The Hitwoman Hunts a Ghost
Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman Book 6
Bumbling hitwoman Maggie Lee has discovered the sister she thought was dead might be alive. She’s desperate to find her, but all of her bosses are making unreasonable demands. Demands she can’t afford not to meet.
Once again, Delveccio, the chocolate pudding loving mob boss, needs someone whacked.
Her obnoxious boss at her day job insists she intervene on his behalf with her semi-psychic friend, Armani.
And the mysterious organization with the power to put her almost-lover Patrick behind bars has saddled her with an annoying new partner and sent her on a mission that has gone to the dogs.
With the clock ticking, Maggie (along with her snarky lizard, dyslexic Doberman and Southern belle cat) does her best to pull off every job without winding up in jail or dead…but is her best good enough?
You know it’s going to be a bad day when God tells you to call in sick.
Not that I was getting messages from an all-knowing deity or anything. No, I was being told to call in sick by a smug, entitled brown anole lizard, who sounds an awful lot like Alan Rickman. His name is Godzilla…but he prefers God for short.
“Call in sick and get me a new place to sleep,” the demanding reptile boomed as I sleepily turned off my alarm. “I’m tired of slumming it and living like a hobo.”
Rolling over, I glared at him with my best who-dares-speak-to-me-before-I’ve-had-my-coffee look.
He wasn’t impressed. Jutting out his chin, he puffed out his dewlap, the orange flap of skin beneath his jaw. In the animal world that might seem intimidating, to me it was just amusing.
“Are you going to huff and puff and blow my house down?” I asked with more than a hint of sarcasm.
“Fight no,” my grammatically-challenged Doberman Pinscher DeeDee interrupted. “Gotta. Gotta.” She sneezed for good measure.
While the lizard’s demands hadn’t been enough to stir me to action, the threat of the dog emptying her bladder indoors was enough to have me jumping up.
“Sure,” God drawled from his perch atop the television. “Do what she wants. Take care of her needs while you ignore mine.”
Ignoring him, I pulled a blanket around my shoulders and snapped the mutt’s leash on.
“Gotta. Gotta. Gotta,” she panted as she pulled me up the flight of stairs and out of the basement.
I’m living in the basement of my aunts’ Bed & Breakfast because my apartment was blown up (not to mention my Lady of the Night sister Marlene has returned to the family fold and commandeered my old room) but that’s another story.
Thankfully there was no one in the kitchen and we were able to get outside without interruption. Then of course, the dog, who’d carried on like she was going to die if she didn’t pee immediately, took her sweet time finding a place to do her business.
Finally she found her magical spot. While she did her thing, I shivered and watched my aunt Leslie, in the far corner of the back yard, move through a series of yoga poses.
I don’t know anything about yoga, except that I have no interest in contorting myself into unnatural positions, but Patrick, my murder mentor and almost lover, had told me that Aunt Leslie did something called sun salutations.
I’m not a morning person, so I have no desire to greet the sun.
I almost escaped back into the B&B without being noticed, but the moment my hand hit the doorknob I heard, “Maggie?”
Not in the mood for small talk, I turned grudgingly to face Aunt Leslie.
“I thought that was you.”
“Who else would it be?” I asked.
“You and Marlene are looking more and more alike. Especially when I don’t have my contacts in.”
“Oh.” Sure it wasn’t sterling conversation, but I hadn’t had any coffee yet.
Abandoning her salutations, she walked toward me. “I need to ask a favor of you.”
My heart fell. Not because of whatever the favor was going to be, but because she was intent on having an actual conversation.
DeeDee yanked on her leash, eager to greet Leslie. Abandoning all hope to escape, I let go of the lead, watching as she bounded toward my aunt with unbridled joy.
“Good morning, DeeDee,” Leslie laughed, bending to pat the dog on the head.
“Morning good,” the mutt woofed.
“Shhh,” I chastised. “You’ll wake everyone.” Not that I cared whether everyone in the B&B got their beauty sleep, but I’d hoped to leave for work without being forced to talk to them all.
“Grouchy,” DeeDee whined, before sneezing twice.
“Are you getting sick?” Leslie asked the dog.
“Cold.” The dog hung her head, doing her best poor, pitiful puppy impression.
“That favor?” I prompted.
“I’m volunteering at Apple Blossom Estates today and one of the other volunteers is going to drive me over to my meeting. I was wondering if you could pick me up after you’ve visited with Katie.”
“You’re the best, Maggie.” She enveloped me in a bear hug.
For most of my life Aunt Leslie has reeked of pot, but now that she was committed to staying On The Wagon she didn’t have that sickeningly sweet scent clinging to her. But she did smell of something.
“Is that patchouli?” I asked suspiciously as she did her best to break my ribs with her hug.
“Yes. Gypsy said I could have it. Do you like it?”
“No.” I hated the scent of patchouli and I definitely didn’t want to be reminded of Gypsy, a former B&B guest and ghost whisperer, every time I came within sniffing distance of my aunt.
“Really?” Leslie asked. “Should I stop wearing it?”
“Stinky,” DeeDee opined, covering her nose with her paw for emphasis.
“Yes,” I replied, pointing to the dog.
Leslie laughed. “Okay.”
“Thank you,” I said sincerely. “What time does your meeting get out?”
“Perfect, I’ll see you then. I’ve got to get to work now.”
“Tell Armani I said hi,” Leslie called as I hurried back inside the B&B.
Ninety minutes later, on my way to my cubicle at Insuring the Future, I stopped by the desk of my co-worker and friend Armani Vasquez. She was deep in thought, studying the seven Scrabble tiles she had spread out in front of her.
“Who pulled them?” I asked, instead of going with something trite like ‘Good morning.’.
Pushing her shampoo-commercial-worthy hair off her face with her good hand (the other was injured in a tragic Zamboni accident that could have been avoided if only she’d paid attention to her own, ‘Ice, ice, baby” psychic prediction) she glared at me. “Harry.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle. The idea of Armani giving psychic advice to our pepperoni-stinking, regulation-loving, power-abusing boss had a deliciously perverse ring to it.
Armani shook her head. “Don’t laugh. It’s a real problem.”
“What’s a problem?” I asked, but before she could answer I realized I was going to be late to sign into my computer. “Tell me at lunch, “ I said, hurrying away.
I slid into my desk chair with the smoothness of Tom Cruise sliding across the floor in his socks and boxers in Risky Business…or at least that was the delusion I liked to nurture, booted up my computer, typed in my password, slapped on my headset and signed into the system with less than a minute to spare.
“Thank you for calling Insuring the Future. This is Maggie,” I chirped in my best faux-caring voice, prepared to take an automobile accident claim with professionalism, no matter how stupid or unreasonable the caller was.
“It’s not like I have a choice,” a gravelly, male voice groused.
For the second time that morning I chuckled. Remembering I was supposed to be professional, I forced myself to use the line the company insisted we use at least once per call. “I’m sorry to hear that, sir.”
“I doubt it,” he muttered. “If I wasn’t calling, you’d be out of a job.”
“If it makes you feel any better, it’s not a job I enjoy,” I confessed, knowing there’d be hell to pay if my call ended up being audited and I was caught deviating from Insuring the Future’s acceptable script.
“I’m sure you don’t,” the man said, a hint of amusement lightening his tone.
“So now that we’ve determined neither of us is enjoying this call, shall we get down to business,” I asked lightly.
“Well, when you put it that way, how can I resist?”
His claim was quick and simple to take after that. I couldn’t blame him for being annoyed about his accident: an octogenarian had rear-ended him…because she’d been texting her boyfriend.
The rest of my morning didn’t go as pleasantly, and I was eager to take lunch, by the time I reached the end of my last call before my break.
Armani was already at our regular picnic table outside the building, far from the big ears of our gossiping co-workers.
Her gaze narrowed disapprovingly as I approached. “You forgot your lunch again?”
I shrugged. “It’s a crazy place in the morning. Leslie says ‘hi’ by the way.”
“How’s she doing? Still on the wagon?”
When Armani had read Aunt Leslie’s Scrabble tiles she’d convinced her to get clean. Again.
“I’m picking her up from a meeting tonight,” I replied carefully, remembering how short-lived Leslie’s last round of sobriety had lasted.
“Excellent!” Armani proclaimed, pushing a brown paper lunch bag across the table toward me.
I eyed in suspiciously. I like Armani, but her food combinations make me want to retch. Hoping to distract her, I asked, “So, what did you do about Harry’s tiles?”
“No vowels,” she muttered dejectedly. “What am I supposed to do without a vowel?”
“You could buy one,” I suggested, before it occurred to me that the only reason I came up with that idea was that I’d spent too much time with God watching Wheel of Fortune.
Armani didn’t look amused as she practically threw the paper bag at me. “Eat.”
I opened the bag cautiously, afraid of what I might find.
To my relief, all I found was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which I happily unwrapped and began eating.
“You have the diet of a five-year-old.” Armani pushed seven Scrabble tiles across the table toward me.
G G L L N R S
I bit into the PB&J as I looked at the little wooden squares. I wasn’t the psychic one, so I didn’t know what she wanted me to say, but since I was grateful for the sandwich I did my best to look concerned. “Maybe you should have him pick some more.”
Armani shook her head. “It doesn’t work that way. You don’t get to pick and choose your fate just because you don’t like what you’ve been given.”
“So what are you going to do?”
“I’ll tell him I couldn’t read them.”
Putting my sandwich down, I said, “You’ve done readings for pretty much everyone here, and you’re going to tell our boss that he’s the only one you can’t come up with a prediction for? Bad idea.”
“But I can’t.” She buried her head in her good hand. “What am I going to do?”
Considering that Armani usually had Harry bending over backward to accommodate her, it was worrisome to see her so concerned.
“Just make something up,” I suggested. “Tell him you see a promotion in his future.”
“I can’t do that.”
“Why not? Zimmer has to retire or die eventually,” I reasoned about Harry’s boss who was rumored to be closing in on ninety. “Everyone knows Harry’s waiting to get his job.”
“I can’t disrespect or abuse the gift that way.”
Considering that Armani’s “gift” had once consisted of her telling me to “Meet the man” and that had ended up having more to do with a leg of lamb than a date with a guy who eventually tried to kill me, I wasn’t sure her abilities really counted as a “gift,”But I didn’t tell her that. Instead I suggested, “Then tell him the time isn’t right to read them, that you’re waiting for a sign or something.”
She nodded slowly. “That might work.”
“It will work,” I assured her. “It’ll get Harry off your back for the moment and buy you some time to figure this thing out.”
She didn’t look convinced as she fiddled with the tiles absentmindedly, turning them over as though she hoped to find her missing vowel on the other side.
Satisfied I’d solved her problem, at least temporarily, I resumed eating my lunch. “You make a mean sandwich.”
“It’s bread, peanut butter and jelly,” she said, distaste dripping from every syllable. “It’s the most boring combination imaginable.”
“But I like it.”
“Then you should remember to make it for yourself,” she chided gently. “I know you have a lot on your mind, but you really need to take care of yourself.”
“It’s time to get back to work,” I said, not wanting to continue the conversation. I got up from the table. “Any good calls this morning?”
Armani rolled her eyes. “Just a woman who wasn’t sure how to spell her daughter’s name.”
Grabbing both my garbage and hers, I headed for the trash can. “Hopefully the afternoon is equally uneventful.”
Afterward I realized I’d jinxed myself.