Secrets in Lace

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Excerpt, 'Moonstone Magic, by Constance 'Dusty' Milller.



 

Constance 'Dusty' Miller

Howard Johnson’s, home away from home. He had an expense account, within reason. It didn’t pay to go too nuts, and he was a rational man.
The game was on, with the volume turned down low. He had the lights mostly off, and a cold beer. The remains of a deluxe pizza, everything on there but anchovies or the kitchen sink, sat on the table, still sending out that smell. It was warm, and he had a roof over his head.
He lay on the bed, hands up behind his head, propped up on the pillows.
The score was two-one, with the Wild uncharacteristically leading the Bruins.
What with the modern highway system and a fast, reliable car, Connor rarely had to stay in a motel for more than one or two nights. It wasn’t so bad once in a while. With the big Colorado Clipper still roaring outside his windows, it looked like he wouldn’t be home for a while. This sort of enforced idleness was a rare and welcome relief from a life that had become increasingly fast-paced and stressful. Success, at first not easily-built, had accumulated and then snowballed.
They were calling for him up at head office—maybe even vice-president in charge of sales. If he wanted it—and maybe he did. It’s not like he had anything better to do.
At one time, he would have had a quick shower, changed into something a little more casual, and gone out for a prowl. It’s not like he had any real hobbies, although he owned a set of golf clubs and went out religiously, three or four times a year, early in the season. Inevitably, it always fell by the wayside as the weather heated up, both weather-wise and work-wise. That was the thing with the agricultural industry.
It was all about them solar heating units.
He might have made a pretty good golfer.
The trouble was, he just didn’t care.
The money he spent on a luxury, executive suite in downtown Minneapolis would have bought a pretty fair house, and covered the taxes at least. Admittedly, there would still be heat, hydro, water and insurance. It would make a ding in his lifestyle, and yet at the same time he’d been thinking of it—possibly, as he saw now, for all the wrong reasons. Buying a house just so you could have a pool, or a garage or a deck, a freaking lawn for Christ’s sakes, didn’t make much sense for a single man who was rarely at home.
His sister was single, she had a place and she worked full-time, retail hours. Her days off were taken up with chores, yard-work, and cleaning the eaves-troughs. She’d just laid out four or five grand for a roof. No, having a house didn’t make much sense unless you planned on making it a home. That sort of implied a wife and a kid, maybe even more than one…he was only thirty-two.
It wasn’t too late for him. It might be too late for some other guys, but not for him…nothing’s for free.
That was for sure.
Sometimes he prayed that it wasn’t too late, and that he wasn’t too set in his ways.
The phone buzzed on its charger beside his bed.
It was Reb. He touched the screen and accepted the call.
“Hello?”
“Hey, buddy. Mission accomplished.”
“So. How did it go?”
“Yeah. Anyways. I drove the truck over—the thing’s a real pig, I don’t know how she puts up with it. Anyways, she drove me back and I reckon she’ll be going to work in it. She works tomorrow, she told me that.”
“Okay.”
“Are you all right?”
“What? Yeah.”
“Just wondering.”
The line went quiet for a while.
“Whatcha doing?” The weather was bad, and there weren’t too many places to go anyways.
Reb didn’t get too many calls, but sooner or later, someone would need a tow or a boost and he had to stay by the phone. Connor was fifty miles up the road, trying to keep to some kind of schedule, so drinking or a game of pool, all of that was of out of the question.
“Just watching the game.”
“Yeah. Me, too, likewise…even.”
Connor chuckled, taking a look at the clock. He planned on being out of there by seven or seven thirty a.m. at the latest. A good night’s sleep would be nice. In the meantime he had time to kill.
The other thing was to call his mother.
At some point. All part of the narrative.
“Did she ask about me?”
“Not really, but I told her you and I have been friends for a long time…since college. What if I see her around?” Reb had been known to eat at the Circle-J himself from time to time.
They made a pretty good roast-beef sandwich. There were one or two little boutique eateries downtown, and then some family-oriented places. The choices were limited for bachelors and Reb wasn’t much for cooking. Sooner or later, she had to shop for groceries, or go to the dentist, and there were only so many places in town.
“Don’t make too big a thing about it.” Connor’s plan required a bit of time, in fact it relied upon it.
There was some risk—she could meet somebody else in the meantime, but for whatever reason, he didn’t think so. She worked full time. She wasn’t rich, she didn’t get out much, and she had the kid.
The ghost of that Richard guy would always be there in the background.
“So tell me again, what’s the next part of the plan?”
“We wait.”
Reb snorted softly.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought you said.”
Left unsaid, on your own head be it.
And I sure hope you know what you’re doing.
Waiting broke with all classic theory, which said to strike while the iron was hot, and that to hesitate was fatal…on the other hand, this was no ordinary bar-fly pickup.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Excerpt from Pickup, by Constance 'Dusty' Miller.





Constance 'Dusty' Miller

It was ten below zero and the snow was going sideways. The sun was down, and while the glow in the west was spectacular, all purple and orange and salmon-pink, the rest of the sky was metallic blue and darkening.

Tammy’s pickup truck had made it exactly one mile from the Circle-J (as Rick had always called it) where she waited tables and slung corned-beef hash five shifts a week, days or nights or afternoons. 

She had twenty minutes to pick up the piglet or staff, Mrs. Stumpf for sure, were going to have all the usual things to say.

Something had broken, and smoke or steam billowed out around the rim of the hood, whipped away by half a gale. Something was burning up under there. The smell wasn’t good. Throwing off her seat-belt, worried about fire, she got out of passenger side as quickly as she could, struggling to push the door against the power of the wind. Traffic on the I-59 slipped and slithered past, throwing slush. 

Tires hissed on wet black pavement and the wind howled in her ears.

A small, upscale black coupe pulled in just past the nose of the battered 1997 Ford three-quarter ton four-by-four, a work-truck. It was the only tangible legacy of her late husband Richard.

Connor hit the passenger-side window button and leaned over as the lady came up beside his car.

She looked to be about twenty-two.

“Hi. Looks like you’re having some problems there. I was wondering if I could help.”

***

He lowered the hood with a bang, nipping back to the Beemer, shaking like a leaf.

Connor dropped into the seat, grateful for the warmth. The windows were already steaming up as her wet coat dried slowly.

“Yeah. It’s just the radiator, it’s not on fire. It’s nothing electrical.”

He ignored traces of tears on her face and the sniffling, which could easily be put down to a cold.

“Okay, we’d better get into town and get your daughter and then I’ll drive you home.” He cleared his throat. “I’ve got the Auto Club, and I get three free emergency tows a year…”

He looked into those eyes.

“I’ll just say you’re a family member, right? Uh…if that’s all right with you.” Too upset to think, she didn’t question it, or the need for the sticker on the rear bumper.

She nodded, fumbling around in her voluminous purse. Connor opened up the centre console, pulling out a handy-pack of tissues.

“Here.”

“Thank you.”

“Connor.” He reached for the gear lever, resisting the urge to pat her leg.

She nodded.

“Thank you, Connor.” The voice was low, a bit husky, but calm.

Anyone could see she was having a bad day.

He kept his foot on the brake, studying the mirror. There was a long line of traffic coming up from behind and in the slop, it took a while to get moving. People drove insanely fast in bad weather, in fact he did it himself. If he pooched this, there was going to be one hell of a pile-up.

The wipers were barely keeping up and visibility was getting down near zero.

She blew her nose and crumpled the tissue. He proffered a hand, still watching the mirror, and she reluctantly gave it up.

Connor had a small yellow trash bag, a freebie from the DMV, stuffed into the leather pocket on the back of the passenger seat. He disposed of the moist thing, resisting the urge to wipe his hand on his pant-leg or something…

“And you…?”

“Tammy. Tammy Larsson. Two esses.”

“So. Might as well get moving.”

“Okay.”

She took a breath and with a quick gulp, told him where she lived, which he already knew.

Depth perception was gone under these conditions, but he thought he could do it and so he went.

The rear wheels spun and then caught. They were coming up fast from behind…someone put on a signal and pulled into the other lane. That one was about as close as he cared to make it.

Even after a long day on her feet, she smelled like a woman.

There was always going to be that little rush in the guts.

***

Her daughter’s name was Riley, which Connor thought was a great name for a kid, but Tammy called her piglet as often as not.

The day-care centre was in the centre of Fergus Falls, Minnesota. The town survived as a market and supply centre for the surrounding farm area. It was also a bit of a retirement and bedroom community for larger centres just a few miles down the road. Other than that, there wasn’t much going on if you didn’t own a business, a farm, or work for the government.

He watched her, head down, going up the front steps into the front doors of the daycare.

Predictably, his phone was buzzing. It was Reb, his wingman.

“Hey, buddy. Nice work.” Reb’s cheerful voice came in over the ether.

“Yeah. She’s inside getting the kid.”

“So how do you think we’re doing so far?”

“Yeah. We’re doing all right.”

“I’m just around the corner.”

Reb’s face was invisible when the old wrecker, long out of service but lovingly restored to working condition, cruised past in the darkening night.

A few minutes had gone by and the light had completely gone. Connor watched the front lobby, the place apparently deserted although all the lights were still on.

The staff couldn’t really leave until the last parent-kid combo had gone.


(End of excerpt.) 



Editor's note: this is a work in progress and all content is subject to change and revision.