Excerpt from INAPPROPRIATEI went on about my job, puttering down the beach, stopping to pick up a piece of petrified palm trunk, a glass grape juice bottle and a deflated football. I plucked them with a mechanical snatcher device. I don’t know if it has an official name but I called mine Monkey. After two years at this job I was pretty efficient. I could do it all from the driver’s seat. Snatch it and drop it into the trash bag and go along my jolly way.
by Sherry Morris
by Sherry Morris
The theme to “The Pink Panther” jazzed from my shorts. I stopped and dug my phone out. My mother’s picture smiled on the caller I.D. I inhaled and answered. “Hi, Mom.”
“Sandra, are you still intending to climb aboard that train of fools?”
“They aren’t fools, Mom. They’re very nice people.”
She sobbed, “You’re being kidnapped by that cult and I’ll never see my baby again.” She launched into one of her motherly speeches about how everything I do is inappropriate.
Mom was so disappointed in me. My four brothers were cops working under my dad, the police commissioner. But I toiled as a sanitation engineer and public relations specialist for the Department of Public Works. Translation: I picked up the trash left on the beach and told the tourists where the public restrooms were located. At least the uniform was cute.
What Mom didn’t know was by day I collected garbage but by night I was an infamous cozy mystery author. I wrote under the pen name of Dixie London. And I didn’t have a thing published. I had written almost twelve books…well, the first three or four chapters of twelve different books. Okay, so I was more like an infamous cozy mystery author wannabee. But I had fun. I belonged to the Global Order of Scribes pronounced “goose” for short. The international convention was transpiring in Morocco this week.
Rosemary Donaldson, wife of televangelist Eugene Donaldson, was the president of our local chapter. I couldn’t stand her, the snobby fakey flake. She arranged to have a little writers conference of sorts aboard three private railcars hooked onto the back of her husband’s crusade train, which was hooked onto the back of a regular North American Passenger Railroad train.
Of course I could set my feelings for her aside and grace the authors with my presence long enough for a two week free vacation aboard the private rail cars. The Donaldsons’ were wealthy so I knew this would be a first class to-do. The Agatha Christie birthday shindigs she hosted at her mansion were always loaded with fat shrimp, alligator tar-tar and a white chocolate fountain. Maids and cabbage roses everywhere you turned in her gaudy museum. Even the ceilings were painted with rose murals. Last time I tucked two pieces of her toilet tissue into my pocket to show Mom. It was printed in full color, embossed and scented with roses. Mom wasn’t impressed. She told me it would cause bladder infections.
“Mom—Mom—Mom!” I finally got her to stop ranting. “I told you it’s not a cult. I’m not going as one of the devout followers of Pastor Donaldson. Rosemary invited our mystery readers’ book club to tag along. We’ll be segregated from the fanatics. We have our own private cars and we’ll be reading and discussing books…and knitting.”
Mom loved knitting so I just threw that in.
“Uh-huh. A couple of the ladies are involved in the knit-a-scarf-for-a-serviceman charity. We’ll be knitting up a storm for those brave Americans.” I was great at making things up.
“Oh, well why didn’t you tell me? What time do we leave? I’ll need to finish the laundry…”
“No!” I cleared my throat. “No, Mom. You can’t go. The train is already filled to capacity. You needed to reserve a compartment ahead of time.”
“Nonsense. I’ll bunk-in with you.”
“No can do. I have a roommate. Dina.”
“Oh…Dina. How is she? Is her Aunt Beverly recuperating as well as can be expected?”
Dina Devers was the only friend I had who Mom approved of.
“Dina and Aunt Beverly are doing just fine. I’ll let her know you asked about them. I gotta go, Mom. Got to finish up by noon today.”
“Come see me before you leave.”
Yeah, right. So you can jump in the backseat and stow away. “I’ll try. Gotta run. Bye.” I closed my phone and stuffed it back inside my pocket.
I drove along the beach. Two guys stood knee deep in the surf, fishing. An early jogger trotted by. I smacked my forehead and took my foot off the gas. If Lieutenant Hottie had any follow-up questions for me I wouldn’t be available. I should have told him I’d be leaving on the GOOS Express this afternoon. Could this be a dilemma? He didn’t tell me not to leave town or anything. And I just reported the body. I wasn’t technically a witness…or suspect. And besides, it was a routine death investigation. I was confident the autopsy would show he had drowned. Poor guy. He had looked so young and fun loving. I resolved to live like every day was my last and chase my fondest dreams.
The sailor probably was on shore leave, rented a speed boat with his buddies, got drunk and fell overboard. Yeah, that’s it. He seemed really happy by the smirk frozen on his face. I ought to open a detective agency. And I could hire my writing pals as operatives. An all woman force. Nobody would suspect us of spying on them. We’d make a killing. I giggled at my pun.
I peeked at Tinker Bell, shook up her pixie dust, looped around and did a U-turn. It was time to stop by the dumpster and then check-in with Igor.
A crowd of tourists had gathered at the crime scene as the police carted off the corpse. I sighed. Great, they were noshing donuts and drinking Starbucks. More trash for me to collect later on.
The lieutenant stood down along the shoreline running his fingers through his short dark hair. Perhaps I should stop off and let him know I’d be leaving town. I slowed down and threw my hand up. He didn’t notice me so I kept going. I decided to call him from the train.
Part of me was relieved not to have to talk to him face-to-face. If Lieutenant Hottie were to make a late night visit to my little studio apartment…to discuss the case, I wouldn’t be home to answer the door…wearing something entirely inappropriate.