The Hitwoman and the 7 Cops
Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman Book 7
All reluctant hitwoman Maggie Lee really wants is to have a calm, normal life.
She doesn’t want to go around killing people for money.
She doesn’t want her sister to be terrified of her ex-pimp.
She doesn’t want her Dad to disappear from the Witness Protection program.
But Maggie rarely gets what she wants.
Instead, she finds herself trying to keep everyone out of trouble.
With the help of her ragtag team of supporters: her semi-psychic friend, a handsome, charming con man, her almost-lover cop/hitman mentor, her curious Southern Belle cat, her haughty lizard, and her sweet, but dumb Doberman, Maggie does her best to stay a step ahead of Law Enforcement, while helping those she loves.
But will Maggie end up being the one who needs to be saved?
You know it’s going to be a bad day when you’re awakened by the phrase, “Give me all your cash.”
I opened just one eye to glare at the woman trying to separate me from my hard-earned money.
Instead of flinching like I’d hoped she would, my sister Marlene shook my shoulder to make sure I was awake enough to hear her outrageous demand. “Wake up, Maggie. I need your cash.”
I swatted her hand away. “I heard you the first time.”
“Gotta! Gotta!” a high-pitched bimbo-y voice insisted.
Sitting up, I surveyed my surroundings. I was disappointed to see I was in the basement apartment of the Bed & Breakfast owned be my aunts, and not, as I’d been dreaming, in a gorgeous Venetian ballroom waltzing with Patrick Mulligan.
“Gotta!” The “bimbo” was my seventy-five-pound Doberman pinscher, Doomsday (who prefers to be called DeeDee).
Sighing my disappointment, I flopped back, spread-eagle, onto the couch I’d fallen asleep on. I closed my eyes, trying to recall the thoroughly enjoyable imaginary dance with the sexy, redheaded, cop/hitman.
“Seriously, Maggie. I need your cash. All of it.”
“Gotta! Gotta!” DeeDee panted.
Grudgingly I opened my eyes and squinted at Marlene. “Why?”
“I just do. I’ll pay you back.”
It’s not like Marlene, having recently returned to the family fold after an extended career as a call girl, has any visible means of financial support. She lives in my bedroom in the B&B (which is why I’m stuck living in the basement…. Well, that and the fact my apartment on the wrong side of town was blown up by this crazy bomber dude).
“I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important.” Marlene pouted petulantly.
“What do you need it for?”
“Gotta! Gotta!” Desperation pitched the dog’s whine higher than usual.
“In the name of all that is holy, set the beast free before she soils herself,” a haughty male voice with an English accent intoned.
I frowned at the glass enclosure on the other side of the room that housed the small, brown anole lizard named Godzilla (“call me God”) that had been my niece’s pet. Hanging out on a piece of driftwood at the bottom of his cage, he stuck his tongue out at me. I’m pretty sure that’s the reptilian version of flipping someone the bird.
“Are you going to give it to me or not?” Marlene stomped her foot and crossed her arms over her chest, just like she’d done when she was five and was about to throw a temper tantrum.
“Gotta!” DeeDee barked insistently, her need to empty her bladder overriding the house rule of using her inside bark.
I pointed at the dog. “Do me a favor and let her out?”
“C’mon, mutt,” Marlene muttered, hurrying over to the cellar storm doors and letting the dog out so she could do her early morning business.
While they did that, I reached for my purse and pulled out my wallet. “All I’ve got is forty-two bucks.”
“That’s not enough.” Still, Marlene didn’t hesitate to pluck the bills out of my hand.
“Enough for what?”
I snatched my money right back. “You mean your pimp?”
That made her flinch.
I slapped my hand over my mouth guiltily, but the gesture was too late. The damning words had escaped and now hung between us like an electrified fence neither of us were brave enough to touch.
We hadn’t talked much about how Marlene had survived over the years she’d been estranged from the family, but I imagined her life hadn’t been easy. Who was I, someone who’d taken to killing people for money (albeit for the very good reason of paying for our niece’s medical care), to judge someone for taking money for performing sexual acts?
Silently, I extended the crumpled bills toward her, my version of an olive branch.
Instead of taking them, she whispered, “I’m scared.”
Swinging my legs over the side so I was sitting on the couch instead of lying on it, I patted the seat beside me. “What’s going on?”
Marlene perched on the cushion beside me, teetering on the edge like she was ready to take off at any moment. She twirled her hair around her index finger just like she had as a nervous eight-year-old who’d accidentally broken one of Aunt Susan’s prized vases. She looked at me with the same rounded eyes, thoroughly expecting me, as her older sister, to be able to fix the situation and make it better.
My stomach lurched traitorously. I knew I wasn’t in any position to help her. I could barely pull off the jobs asked of me by the chocolate-pudding-loving mob boss, Delveccio, and the mysterious Ms. Whitehat, who wasn’t beyond blackmailing me to get her assignments done.
Yet, despite knowing how ill-prepared I was, I reflexively asked, “How can I help?” Gently, I pressed the forty-two dollars into her hand.
Marlene shrugged. “I don’t know. He knows I’m here.”
“And he wants money?” I looked at her knuckles, white from clutching the cash so tightly.
“He wants me to come back to work for him.”
“And you don’t want to?”
The shake of her head was almost imperceptible.
“You’ve told him that?”
“And what did he say?”
She shuddered. “You don’t want to know. Let’s just say he’s a guy accustomed to getting what he wants and he’ll use any means necessary to get it.”
Wrapping an arm around her shoulders, I gave her a reassuring hug. “You’re safe here, Marlene.”
She chuckled, the sound rough and incredulous. “This from the woman who was attacked and almost killed in this very house.”
“You heard about that, huh?”
“No secrets in this place. Aunt Loretta claims that Templeton saved your life. Is that true?”
“It is.” While I’d never been certain about the motives of Aunt Loretta’s latest love, he had saved my life.
“But you don’t trust him?”
I shrugged. “It’s not like Loretta’s relationship track record is that impressive.”
“Yeah. Did you see that Uncle Jose died recently? Crushed by a chandelier at his daughter’s wedding.”
“Tragic,” God mocked from his enclosure.
I nodded. Jose Garcia had been a member of the family for a short time. He’d also been a murderous drug dealer, which is why I’d been tasked with killing him. I hadn’t been able to complete that particular assignment, but I took credit for his death by disco ball.
The idea of murdering a man, who’d made a fairly decent uncle, in front of his family had been too much for me to stomach. I hadn’t killed Jose Garcia, but Delveccio thought I’d had. Since he paid Katie’s hospital bill to show his appreciation, I never disabused him of that notion.
Marlene sighed. “You don’t know Wally. This isn’t going to end well.”
“Is he violent?”
Trembling, she nodded.
“I won’t let him hurt you.”
She hugged me tightly. “Don’t take this the wrong way, Sis, but I don’t think you’ll be able to stop him.”
I couldn’t very well tell her that I’m way more capable than she imagines. After all, I’ve killed a mobster’s son-in-law, a paid assassin, and a seemingly mild-mannered accountant who’d bashed someone else’s head in with a crowbar. Somehow, I didn’t think a guy who got off on terrorizing young women would be much of a challenge. “How much does he want?”
“We should be able to come up with that.”
“It’s what he wants this time,” Marlene corrected. “Next week, he’ll probably demand two thousand. It’ll never end.”
“So what are you going to do? Go around begging people for money, hoping you can pay him to leave you alone?”
She shrugged. “I could leave town.”
“Don’t you dare!” I knew things weren’t perfect with Marlene, but the idea of losing her again so soon after our sister Teresa had died was enough to break my heart.
“You just don’t want to be left alone with the witches,” Marlene teased lightly, calling our aunts by the nickname we’d used for them growing up.
“I don’t want to lose you,” I told her seriously.
“You don’t even know me, Maggie.”
“I’d like to.”
“Oh save me from the treacle-laced sentiment,” God groused from his enclosure.
Sitting beside Marlene meant I was unable to tell him to shut up without looking like I was a crazy woman. I shot him a dirty look, which wasn’t nearly as satisfying.
Before we could get anything settled, Aunt Leslie opened the storm doors and let the dog back inside. She followed closely behind, despite the fact she hadn’t been invited.
“Good morning,” Leslie trilled. “How are my favorite nieces?”
She’d become a much cheerier person since she’d hooked up with Narcotics Anonymous. While most of the time I approved of her changes, I wasn’t overly fond of her early chipperness. Then again, I’m not a morning person. “Morning,” I muttered.
“We’re your only nieces who aren’t dead,” Marlene told our aunt. “So I guess we’re in better shape than the others.”
Leslie’s smile faltered. “I didn’t mean…”
Elbowing Marlene in the ribs, I said, “She didn’t mean that, Aunt Leslie.”
“I kinda did,” Marlene countered.
Her twin, Darlene, had been murdered years earlier.
(Or at least that’s what everyone believed….everyone except me, who’d recently been told by a psychic that our older sister Teresa, Katie’s mother, had passed along the message that Darlene, was, in fact, still alive).
The only thing I knew for certain was that Teresa had perished in the accident that had left me with the ability to talk to animals. Needing to change the subject before I, or anyone else said something stupid, I said, “Thanks for letting DeeDee back inside.”
“Hungry,” DeeDee panted, as though having her name spoken aloud gave her permission to speak.
“Your cat’s still out there.” Leslie informed me. “She didn’t seem to want to come inside.”
“She’s fine out there.” I wasn’t worried about the one-eyed, one-eared Southern Belle of a cat who pretty much did as she pleased.
“I’m going to visit your mother,” Leslie said. “I was wondering if either of you would like to go with me.”
“I promised Katie that I’d visit with her and I’ve got a meeting scheduled with one of her doctors.”
“Do you think they’re getting ready to send her home?” Leslie asked hopefully.
I secretly hoped the meeting wasn’t about that. While I desperately wanted Katie to make a full recovery from the car accident that had killed her parents and left her in a coma, as her legal guardian, I didn’t feel like I was prepared yet to provide the best post-hospital life for her.
“I wouldn’t get your hopes up,” I told Leslie.
“What about you Marlene?” Leslie asked, undeterred. “Would you like to visit your mother?”
“Umm,” Marlene said hesitantly.
I knew the feeling. I was never too eager to go visit Mom either.
Marlene surprised me by saying, “Okay, I’ll go.”
I raised my eyebrows silently, asking her about her sudden change of heart.
She looked away, which left me to wonder if she was thinking of hiding from Wally at the nuthouse where Mom resides.
“Wonderful!” Leslie clapped her delight.
DeeDee plopped her heavy head into my lap, looked up at me pitifully, and whined softly, “Hungry.”
“What’s wrong with the mutt?” Marlene asked.
“Let me count the ways,” God shouted from his enclosure.
Marlene frowned at the reptile. “And why’s the lizard squeaking?”
“I don’t squeak!” God thundered.
But to Marlene and Leslie it sounded like a squeak.
“The dog’s hungry,” I said quickly.
“I’ll feed her,” Leslie offered.
Faster than a sailor abandoning a sinking ship, DeeDee left me and bounded over to Leslie. She waited expectantly at my aunt’s feet.
“It’s like she understood what I said,” Leslie marveled.
“She can’t even understand what comes out of her own mouth,” God griped.
“Maybe the lizard’s squeaking because he’s hungry too,” Marlene suggested.
“I do not squeak!”
“I’ve got a headache,” I muttered as Leslie and DeeDee made their way up the stairs and into the kitchen. Once they were out of earshot, I turned my attention to Marlene. “We’ll figure out what to do about this Wally character. Just promise me you won’t do something stupid like take off.”
“Okay,” she agreed grudgingly. “But only because I couldn’t get very far on forty-two bucks.”