The Hitwoman Plays Games
Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman Book 24
Life’s not all fun and games…
Hitwoman Maggie Lee has faced off against some bad people in the past, but nothing she has ever faced before has prepared her for her new assignment. Nothing.
What could be worse than working at a kid’s game center?
Flashing lights, beeping machines, screaming kids on a sugar high, and the world’s biggest claw machine may be the combination that finally pushes Maggie over the edge, as she tries to hold down a legit job as a cover for her first PI case.
Not that her downtime offers any respite. While she’s “off” she has to deal with family drama, dangerous dancers, a weird job assignment from the mob boss, and a VERY high stakes poker game.
Thankfully she’s got her animals to confide in, a bodyguard who’s looking out for her and a certain police detective on her side.
Maggie’s got to deal with the hand she’s been dealt…but there’s no guarantee she’ll come out the winner.
You just know it’s going to be a bad day when you’re facing a full house.
I’ve stared down contract killers, deranged murderers, and a host of other scary people, but facing my family can absolutely terrify me.
Maybe it was because as soon as I’d stepped out of my bedroom, my sister Marlene whispered, “The trio of witches are in the kitchen.”
I considered going right back to bed and hiding under the covers.
Marlene looked tense. Trying to blink my sleepiness away, I squinted, thinking her eyes were red-rimmed, like she’d been crying. “What did they do to you?” I asked, ready to defend her.
She shook her head. “They did nothing.”
I frowned. “So what’s wrong? Is it Doc?”
So help me, if her paramedic/male dancer boyfriend had hurt her in any way, he’d have to answer to me.
She let out a hiccupping sob. “Doc’s been wonderful.”
I rubbed her shoulders. She was obviously suffering and I didn’t know how to help. “Do you want to talk about it?”
She shook her head and dashed away errant tears. “Not yet. Soon, though, I hope.”
“Anytime,” I pledged. I assumed she was still upset about the abrupt way her twin, Darlene, had left the family not long ago. She had to miss her terribly. Maybe Marlene blamed me for our sister leaving…I know I worried it was my fault.
Marlene gave me a quick tight hug. “I’ve got to go. I have an appointment.”
“Want me to take you?” I offered, feeling like it was the least I could do.
A strange expression flickered over her features. It looked like a mixture of fear and excitement, the kind people have when they’re waiting in a line to board a rollercoaster. “Doc’s taking me.” She began to stroll away.
“We’ll talk soon?” I called after her, feeling worried.
She gave me a thumbs up and kept walking.
Maybe it was because she left me unsettled. Maybe it was just because I hadn’t had my coffee yet. Maybe it was simply because I had to cross a gauntlet of family members in order to get to the coffee pot. Whatever the reason, I had a sinking feeling in my gut when I entered the kitchen.
“Is that you, Margaret?” Aunt Loretta blinked at me, her false eyelashes dancing like rabid spiders, obviously obscuring her vision.
“Who else would she be?” her older sister, Susan, asked testily. She gave me a sharp, accusatory look. I wasn’t sure if she was frustrated with her sister or me.
“Someone got up on the wrong side of the bed today,” Aunt Leslie mused without looking up from the pad of paper she was doodling on.
I wasn’t surprised that she’d taken Loretta’s side in the argument. What is it about twins that makes them both joined-at-the-hip when they’re not ready to kill each other? I mean, I guess you could say that applies to most siblings, but it seems to be more intense in twins.
Thankfully, there was someone in the room who took pity on me.
“Would you like a cup of coffee, Maggie?” Templeton, Aunt Loretta’s fiancé, asked, reaching for the pot as he spoke.
“Please,” I murmured thankfully.
“We have a problem,” Aunt Susan announced.
I closed my eyes, wishing that I could just drip the caffeine into me via an I.V. rather than wait for Templeton to hand me the cup. I really wasn’t in any shape to take on one of Aunt Susan’s problems at the moment. I’d had a long night, trying to mediate an argument between the lizard, God, and the one-eyed cat, Piss. I loved them both, but they were driving me crazy.
God had been of the opinion that anything he said or did when he had been under the influence of an evil spirit, namely my grandmother, was not his fault. Piss, on the other hand, believed that he owed apologies.
Personally, I didn’t think it would hurt the reptile to say he was sorry. He’d said some hateful things and hurt a lot of feelings, including mine.
But I had tried hard not to take sides, because unlike the others, I knew that God had been willing to make the absolute sacrifice. He’d offered to die to protect my niece, Katie, and I was loath to, at this point in time, say anything against him.
“Before you start complaining about whatever it is that has your panties in a twist, Susan,” Loretta interrupted, “I need to talk about my problem.”
Templeton handed me the cup of coffee and rolled his eyes, indicating that he knew what this “problem” was. It was something ridiculous, I guessed, if I read his expression correctly.
“They have made a complaint against The Corset,” Loretta’s voice cracked with outrage.
“Who’s they?” Leslie asked, sketching something that looked suspiciously like pot leaves.
“What’s the complaint?” Susan asked, her eyes narrowing suspiciously.
I didn’t know who they would be, but I was pretty sure that the fact that Loretta had chosen to hire exotic dancers to perform outside of The Corset, her lingerie shop, would probably be what the complaint was about.
“It’s the—” Loretta began.
“Hungry!” DeeDee, my Doberman pinscher, barked loudly as she ran into the room and skidded to a halt. “Hungry!” she complained again.
“Just once,” God, the lizard, who was tucked into his hiding spot in my bra, muttered, “it would be nice if the furry slobbering beast had something useful to add to a conversation.”
The humans in the room stared at me as my chest squeaked.
“Your obsession with that lizard is unnatural,” Susan huffed.
I shrugged. She didn’t understand my relationship with God. Could anyone?
“She’s probably hungry,” Templeton surmised, moving toward the cabinet where the dog food was stored.
“Hungry!” DeeDee agreed.
“As you were saying, Loretta,” Susan prompted, trying to bring the conversation back on track.
“It’s the—” Loretta began again.
“Is there food?” Matilda, the newest addition to my menagerie, a pig, oinked as she waddled into the kitchen.
“Another one with a one-track mind,” God muttered from his hiding place.
Exasperated, Susan glared at me. “Look what you have done to my home.” She stood up and pointed first to the dog and then at the pig. “This is a home, not a zoo. I can’t believe you’ve done this to me.”
“It’s my home,” Herschel, my grandfather, my aunts’ dad, reminded everyone as he walked into the kitchen.
As Templeton fed the dog and tossed a few stray pieces of kibble to the pig, Herschel poured himself a cup of coffee. “Or have you all forgotten that?”
“Of course not, Daddy,” Loretta and Leslie said in unison.
Susan grit her teeth so hard that I could see the muscles in her cheeks jumping from the effort of restraining herself.
“All are welcome here,” Herschel said. “You’re just going to have to adjust, Susan.”
I wondered, in that moment, if that applied to my friend, RV. She had left in the middle of the night, thinking that she wasn’t welcome here. Or, at least, that’s what I guessed she thought. She left without telling anyone, without leaving a word. Even Darlene had left a note.
My friend Armani had been very upset by RV’s sudden departure. I had been, too, more than I would have expected. I guess that’s what happens when people bond over an exorcism. When you think you have a connection and then someone severs it without an explanation, it’s unsettling.
Taking his coffee, with the pig trailing behind him, Herschel left the room.
Susan glared at me. Silently accusing that this was all my fault.
Not sure how to respond, I just looked down at my coffee cup. I wasn’t certain whether it was really the animals she was upset about, or the fact that I had told her husband, Lawrence Griswald, that I would be joining him in his private detective work.
Ever since I told Griswald yes, Susan had been giving me the cold shoulder.
“It’s the chiropractor’s office,” Loretta blurted out. “They’re saying that my beautiful men, my gorgeous, sexy, enticing men, are causing problems.”
I risked a glance in Templeton’s direction. He was leaning against the counter, arms crossed over his chest, staring at his fiancé.
I felt a surge of sympathy for him. Being with Loretta, who’s the most man-hungry woman I’ve ever met, had to be a challenge. He’d been a loyal member of the family and deserved better treatment than to listen to her verbally fawning over other men.
“The chiropractors may have a point,” Susan said.
“They said,” Loretta replied, in her most indignant tone, “that the men were…” She trailed off and paused dramatically.
Leslie leaned forward, eager to hear what her twin was going to reveal. Susan, still gritting her teeth, put her hands on her hips and frowned.
“They say the men are dangerous.” She patted the area over her heart like a damsel about to faint.
“That’s not what they said,” Templeton interjected in a dry tone.
All eyes swiveled over to him.
“What they said was that the antics of your men were posing a danger. They said there have been three fender benders in their parking lot since they began performing.”
I took a large gulp of coffee. In general, Templeton doesn’t react to most of the insanity of his fiancée and the rest of the family, but it was obvious from his tone that he was not happy with the current situation.
“It’s an art form,” Lorretta snapped back.
I almost choked on my coffee. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the male form as much as the next person, but I’m not sure that the gyrating of her scantily clad dancers could really be classified as “art”.
Without another word, Templeton stomped out of the room.
“Perhaps you should reconsider,” Susan began to suggest.
Loretta held her hand to silence her older sister. “Sales are up twenty-three percent.”
She said it like money was the only thing that she was going to take into consideration. Her personal pocketbook was going to overrule the wants or wishes of anyone else.
“All praise the mighty dollar,” God muttered.