The Hitwoman and the Neurotic Witness
Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman Book 5
When her apartment building is blown to smithereens, bumbling hitwoman Maggie Lee is forced to move back into the Bed & Breakfast she grew up in.
Living with her three meddling aunts is bad enough, but it just so happens that the B&B is also occupied by a U.S. Marshal, an FBI agent, her old friend Zeke who’s on a mysterious mission, and a woman who claims she can see dead people. These aren’t the kinds of roomies Maggie wants to spend time with, considering that in order to pay for her niece’s medical care she supplements her income by killing people.
Maggie avoids arrest and deals with a crazier-than-usual home life while trying to track down exactly who is blowing up the holdings of various crime families. To make matters worse, she’s walking a precarious tightrope between keeping her mobster bosses happy and protecting her murder mentor (and almost lover) Patrick Mulligan.
Aided by the warped predictions of her semi-psychic friend, her sarcastic, demanding, talking lizard and an always ravenous, dyslexic Doberman, Maggie juggles keeping secrets, unraveling riddles and protecting those she loves.
Can she do it all? Or will she suffer yet another unspeakable loss?
You know it’s going to be a bad day when you’ve got Piss on your chest, Doomsday staring you in the eye, and God singing, “Staying Alive” out of tune.
My name is Maggie Lee. Through a bizarre series of events (including a head injury that left me with the ability to talk to animals) I’ve become a hitwoman.
I wasn’t sure if either of those things was the reason my apartment had just been blown to smithereens. But there I was, sprawled out in the parking lot, every cell in my body aching, with a dog panting in my face, a one-eyed cat kneading my chest, and a snarky anole lizard singing off-key “Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin alive, stayin alive.”
“Doing what?” asked Doomsday (my grammatically-challenged Doberman, who prefers to be called DeeDee because it’s more feminine).
Thankfully the reptile stopped singing long enough to haughtily inform the dog, “Cardiopulmonary resuscitation.”
The dog cocked her head to the side. “What?”
“CPR, you ignoramus,” the lizard shouted. “We’re trying to save her life.”
“Song?” DeeDee asked.
“The American Heart Association says it’s the perfect beat to use,” God replied, before singing again. ““Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin alive, stayin alive.”
If Piss, the one-eyed cat, wasn’t pushing on my chest with her untrimmed claws, I might have been able to tell them that I was alive, but they were killing me.
Thankfully someone shooed her off of me.
My favorite mobster came into focus. Leaning over me, his diamond pinky ring sparkled like the North Star. I blinked. Either I was seeing double, or the strangely-named identical twins Tony and Anthony Delveccio were at my apartment complex.
That couldn’t be good.
Were they the ones who’d blown up my apartment? Were they here to finish the job?
“Can you sit up?” The twin wearing an avocado green silk shirt unbuttoned to his belly button asked.
Since the other one was wearing a tomato red shirt, I decided that avocado was Anthony and tomato was Tony.
“Are you okay?” Tomato, a.k.a.Tony asked.
“Imbeciles. Does she look okay?” God thundered indignantly.
Well, to me it sounded like he thundered…to people who can’t talk to animals it sounded like a high-pitched squeak.
“What the hell is that?” Anthony looked around trying to locate the source of the squeaking.
“It’s the lizard she’s always sneaking into the hospital that she thinks no one notices,” Tony replied. “It’s the kid’s pet.”
“He’s kind of cute,” Anthony said, reaching for my reptilian friend.
“Save me! Save me!” God screeched scampering away to hide behind Piss who was watching the mobsters suspiciously through her one good eye.
DeeDee’s growled warning made both men freeze. Anthony snaked his hand around to the back of his belt.
Afraid he was going to shoot my dog, I struggled into a sitting position. “Lie down,” I ordered the dog.
For once she did as I asked.
“You okay?” Tony crouched down to look me in the eye. I could have sworn I saw actual concern in his gaze.
I nodded. “What happened?”
“You’re lucky you got out,” Anthony said.
“We smelled gas.”
“We?” Anthony eyed the burning building. “You had someone in there with you?”
“Just my pets.”
“Just?” God sniffed haughtily.
Piss turned her one-eyed gaze on him, effectively shutting him up.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
“We were checking in on a local business venture we have a stake in,” Anthony said a tad too smoothly.
I guessed that the strip club right around the corner was probably their “business venture.”
“We saw the flames and thought we’d do the Good Samaritan thing,” Anthony continued.
I had no idea what “Good Samaritan” means in a mobster’s vernacular, but I doubted anything good came out of it.
“Plus,” Tony confided, patting my shoulder, “we know you live here.”
“Thanks.” I offered the man in the red shirt a weak smile. I knew he’d meant the words kindly, but the idea that two deadly mobsters know where I live was not particularly reassuring.
“You did us a solid taking down Kowalski and causing a headache for the Dubrovsky family,” Anthony said gruffly.
I nodded. I didn’t say that I’d almost died a couple times while just trying to keep my family safe. Let them think I’d done them a favor. Maybe they’d think twice about knocking me off now.
“But you’re going to be taking some heat now,” Tony said. “People will be watching you. Cops. Feds. Other organizations.”
I nodded knowing that he wasn’t talking about Kiwanis or Masons. He meant other crime organizations.
“So we gotta distance ourselves from you until things cool down,” Tony said.
The idea seemed to sadden him, so I did my best to not reveal that the prospect left me overjoyed. “I understand.”
“It’s business,” Anthony muttered.
“I get that,” I assured them.
Both men stiffened as sirens wailed in the distance.
“Fire trucks,” I reassured them.
“Cops won’t be far behind,” Anthony muttered, turning away. “We gotta go.” He hustled away toward a black sedan.
“You sure you’re okay?” Tony asked.
“You take care of yourself.” He hurried toward the car as the sirens grew closer.
I looked at my apartment building engulfed in flames. A quick scan of the area seemed to indicate that all my neighbors had made it out of the respective units. Some were crying. Some were in shock. Some looked pissed off.
I looked at the smoldering hole where my apartment had been. I swallowed hard, trying not to cry. That place had been my home. It had been my place to escape from The Witches. Now it was gone.
Sensing my distress, the animals gathered around me.
“Sad no,” Dee said, resting her heavy head on my shoulder. I tilted my head, leaning it against hers.
“It’ll be okay, Sugar,” Piss chimed in, nuzzling against my arm. I pet her distractedly.
“You are so screwed.” God opined.
I shot him a dirty look.
He shrugged. “Can’t argue with the truth.”
The fire trucks pulled into the parking lot, sirens blaring. The Delveccios were right, the police were close behind.
While the firefighters fought the blaze, the cops corralled the residents like we were horses that had escaped from a burning barn. There was a lot of yelling and arm waving, but not much communication.
“Grass Susan?” DeeDee suggested, clearly agitated by the chaos.
“What does that mean, moron?” God asked.
“It means she wants to go to where Susan and grass are. Don’t be so heartless,” Piss hissed.
As plans went, the dog’s idea was a good one, except for one small detail. “Sorry, girl. The keys for the car are in the apartment.”
She hung her head, disappointed.
“We’ll figure something out,” I assured her.
“While you’re so worried about the drooling beast,” God groused, “have you given any thought to what’s going to happen to me? You smashed my terrarium when you tripped.” He waved at the shards of glass scattered on the ground.
“She didn’t trip,” Piss said, narrowing her one good eye at him. “The explosion knocked her off her feet. You’re lucky she bothered to get you out. She could have left you to roast.”
“Who do you think you’re talking to?” God drew himself up to his full height attempting to look down his nose at her.
It didn’t work since he’s only a couple of inches tall at best.
“An ungrateful, cold-blooded fool.”
“Fight no,” DeeDee whined pitifully.
“She’s right,” I muttered. “The last thing we need is the two of you bickering like an old married couple.”
“I do not bicker,” God informed us haughtily.
“He actually believes that,” Piss drawled in a tone that indicated she thought the lizard was the dumbest creature she’d ever encountered. “Bless his heart.”
A uniformed police officer approached us. “You gotta have your dog on a leash.”
“Her leash is in the apartment.” I pointed at my smoking former residence.
“It’s the law. Dog’s gotta be leashed.”
“He’s dumber than she is,” the cat muttered.
“Be nice,” I warned.
“What?” the cop asked.
“I told my dog to be nice,” I said, straight-faced.
“Nice DeeDee,” the dog whined.
“You don’t leash it, I gotta call Animal Control,” the cop said.
“Not Animal Control!” Piss gasped.
“That what?” DeeDee asked on a scared whine.
“They trap you and take you away and no one ever sees you again,” Piss whispered, frightened.
“Away take?” DeeDee asked looking up at me worriedly.
“No one’s taking you anywhere.” I pat her head reassuringly.
“You’re not leaving me any choice,” the cop said, reaching for his radio.
In the previous couple of days I’d had an ex-boyfriend try to rape and murder me, faced down a professional hitman with nothing more than a stuffed dinosaur toy, and barely escaped being blown to bits in my apartment. I was in no mood for the officer’s petty antics.
I struggled to stand, ignoring pain and dizziness, to face this mini-crisis.
“Listen closely,” I ordered raising my voice. “I just lost my home. I told you her leash was inside. Unless you think I can pull one out of my butt, why don’t you just go do your job and leave me the hell alone?”
The cop scowled. “Listen, lady—”
He didn’t get any further because another car, an unmarked sedan with flashing lights barreled into the lot.
“Patrick!” Doomsday barked, wiggling her stub of a tail.
If I’d had one, I’d have wiggled mine too as the redhead jumped out of his car, his face a mask of worry. Instead I waved weakly, which was a bad idea since it threw off my shaky sense of balance. I stumbled, barely able to keep from falling.
“You okay?” Detective Patrick Mulligan (who’s also my murder mentor) asked hurrying toward me. The two words sounded as though they’d been ripped from the depths of his soul.
Shaken, I just stared, not answering.
DeeDee had no such hesitation. She launched herself at him panting, “Patrick. Patrick. Patrick.”
“Easy, girl,” Patrick murmured, patting her side without taking his eyes off me.
“Detective?” the uniformed officer interrupted. “You know this woman?”
“Are you okay, Miss Lee?” another familiar male voice called.
Tearing my gaze from Patrick’s I saw Marshal Griswald emerging from Patrick’s car. The U.S. Marshal who’d headed up the task force to capture my prison escapee father moved toward me. He looked almost as tired and beat up as I felt.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
“We’ve got this,” Patrick said, dismissing the uniformed cop.
“Her dog should be on a leash,” the cop muttered before heading back toward his brethren in blue to work crowd control.
“He’s a moron,” I said, watching him go.
“His father is the deputy police commissioner,” Patrick said dryly.
“What are you doing here?” I asked again staring up into his familiar green gaze. What I really wanted to do was throw myself into his arms like the dog had, but considering the place was crawling with cops and at least one Fed, that wasn’t a good idea.
“We heard the announcement on the radio,” Griswald interrupted. “We thought maybe someone….” He trailed off.
I could see from the haunted shadows in Patrick’s eyes that they’d thought maybe I was dead.
“We thought maybe the Lubovsky’s had targeted you,” Griswald said, finishing the thought.
His theory didn’t sound far-fetched, considering that I’d just helped to put incriminating evidence against the Lubovsky crime family into the hands of the FBI.
I swayed unsteadily, though I wasn’t sure if it was because of the revelation or because I was still dizzy from the blast.
“We should get you out of here,” Patrick said, stepping closer and grabbing my upper arm.
I knew he’d done it to make sure I didn’t keel over, but all I wanted to do was to lean into him and have him wrap his arms around me. But we couldn’t do that, not with a U.S. Marshal watching our every move, so instead I closed my eyes and focused on how good the physical contact, no matter how slight, felt.
“Maggie? Maggie?” Another voice called, shrill and panicked.
I opened my eyes and saw Aunt Loretta and her fiancé Templeton rushing toward us.
“My eyes! My eyes!” God moaned, covering his face with his front paws. “I’ve been scarred for life.”
If the shocked expressions on the faces of Patrick and Marshal Griswald were any indication, God wasn’t the only one traumatized by the sight.
Aunt Loretta, close to sixty but wearing a lacy negligee that anyone other than a twenty-year-old supermodel would have had trouble pulling off, came closer, breasts bouncing, thighs flashing, lace not covering a damn thing.
Templeton, also close to sixty, wearing pink silk boxers that left little to the imagination and nothing else, followed closely behind.
“Oh Maggie,” Loretta gasped, bosom heaving. “We were so worried.”
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
“We heard about the fire on Templeton’s police scanner and rushed right over.”
“I can see that,” I said dryly, instead of asking why Templeton had a police scanner.
“For the love of all that is holy, cover her! Cover her!” God begged.
“What’s that squeaking?” Loretta asked.
“Maybe you should put something on, Aunt Loretta,” I suggested.
She looked down at herself displayed in all her fleshy, half-naked glory. “This is just a tease. Part of the act of seduction. The important bits are covered.”
“Barely,” God griped. “A slight breeze and I’m going to be traumatized for life.”
“What is that noise?” Loretta asked, bending toward the sound, straining the tensile strength of the skimpy fabric.
Tearing his gaze away from the horrific sight, Patrick cleared his throat. “I’ve got a couple extra jackets in the car.”
“Get them,” the Marshal ordered. “Now.”
Patrick headed back to the unmarked car.
“What happened here?” Templeton asked.
Making sure that my gaze didn’t slip anywhere near his pink boxer shorts, I looked him in the eye. He seemed genuinely concerned.
“We smelled gas.”
“We?” the marshal asked sharply.
I pointed at Piss who was pretending not to listen to the conversation as she groomed herself. “We?”
“Smart kitty,” Templeton approved.
“Ugly deformed creature,” Loretta sniffed dismissively.
The cat stopped licking her paw in order to glare at my scantily-clad aunt. “Bless your heart,” she meowed with saccharine sweetness. “That’s like the pot calling the kettle black.”
“Bravo!” God cheered.
I laughed harder.
“What are you laughing at?” Loretta asked worriedly.
Unable to tell her that the cat had just said she, too, was an ugly, deformed creature, I just shrugged.
“Shock,” Templeton said. “The poor thing’s in shock.”
He stepped closer to wrap an arm around my shoulders. Not wanting to be touched by the nearly naked man in pink boxers, I stepped back. Still unsteady on my feet, I fell on my butt.
“You’re a woman of unparalleled grace,” the lizard groused, having barely escaped being crushed by my fall.
Patrick returned, thrusting oversized jackets at Loretta and Templeton while staring at me, sprawled in an undignified heap on the ground. “What happened?”
“She’s in shock,” Loretta told him with authority. “First she started laughing and then she fell over.”
“She can hear you,” I reminded her.
“We’ll have the EMTs check her out,” Marshal Griswald said. Stepping closer, he crouched down in front of me. “Did you notice anything strange before the explosion?”
“Besides the smell of gas?” I asked.
He nodded tightly.
I thought about it for a second. “I don’t think so.”
“You didn’t see anything? Hear anything?”
I shook my head.
He looked up at Patrick, who was staring down at us, his expression grim. “It’s not the way they usually get rid of their enemies.”
“Wait,” Loretta said, struggling to get into the jacket Patrick had provided like a magician struggles to get out of a straight jacket. “Are you saying someone tried to harm Maggie intentionally?”
The marshal straightened slowly. “We can’t rule out the possibility.”
“Oh my. Oh my!” Loretta began fanning herself.
“Catch her!” I yelled at Patrick.
To his credit, he moved quicker than a cat, and caught her as her eyes fluttered closed and she fell backward.
“She’s prone to fainting,” I said as Patrick carefully lowered her to the ground.
“Retta? Retta?” Templeton called, kneeling over his beloved and slapping her cheeks.
“Drama queen,” God muttered.
Ignoring my aunt and her histrionics, the marshal declared, “We’re going to put you in protective custody.”
Patrick, still crouched beside Loretta’s prone form, glanced over sharply, caught my eye, and gave a subtle shake of his head.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” I said slowly. I actually thought it sounded like a pretty good idea, but Patrick didn’t seem to agree so I followed his lead.
“Why not?” the marshal asked.
“Well, um…I have my pets to worry about.”
“Care take,” DeeDee agreed with an enthusiastic bark.
Patrick tilted his head in Loretta’s direction, indicating I should mention her.
“And then there’s my family,” I continued, my argument gaining strength. “What would happen to them? Are you going to guarantee their safety?”
Griswald frowned. I could practically read his thoughts on his face. No one in their right mind would volunteer to try to corral my crazy family.
Patrick stood up slowly, leaving Templeton to minister to Loretta. “We don’t even know if this is connected. This property has its own problems. The owners recently sold it so they can build a shopping center here.”
“Here?” I asked. I wouldn’t think this was the kind of neighborhood that would support a lot of stores. The busiest business around was the strip club. I shivered as a terrible thought occurred to me.
What if the developers were connected to the Delveccio brothers? What if that’s why they’d been in the neighborhood? What if they’d thought they’d kill two birds with one stone by blowing up the apartment complex while I was in it? They’d get rid of me and be able to go ahead with their development plans.
“Who bought it?” I asked, hoping no one would notice the way my voice cracked nervously.
“A real estate development company that fronts for the Delveccio crime family.” Griswald replied.
I swayed weakly. The Delveccios were involved.
The lizard obviously connected the same dots because he said, “You are so screwed.”