stole that from somewhere else to create confusion.” Wiley frowns down at his feet, as if they have notes about products sold in nearby stores.

“Could have bought it from you for the same reason, knowing you were supposed to report certain things. Any large purchases of pipe recently?”

“Not since before the fertilizer went missing,” Cathy adds. She must keep track of all the dates and numbers while Wiley deals with the people.

“Pipe purchasing could have been a cover for casing the joint. Or our thief only wanted to make one or two pipe bombs.” I stop talking before I say too much, or let myself delve into speculating about small numbers of weapons meaning a small target. Guns are expensive, and our thief might only have one target, or an expectation of getting caught. “Security cameras?”

“Some of the security cameras are fake, but the real ones do a decent job of covering the whole store.” Cathy gives me a small shrug and grimace, which I take to mean she would have preferred all the security cameras to be real and not waste money on ones for show.

“Camera feeds over here?” I ask, even though I can see the monitors. This statement is just an excuse to move closer and stare.

Right off it’s apparent from how they’re set up that when Cathy is working on the computer, she can’t watch the monitors. The security feed recording equipment is old, probably doesn’t keep a video longer than two days. That’s enough if your only fear is burglary at night or robbery during the day, but not much good for subtle thieves. A pipe bomb isn’t subtle, which suggests the suspect has more practice at thieving than exploding. Both require steady hands and a good eye for detail.

A smart thief cases a joint, looking for the security measures, maybe steals something obvious but cheap to see if he gets caught. Something he can talk his way out of; ‘I just put it in my pocket to look at something else, here, let me buy it.’ If nobody notices that, come back for something more expensive, skillfully palmed. Or, come in, put a hole in a bag, come back the next day to see if it’s been fixed or removed.

“You might want to make the security monitors easier to watch while working on the computer, Mrs. Tufano. I’m going to go look at the store.” I announce as I head out.

Cathy and Wiley look at each other before following me, Cathy with her phone in hand. If I start something, she’ll be ready to call the cops. It’s a nice store, a little old but well cared for and clean. They make an effort to carry a little bit of everything, so people will find what they need here, but not with the same variety as the box stores have.

The camera angles show that the fertilizer stack is covered by the camera, probably because of the list from Homeland Security. But it’s an endcap, and there is a gap in coverage down that isle. Enough for a thief to push the fertilizer off balance, open the corner of the bag, and pack the fertilizer into something. A container, a bag, or even the pipe itself. Just shove in the pipe; it’s safe until you add the spark and other chemicals. How would they get the packed pipe out, though?

That’s easy; pay for it. That’s yet another advantage of a small place like this, even if it does have barcodes to scan. The old man on the register would look at a hand basket of pipe and ends, count them, scan one and multiply by how many are in the basket. A helpful customer would put them into their own bag, making sure they got the one with the ends screwed on, apparently done to make sure they fit. Customer moves heavy, fertilizer-filled pipe to bag, and Mr. Tufano never even notices. As there are no regulations on reporting the sale of galvanized pipe since there are so many uses for it, he won’t think to report it.

Why pipe? One factor in favor of a pipe bomb is that, of the various things that explode, it’s easy to make and clearly the fertilizer wasn’t stolen to raise tomatoes. Sure, pipe bombs often kill the inexperienced maker, but often isn’t always.

It doesn’t take long to scout out the store, as it’s small and I’m already familiar with it. I peer at the fertilizer for longer than necessary and study the camera in the ceiling with a thoughtful frown. Basically this gives the impression that I know what I’m doing, because it’s not enough to know your job, you have to convince people that you know it. It’s also good to make sure they think it’s hard, or that your trained eye sees something they don’t, otherwise they think any idiot can do your job.

“Do you still have the opened bag of fertilizer and the model rocket?”

“Yes,” Wiley answers readily. “I didn’t know if they would be good for forensics, because so many people have touched them, but I kept them in the stockroom.”

And that proves my point, if only in my own head. Wiley’s seen enough procedural shows to think about fingerprints and trace evidence, so he might think I’ll have this wrapped up in forty-two minutes, give or take a commercial break. Television does make it look like any idiot can do this job.

“Lead the way.”

The stockroom is beside the single toilet bathroom, and about the same size. The door has two locks that open with the same key, so it’s not hard to pick but a little more time-consuming. It is visible to both the cash register and the office, if the office door is open, making that time even harder to come by. The Tufanos stand aside, knowing the room is too small for three adults. With the overstocked goods and crammed shelves, it’s almost too small for only me. Wiley points to a bag of fertilizer with a model rocket box on top of it, taking up valuable floor space. I move toward it and take an undignified squatting position.

The fertilizer bag is new, having been bought for this last growing season. It would have the fingerprints of the makers, movers, and potential buyers all over it, along with the Tufano’s. So, the only fingerprints of value would be the ones inside, if the thief hadn’t worn gloves and I had access to fingerprint databases. I skip that for now, expecting more from the model rocket box. That’s been in the store a few years, as the sun-bleached cardboard can attest. Probably a big seller when people could afford hobbies. The shrink wrap was removed and probably carried away by the thief, taking his fingerprints with them. Even, maybe, using the plastic wrap as a makeshift glove, so he didn’t look weird wearing gloves in late summer.

I use the tip of a finger to touch the box, accessing something the cops can’t as I reach for my magic. The first emotion I find there is Wiley’s fear of the missing fuse, flowing back into his annoyance at discovering that the box has been stolen from, opened. I shake that aside to move further back, to that last person to touch inside the box, a kid curious and unaware that an open box is trouble. Oh, here, days before Wiley noticed, the box was open.

Quick hands, as our thief lifts out the fuse, wrapped in the plastic wrapper, knowing exactly what they were after. No hope, as our thief didn’t care about being caught, just didn’t want to be caught here, before their act of revenge. The future held only jail and death, so revenge was all she could get. Somewhere, a small touch of irony, as she’d always wanted to try one of these kits, but never had the smiling dad on the front picture to help her. Gone, back into the time before our thief touched the box, and I pull away.

A few blinks, a different level of concentration, and I stand, turning back to the waiting Tufanos. “I’m going to look into this, ask around the other businesses, that sort of thing. If the thief expected to live through a pipe bomb, they’d need a remote detonator, like a cell phone wired into the fuse. In the meantime, if you’ve got an unused room upstairs, in the apartment over the store, I’d ask you to move the evidence up there. Could probably move most of this stuff up there.”

Walking out of the room, I gently touch each of them on the shoulder as I pass. As if under a magic spell, they stop thinking about me as anybody important. They’ll move the evidence but forget why it’s important until I ask for it or cause them to completely forget. I don’t need interference from professionals, not until I’m sure the thief is a threat to anyone besides herself. People without hope, without anything to hold them here, wind up self-destructing eventually.

“You know,” Wiley says as I slip into the stairway, “If we took the door off, we’d have space to sell more things.”

“We could sell holiday decorations; they’ve got huge markups.” Cathy responds, eyes on the bottom line.

Good luck to them, as they need the business. I make it upstairs to do a quick search of the apartment, realizing which grown-up’s childhood bedroom is about to be made into a storeroom. Then more stairs, until I’m on the roof. Not much of a view, as it’s only a two-story building, but it gives me a different perspective.

My magic identified the perpetrator as female, which is only helpful in that it limits some of the population. Could easily be someone who identifies as female even though the rest of the world might have a different opinion on that. Female, and there is Hank, loitering around the corner store. Wait, ‘convenience store,’ not ‘corner.’ Just flew back across the pond and boy, is it hard shifting idioms. Either way, it’s time to kill two birds with one stone, as I find out just how good at faces Hank is. Taking the fire escape to the alley, I pull out a compact and adjust my nose. I aim for somewhere between ‘Romanesque’ and ‘cartoon witch’ as I head for Hank.

“Hank?” I ask as if I’m not sure.

He turns from the store window, flirtatious smile at the ready. It twitches as he recognizes me, but doesn’t remember my nose being that big. He blinks away the strangeness, putting my change down to some reason he can understand, like florescent lighting in the store.

Humans have such a marvelous capacity for self-deception; I hope no one gets mad at me for taking advantage of it.

“How can I help you?” Hank asks, and I grimace.

“For starters, you could emphasize any word in that sentence except ‘you’. Say it flat, and it’s a question you can ask anybody, including possible employers. The way you just said it made it sexual and weird.”

“Well, I’d do anything to help a pretty lady.” The flirting Hank is still there, but now with an undercurrent of confusion. He’s not sure what I said or why I said it, and I stop myself from rolling my eyes.

“Hank, think about what you just said. Now, say it again, but keep the ‘a pretty lady’ part silent.”

“I’d do anything to help?” Confusion is winning out over flirting, so that’s a step in the right direction.

“Exactly. The person who said that version, I’d think about hiring. Treating me as a pretty lady instead of a potential employer sends me and my money running.”

“I’m just being friendly.” Hank says, trying for flirtatious but it’s getting lost in annoyance. Clearly he’s heard stuff like this before, just not let it sink in.

I fight back my automatic response of ‘if that was true you’d be that friendly with the guys’ because that automatic reaction is also useless.

“How many jobs did you have last week?”

“Four, and they’ll give me good references. I do good work.”

“How many were female?”

“Three.” Hank snaps back, as if that proves he knows how to talk to women.

“Were any of them new customers?”

He takes a little longer to answer this one, not liking where he thinks I’m going. “No.”

“How many potential new customers did you approach?”

“A lot.”

“Okay, that’s a hard number to quantify. So let’s say ten. You approached at least ten new people and got zero jobs. For the next seven days, I want you to approach at least ten women, call them a pretty lady, but keep that part silent. Say ‘could I help you with some home repairs, pretty lady,’ but only think the ‘pretty lady’ part. Can you do that?”

He nods, annoyance in his glare. He can, but he won’t, since I’m wrong. I’m only a woman, so what do I know about how women like to be approached?

“Promise to do this, and if you don’t get five new clients during this week, I’ll give you a hundred bucks.”

“I could go for a hundred bucks.” He consoles me, knowing he’s going to win. He is, just not the hundred from me.

Approach a job with a professional attitude and you’re more likely to get that job. Once you know the person, the work environment, then you can relax a little. How many women he hit on to ask for work thought ‘if this idiot could do the work then so can I?’

“How do I get my reward?” With the word ‘reward’ his eyes drop to my chest, and this time I do roll my eyes. I break his line of sight with a business card.

“Call me, be honest, and I’ll bring you the money.”

He reaches for the card, and I pull it back.

“Just one more thing before we’re done.” I hand him the card and wait until he’s pocketed it before continuing. “Wiley says you’re good with faces.”

“I didn’t know he knew that.” Hank looks pleased with the compliment, even though it’s not technically one.

I move along, having a potential bomber to catch. “He thinks someone stole something from him, and I’m checking into it.”

“I’ll help, Wiley’s a nice guy, and Cathy’s a …” He trails off, so I smile at him.

“That’s right, keep that pretty lady comment to yourself. Now, think back. In the last month, do you remember someone coming in for several days in a row, and then they just stopped coming?”

“I might remember a face, but not their schedule.” No flirting now, as he’s focused on helping the Tufanos.

He’s on the right track, so I risk reaching out to touch his mind, seeing what he sees. “Female, she avoided you. Probably bought a bunch of pipe, no sealant.”

“Pipe? With the ends fitted. She was there right after that summer storm, the one that flooded Mrs. Bruce’s basement. I needed some concrete screws to replace the window that was broken in the storm, and pipes are right next to the screws. Girl was young, could have been really beautiful but she was in all black except the army surplus raincoat. She didn’t have the makeup like those kids that try to be frightening and only look ugly in the daylight. Lots of kids like that these days.”

I know it’s going to give me nightmares about elevators that don’t go to the top floor, but I sneak a little further into his thoughts. Use my best hypnotic voice and some mind play to shove him in the direction I need to go.

“You saw the girl, the one buying pipe? You probably turned to ask if she needed help. Picture her in your mind. Just hold that image out for me.”

It is an ugly olive drab raincoat she’s got on, with obvious places where the waterproofing has worn off. Her visible clothes aren’t black so much as old, ragged, washed-out of most colors. She’s not wearing any makeup, and her hair hangs limply under the collar of the raincoat. I wouldn’t peg her as a Goth, as Hank did, so much as someone who has given up on caring how she looks. She’s holding a reusable bag, the only thing that looks even slightly new. Galvanized pipes shine in the bottom of her hand basket, end pieces already on two of them with a scattering of other pipes and caps.

Hank only got a brief look as she turned away, not toward the cash register but towards the shifted fertilizer. Having a suspect, I back out of Hank’s mind and release him from his trance.

“You give me a call if you don’t get more customers by keeping the compliments silent.” I almost shout, letting Hank come back to the real world.

“Right, I will. I could use a hundred bucks.” Hank grins at me, and I offer a jaunty wave as I head around the corner. If he thinks to follow me, I’ll be gone before he gets there. I have a face, and while it wouldn’t hold up in a court of law, it gives me something to look for. Hanging out with the pigeons, I look for that face. From there, it’ll be easy enough to follow her to a name, an address, and a motive.

####

Sitting on the steps and messing with her phone, Vickie wouldn’t have looked out of place at the local high school or college. She’s a little more noticeable here, where everybody is dressed professionally or accompanied by a guard. She’s at least out of the way, sitting in a stairwell only used occasionally. Most people who do come by will probably think she’s waiting for a parent to get off work. In a way, they’d be right; Vickie is still waiting for her parents to come home from that car ride. Her brain knows better, but her heart longs for a simpler time. 

Hoping to find her, I’d gone for the Goth hippie look. Black velvet skirt and dark colored, tie-dyed shirt match my mood, while the heavy chains and stomping boots can double as weapons. The cut of the clothes are from several decades back. Say what you want about the ‘fashions’ of hippies, including that they only flattered walking ironing boards, but they were comfortable. Putting my boots on the same step as Vickie’s lets me sit next to her. I stare at the blank wall in front of us, the doors to each level at our backs. 

She leans away, sensibly not wanting to get close to the stranger who just invaded her space. Retreating isn’t an option, because she doesn’t think she’ll be able to move forward again, once she starts going backward. I don’t know if that is a good life philosophy or not, but many people have to live that way. 

“We’re here to help each other through this thing, whatever it is.” She’s not going to appreciate any of the ways I could start this conversation, so I just dive in. 

Vickie gives me another sideways glance and leans even further away. 

“That’s a quote from the brother of a famous writer. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. knew how to put words together in interesting ways, yet he makes the point of attributing those words to his brother, Mark.”

“Leave me alone.”

“I know, you’re busy. Trying to decide what your brother will have to say about you.”

“What?” She almost growls at me. I’ve got her attention now, and a healthy dose of that anger she has.

“That’s not what you’re thinking about, not to your mind anyway, but that’s what it’ll come down to in time. Can you imagine, ten, twenty years from now, some true crime novelist gets Tim’s number, and asks him about you?” I pause to let that sink in through the anger. “What would you want him to say?”

Vickie glares as if to freeze the marrow in my bones, but her hands are trembling. 

“Something like ‘she must have been very smart to learn to make bombs without blowing herself up.’ Or would you rather Tim thinks ‘she helped a great many people.’ Who am I kidding; he’d say you helped a lot of people. That phrase is pretty entrenched in the lexicon now.”

“What do you want?”

“A good question, but if you think about it, you’ll realize that’s what I’m asking you.” I shrug at her. “Set the bomb off, and you will be caught. You’ll get your day in court, but not your say. They’ll use it to prove they made the right choice in denying you Tim’s guardianship.”

“I just wanted that judge to take me seriously.” Her voice is soft, as if she’s not really talking to a stranger about this. 

“Murder, attempted and accomplished, is taken very seriously, even by Judge Perry. They’ll try and fry you as an adult, and Tim will be the victim.”

“I’m scared for my brother’s life, and that judge started laughing at me for crying. I can’t get a lawyer to take my case now, not for free, and I’m on record as being a silly little girl who can’t tell the difference between dolls and little brothers.” There are tears now, from frustration and anger.

Many people cry when faced with confrontations or emotional situations they need to process. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and yet breaking down like this on the stand would have been enough to have her dismissed as being a child. The judge could even say it on record, and nobody would fault him for it. 

“Breathe, and let it out; I’m not going to judge you. I won’t even force you to do what I want, I just want to give you another option.” I turn and stare at the wall some more. It’s not that interesting a wall, that cinder-block look with the industrial paint found all over the world. What is that, cream, off-white?

“Revenge was all I could think of.” Vickie mutters when she’s ready to continue. 

“Judge Perry was a legacy to his law school, which means he comes from a long line of lawyers and politicians.”

“That figures,” Vickie offers with the same disgust most people feel for politicians. 

“Whole family is rich, and basically out-of-touch with the rest of the world. The rest of the family will have to destroy their own careers with stupidity, but Judge Perry we can fix. Rich marries rich, but being elected to the state Supreme Court isn’t cheap. He wouldn’t need as much money if he was the victim of a pipe bomb, that’d just be proof that he was tough on crime. Right now, though, he needs a great deal of his wife’s money this next election. That money comes from her family’s percentage of the legal diamond trade in the state.”

“You want me to steal diamonds?” She asks, annoyance clear in her voice. 

“No,” I wave dismissively, to make sure she knows that wasn’t my idea. “My contacts already have people for that.” 

Her face shifts, and now she’s not worried I’m crazy so much as crazy and dangerous.

“I’m trying to convince them that paid workers are better workers, even when they are only editing the engraving on stolen diamonds.” I make it sound easy, like I’m not going to have to threaten and bribe to get her on the payroll. “They just need steady hands and determination. That pipe bomb in your backpack proves you’ve got that.”

Twenty minutes ago she was planning how to get the bomb closest to the judge, and now I’m offering her a job with the mob. I don’t really blame Vickie for getting to her feet and pacing up and down the stairs. She did leave the backpack on the stairs, not wanting to jostle the contents with her steps. 

This is probably too much for her to take in, a criminal job instead of a criminal record. I can’t make this decision for her, or force her around to my way of thinking. All I can do is give her room to think about it, so I stand. I pull a plain yet functional business card from the pocket of my skirt, and hold it out until she takes it. 

“Explosion or phone call; let me know what you decide.” I give her a shrug, turn, and go up the stairs to the next door. Soon, I’ll be out of the building, but what destruction have I left behind?

####

I don’t go far, and I can’t rest easily, so pacing it is. A tiny patch of green to gentrify the courthouse, complete with Keep Off The Grass signs, so I pace there. Grass is way more resilient than concrete, given half a chance. It’s humans and their strange need to make everything look neat even when it’s falling apart that makes them put up signs like that. Before I get too deep into deriding humans, I pull out my cell phone. Speed dial gets me to a voice of reason and humor, Leo the lawyer.

“Good evening, Miss. To what do I owe this call?” Leo answers promptly, so I guess it’s after business hours.

“I’m waiting for the finer nature of humanity to assert itself.”

“I would like to wish you the best of luck with that.”

“Small doses of luck mean small victories, but I’ll take what I can get.” I don’t waste time explaining what I mean, even though the more time passes the less likely I am to get a good response. If Vickie plants the bomb tonight, she’ll have to wait for Judge Perry to return to his office in the morning to activate it.

“What will you get if the darker impulses triumph?” Leo doesn’t need details to ask the pertinent questions.

“As my lawyer, I will leave that between you and the courts, but I might have another dead body and tarnished soul on my conscience.”

“As your lawyer, I know no one will judge you as harshly as you do.”

“I’m pretty sure I was burned as a witch in a previous life; that was some harsh external judgement.”

“Yes, well, I wasn’t your lawyer then.” In Leo’s calm voice, this is a statement of fact and a promise of a different outcome.

“Fair enough, but not enough for an increase in your retainer.” I don’t actually pay Leo anything, but that’s at his refusal of the idea.

“What do you lose if the better part of human nature prevails?”

“For starters, it’d be cheaper to pay the salary out of my own pocket than to convince the mob to change their way of doing this part of the business.”

“If only their pride and superiority complex would allow such a change.” Leo’s almost sarcastic when he responds, as he doesn’t think well of anyone who chooses a life of organized crime.

“I’d rather deal with the Armenian Mob than your family.”

A pause, while Leo decides if he’s insulted enough to disagree. Hint; he never is.

“I find that I concur, and am as always, glad to have distanced myself from them.”

“Hey, I’m getting another call, might be my expensive answer. Bye for now.”

“Farewell.” I let him say before I accept the call from the unknown caller. 

“Vickie?”

“You Nancy?”

“For the current round of paperwork, I find I am Nancy.” A pause, one many people need when encountering my speech patterns. 

“I’ll take that job.” 

“You can’t see me, but I’m doing a celebratory dance.” 

“Okay.” It’s more question than statement, but she moves on. “Thing is, I never learned how to undo that thing I made.”

I bite back a laugh. “Tell me where you are, I’ll take that thing off your hands and give you the details.”

She’s in the alley behind the courthouse, so it doesn’t take long at all to fly over there. I cheat, and drop the pipe bomb into a pocket dimension for a little while, even though Vickie thinks it’s just my coat pocket. I call Rabo Polevoi, my contact with a certain mob that speaks English as a second language, and he suggests a diner. I take Vickie there to meet her new employer and let myself believe in the good of humanity. Or at least the ‘not blow up our enemies’ good of humanity. 

 

Acknowledgments

 

To Tim and Terry, for all their help, but especially for their encouragement.

 

Thank you for reading my short story.

If you enjoyed it, please consider buying the first novel in the series from me.

Telling Truths

Thanks!

Nani Nicks

Favorite me at Smashwords: Nani Nicks


Vodka Vickie

The makings of a pipe bomb are missing and private eye turns up at just the right time. It's almost magical.

  • ISBN: 9781311115782
  • Author: Nani Nicks
  • Published: 2015-09-28 09:05:07
  • Words: 6093
Vodka Vickie Vodka Vickie