The Hitwoman Takes a Road Trip
Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman Book 17
Some people just can’t outrun trouble.
Overwhelmed hitwoman Maggie Lee thinks she’s leaving her family worries behind when she’s convinced to take a road trip with her buddy, Armani.
But pretty soon an old friend, a pesky relative, and even her pet, are asking for her help.
Loyal to a fault, Maggie soon finds herself tangled in a dangerous theft involving a crime family; confronting the abusive previous owner of her cat, Piss; and dealing with family revelations that rock her world.
With the assistance of psychic predictions, talking animals and unexpected allies, Maggie takes on her troubles head-on.
But if she’s not careful, this “vacation” could literally be the death of her.
You just know it’s going to be a bad day when you wake up to something burning.
It’s not the first time I’ve had close contact with a fire, and the bitter, acrid smell burning my nose sent me into full-blown panic. I forgot to breathe, adrenaline pumped through me, and yet I couldn’t move.
“Fire!” DeeDee, my Doberman pinscher, barked in my ear, jolting me with the subtlety of a sledgehammer.
Heart pounding, I jumped out of bed.
“Owwwww!” the cat yowled as I inadvertently stepped on her tail.
“Sorry!” I said, stumbling toward the stairs that lead from my bedroom in the basement to the kitchen.
“I have sensitive lungs,” Godzilla, the anole lizard who prefers to be called God, bellowed from his glass-enclosed terrarium.
“Fire!” DeeDee barked again, running in front of me.
Tripping over her, I did a face-plant right at the base of the stairs. I saved my chin by throwing my hands up, but I wrenched my wrist when I landed with a dull thud.
Meanwhile I thought my heart might beat right out of my chest as smoke curled beneath the kitchen door. I scrambled, half-crawling, half-running, up the steps with the dog nudging me from behind. Throwing open the door, we ran straight into a wall of smoke.
Coughing and choking, I spotted a shadowy figure near the stove, fanning the orange flames that roared in the oven.
“Fire!” DeeDee whined, racing back down the stairs.
The fire alarm began to beep its warning, so loudly that I had to cover my ears.
“Suffocating!” God called dramatically from the basement.
“Good idea,” I yelled back. Diving under the kitchen sink, I felt around. My panic increased tenfold when I couldn’t find the fire extinguisher.
“Where the hell is it?” I yelled.
No one answered. Or if they did, I couldn’t hear them over the tone of the fire alarm that was drilling into my head like an ice pick.
Finally, I yanked out an oversized box of baking soda. Shoving the person in front of the oven out of the way, I doused the flames with the powdery white stuff and slammed the door shut.
“What are you doing?” Aunt Leslie asked.
“Putting out the fire.” I moved to open the kitchen window. “What were you doing?”
“I was trying to extinguish it using this towel.”
The smoke stung my eyes and I had to blink away tears to see she was holding a singed tea towel in her hands. “I thought you were fanning the flames.”
“Why would I do that?”
Before I could answer, a stampede of coughing and spluttering human beings rushed into the kitchen.
Katie, my niece, wearing her pink princess nightie, was the first through the door, hands over ears, eyes wide, mouth hanging open.
Her fear twisted my heart even more painfully than the fall had hurt my wrist.
“Something’s burning,” my sister Marlene, in an old men’s t-shirt that was barely long enough to cover her privates, pointed out oh-so-helpfully, as she scooped up Katie.
“No shit,” I replied, reaching into the pantry.
“Language, Margaret,” Aunt Susan, in a flannel nightgown that looked like something straight out of Little House on the Prairie, corrected. “You should be ashamed of yourself speaking like that in front of a child.”
Fighting the urge to scream, screw you, I pulled a broom from the pantry and hoisted it over my head. I winced at the sharp pain that zipped up my arm.
“Don’t do anything rash, dear,” Aunt Loretta, in a skimpy negligee that left nothing to the imagination and did nothing to hide the ravages of time on her body, urged.
Ignoring them, I waved the broom beneath the offensive fire alarm on the ceiling, trying to dissipate the smoke.
“Why doesn’t everyone go out on the front porch?” a voice of reason suggested.
Thankfully, the herd followed the advice of U.S. Marshal Larry Griswald and shuffled off to the relative safety of the porch.
Even as they were exiting, Susan said, “For heaven’s sake, Loretta, wrap yourself in a tablecloth or something. The neighbors will think we’re running a brothel.”
“I resent that,” Loretta and Marlene complained simultaneously.
Considering that Loretta runs a lingerie shop and Marlene had previous experience as a prostitute, I didn’t really understand their objections.
When fanning away the smoke didn’t work, I did the logical, mature thing. I turned the brush upside down and began beating the shit out of the offensive piece of plastic, intent on silencing it forever.
It didn’t work. It just kept bleating like a deranged sheep being led to slaughter.
Thankfully, Griswald had another more measured and logical approach. He dragged in a chair from the dining room, climbed up on it, and yanked the battery out of the annoying device.
“Nice save,” I told him when the noise stopped, noticing that he’d taken time to get dressed to his shoes.
Getting down, he asked, “What happened?”
I shook my head, trying to get my ears to stop ringing. “I don’t know. I woke up, smelled smoke, and came up here to find Leslie beating at the flames in the oven.”
He looked around. “Where’s the fire extinguisher?”
I rubbed my aching wrist. “Couldn’t find it. I covered the flames with baking soda to deprive it of oxygen.”
“Smart,” Griswald approved. “You suffocated it.”
“I gave her that suggestion,” God yelled from the basement.
“No, you didn’t,” Piss countered with an annoyed meow. “Maggie did that all on her own.”
“She could have just closed the oven door. It would have done the same thing without making a mess,” God groused.
“But what started the fire?” Griswald asked.
I stared at the lumpy mound covered in charred powder. “Maybe Leslie was cooking?”
“At three in the morning?”
“I don’t know. She’s been kind of erratic lately.”
What neither of us said aloud was that Leslie’s problems stemmed from the fact she’d fallen off the clean-and-sober wagon.
Griswald shook his head. “She could have burned the place down.”
“I’ll talk to her,” I promised.
“No doubt Susan and Loretta are already giving her a talking to,” the marshal said. “But I don’t know if that’s enough.”
A chill tickled my spine as I worried that he was considering taking legal action against her. Sure, Leslie drove me nuts at times, but she’s relatively harmless and I’d hate for her to end up in jail.
“We might need to have a full-blown intervention,” Griswald suggested.
I let out a shaky sigh of relief. “That sounds like a good idea.”
“But first we should make sure this fire is out.” Griswald opened the oven and peeked inside.
I waited to find out what his determination was.
“Made a hell of a mess, but it did the job,” he said. “Susan’s not going to be happy.”
“We really should have a fire extinguisher,” I said defensively.
“This family should have a lot of things,” Griswald replied darkly.
“Speaking of which,” I said carefully, knowing this wasn’t the right time to repeat a request. “Have you given any more thought to letting me see my father?”
“It’s just that—”
Griswald finished my sentence for me. “You need to find the fifth.”
I blinked, surprised he knew that.
“I was at the séance too,” he reminded me, shaking his head like he couldn’t believe he’d ever been roped into doing something so ridiculous. “I’ll see what I can do.”
“Thank you.” Without thinking, I hugged him to express my gratitude.
He stiffened for a moment, then hugged me back. “On the bright side, at least the alarm didn’t trigger a visit from the fire department.”
“Small miracle,” I agreed, pulling away from him. “I’ll clean the oven in the morning after it cools down.”
“Don’t you dare,” Griswald snapped. “Leslie caused this mess, she can clean up after herself.”
“Well, technically I caused the mess,” I reminded him.
He shook his head. “I get that it’s ingrained in you to take care of your family, Maggie, but as I’ve told you before, they’re not your responsibility.”
I nodded. Part of me knew he was right. But part of me didn’t know who I’d be without the burden of looking out for them on a daily basis.
I was about to find out.