The Hitwoman and the Ninjas
Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman Book 35
Maggie Lee has had a lot of jobs, but her current employment may be the worst of the bunch. It’s a real grind.
Recruited to work as a barista, Maggie contends with demanding customers, quirky co-workers and an overbearing teenage boss all while trying to surreptitiously gather the intel Ms. Whitehat needs.
She inadvertently overhears another plot (that’s what happens when you’re eavesdropping) and this one endangers someone she loves.
Can Maggie master latte heart art, help Ms. Whitehat, and protect her loved one; or will her undercover job end up with someone being six feet under?
You just know it’s going to be a bad day when your boss is a teenager.
My name is Maggie Lee and I’ve had some pretty terrible jobs, but this one may be the worst of all.
I guess you’re wondering how I ended up with an adolescent manager. It’s complicated, let me try to explain.
Normally, my life is in chaos, but that morning, life was pretty good. I’d rescued my boyfriend, Gino, from his crazy ex-fiancée, my sister Marlene was home and taking charge of the care of both of my nieces, and I had managed to get the newest members of the family, Rowdy, a raccoon, and Twitch, a young rabbit, settled in.
I may have been humming the one-hit-wonder “Walking On Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves, when I walked into the kitchen. I was feeling that good.
Templeton, standing at the stove, vigorously stirring something in a skillet, shot me a warning look. His whisper was almost inaudible. “Shush.”
The song died, as my throat closed with anxiety. Templeton is not the kind of person who would normally shush me. Something had to be wrong.
Glancing around, I noted that my grandfather, Herschel, and his oldest daughter, my aunt, Susan, were sitting at the table, glaring daggers at each other. Apples and anger don’t fall far from the tree.
“Morning?” I asked hesitantly.
“Have you forgotten how to tell time, Margaret?” Aunt Susan snapped at me. “Are you unable to determine whether or not it’s morning?”
“I’m pretty sure it’s morning,” I told her through gritted teeth, trying to keep my tone neutral.
Susan raised her cup of coffee to her lips and sipped at it daintily.
My grandfather leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest. His jaw was locked and I feared he might crack his teeth.
I looked to Templeton for some guidance, but he was focused intently on the contents of his pan. I looked back at Herschel. “Something wrong?”
“Not if you ask me,” my grandfather declared smugly.
The look Susan gave him was so cold, that I found myself shivering. I waited for an explanation as to what was going on, but none came.
I shuffled over to the coffee maker and poured myself a steaming mug, following Templeton’s lead and staring at what I was doing, instead of looking at the two combatants sitting at the table. All I wanted from the morning was some magic bean juice. I didn’t feel like getting pulled into whatever the drama du jour was. I didn’t want anything messing with my vibe. I was sunshine-y.
“What do you think of it?” Aunt Susan challenged.
Tightening my grip on my mug, I turned slowly to face her. “Are you talking to me?”
I slowly lifted my cup to my lips and mimicked the way she had sipped from hers, pinky out, like sugar wouldn’t melt in my mouth. I wasn’t going to ask again what was going on. If she wanted to involve me in this, she was going to have to fill me in.
“He’s lost his mind,” she declared.
“Who?” I asked.
She gave me a disbelieving look.
I shrugged in response. I assumed that she was talking about her father, sitting across from her, but she could have been talking about Marlene’s boyfriend Doc, who’d up and left for Chicago to go to medical school. Or she could have meant her own husband, recently retired U.S. Marshal Lawrence Griswald, who was on the cusp of getting into all kinds of trouble now that his Private Investigator license was coming through. And I guess there was always a chance she could have meant Templeton, though, to his credit, Aunt Loretta’s ex-fiancé did his best to steer clear of Susan’s wrath.
“She means me,” my grandfather said.
“That was one of my guesses,” I said.
“Are you trying to be difficult this morning, Margaret?” Susan asked with annoyance. “Because you’re getting on my nerves.”
“I was in a great mood before I walked in here,” I retorted. “And I’m getting really sick of playing this game. Would one of you please tell me what is going on?”
“He’s lost his mind,” Susan reiterated.
“So you’ve said,” I told her wryly. “But considering that you haven’t called anybody to take him away in oversized butterfly nets, I’m guessing that you’re exaggerating.”
“Don’t you dare encourage her,” Susan ordered. “And you!” She pointed an accusing finger at me. “You should know better than to joke about mental health.”
I made a show of tapping my foot impatiently. “I have other things to do today than wait to figure out what’s going on.”
“Like what?” Aunt Susan said disbelievingly. “You don’t have a job to go to. I don’t even know how you pay for gas.”
I winced. She wasn’t wrong about that. But it also wasn’t like I spent my days dilly dallying. I seem to spend a lot of time lately saving lives, or, at the very least, preserving reputations. Not that she could know any of that. I didn’t exactly work within the law most of the time. She was right, however, that I didn’t have a job that provided me with a steady paycheck.
My grandfather took pity on me and offered an explanation. “Susan doesn’t like the idea of my hiring a helper.”
“Oh,” I murmured, not sure how I felt about the idea. “If you need help. I could help you.”
He acted like I hadn’t spoken and just continued with what he’d been saying. “My daughter seems to forget that this is my property,” Herschel said huffily. “I can do with it whatever I choose. She does not get the opportunity to control my life.”
“He has a legitimate point,” I told my aunt.
“Now my opinion is worthless?” she ranted. “Everything I’ve done for this family, over all these years, counts for nothing?”
It took all of my self-restraint to not roll my eyes.
“No one is saying that,” Herschel told her firmly. “All I’m saying is that you don’t get to make this particular decision.”
“After all I’ve done,” Susan muttered, getting up from the table. “And you should be begging him for the job, any job, Margaret.” She practically threw her coffee cup into the sink, stalking out, muttering to herself.
“Today, the part of the suffering martyr will be played by your eldest aunt,” Herschel said in a mocking tone.
“She’s only trying to do what’s best for the family,” Templeton offered from his place at the stove.
I glanced over at him, surprised. He wasn’t usually the first person to leap to Susan’s defense. They had their own power struggles and she had never truly approved of him.
Herschel shrugged. “I’m not changing my mind about this.”
“Why is it so important to you?” I asked curiously. Considering that my grandfather had lived alone, here on this large property, for multiple decades, it didn’t really make sense that he was bringing in strangers after the place had filled up with family members and their significant others. “Like I said, I could help you out.”
“I have my reasons,” he said mysteriously. “I don’t owe you an explanation, either.” He got up from the table, put his dirty mug into the dishwasher, closed it with a click, and walked out the back door.
I took that to mean he didn’t want my help.
“Breakfast?” Templeton asked as though the last two people we’d been speaking to hadn’t stormed out.
“Sure,” I said. “What is it?”
Templeton glanced at me and then chuckled. He held up the pan so that I could see what was inside. There was a stick of butter, unmelted, that had been chopped up into little pieces. “It’s not anything, yet. I was just trying to stay out of the argument.”
“Wise call,” I complimented him.
“I noticed that you didn’t offer an opinion on the matter,” he commented, turning toward the refrigerator.
“That’s because I’m not sure how I feel about it,” I said. “In general, I think it’s a good habit to not form any meaningful opinions before downing at least one cup of coffee. Unlike some people, I prefer my brain cells to be activated before I open my mouth.”
“Look at you, spittin’ wisdom,” God, the anole lizard hanging out in my bra, praised.
His squeaking put a smile in Templeton’s voice as he asked, “Mushroom and Swiss omelet?”
“Please.” I plopped down into the seat Susan had occupied. “I noticed that you didn’t offer an opinion about my grandfather’s plan, either.”
“Oh, I think it’s a wretched idea,” Templeton replied, putting eggs, cheese and edible fungi on the counter by the stove.
He met my gaze and said with a rueful smile, “Because life around here is complicated enough already.”
I saluted him with my cup. “Ain’t that the truth.”