Nancy: They Shoot Flamingos, Don’t They? A Chrismas(ish) Tale

Happy New Year! It’s official. It’s now 2018.

And yet, I come offering my 2017 Christmas story. It’s a long one. (Had I been a wise woman like Jilly, I would have posted it in two parts.) It’s involves a bit of romance. And a clandestine organization. And, as promised, flamingos. Whether you’re nursing a hangover, agonizing over returning to work, or mulling over your new year’s resolutions, I hope you enjoy it!

They Shoot Flamingos, Don’t They? A Christmas(ish) Tale

There had to be a better way to make a living.

Going straight was for the birds. Literally. I glanced down at the deflated inflatable flamingos I clutched by limp necks. Who the hell had ever heard of flamingos in a Christmas lawn display? There weren’t flamingos in Bethlehem or at the North Pole. No respectable Christmas story featured the ridiculous pink birds. But Mrs. Leary had insisted that the damned things – part of her year-round yard décor on her 2-acre plot in the heart of Beverly Hills – be included in the Christmas decoration design.

“Miss Klauson, you wanted to see me?” Old Mrs. Leary, probably never very tall but now well under 5 feet, with tight shoulder-length curls shot through with gray, tottered toward me.

“Please, it’s Sandy.”

Sandy Klauson. Seriously. I mean, Jesus of Nazareth. Never let it be said that Ms. X doesn’t have a sense of humor, but if she had to cut me loose a few weeks before Christmas, she sure as hell could have come up with a better cover name for me. And a better civilian job. And a better place than LA at Christmas time, under a beating hot sun with nary a snowflake in sight. X had probably done it out of spite, but it was ridiculously unfair. Anyone could have made the mistake of tranquilizing an overly handsy ambassador from a small but important US ally. OK, so it was more of a choice than a mistake, but still.

Mrs. Leary sucked in her breath and opened her eyes wide in surprise. “Oh, this is a catastrophe!” She reached out and petted one of the limp plastic birds. “My dearly departed husband gave me these flamingos on our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. I’ve had them in my yard ever since.” Her eyes filled with tears.

Well hell. So much for the suggestion of rehoming the birds in the trash can.

“I don’t know what happened.” I didn’t mention the small slits I’d found in their throats. “I found them like this. But I’ll fix them for you. We’ll make them good as new.”

Mrs. Leary wiped away a tear. “Oh, you’re a good girl. Thank you, dear.”

As the old lady returned to the house, I looped around the outskirts of the palatial building until I found TJ, the job foreman, and explained the dilemma and my plan. “I’ll just take the van, find a garage or bike shop, and have someone fix these for me, like a flat tire. I should be back in a few hours.”

Across the lawn, the old lady emerged from the side door with her oversized chauffeur – whom I suspected doubled as a body guard – steadying her, and headed for the detached garage. Her daily 2 PM outing to get a newspaper, a cup of tea, and a comb-out at the beauty parlor. Yes, I’d clocked her movements and done some recon. So sue me. Old habits die hard.

I turned back to TJ, who’d been watching me watch her. He had his own interesting habits, and with his height and heft, I wouldn’t mind having him at my back in a fight, just like Derek…I wouldn’t let my mind go there. Still, TJ would have been good Company material, and if X hadn’t lost her mind and fired me, I might have recruited him.

TJ shook his head at me. “Get the old lady’s birds fixed. But you can’t take the van. We still have half the strings of lights in there. Take an Uber and get a receipt.”

I nodded and headed for the front gates, which stood wide open to give us easy access to our van and equipment that Mrs. Leary refused to let us park in her driveway. I’d just pulled out my phone to contact an Uber – and yes, I would save the receipt and turn it in for reimbursement, thank you very much, since X had frozen my assets – when something caught my eye. Something that didn’t belong on this neat, narrow, tree-covered street in the Hills.

The scuffed black work boots immediately gave away the game. Half a block down and on the other side of the road, leaning against the side of a shiny, black, expensive-looking pick-up truck, thumbs hooked in the belt loops of his jeans, wearing a tight blue tee shirt that showcased his broad chest his rock-hard biceps, with his long legs stretched in front of him and crossed at the shank of those boots I’d know anywhere.

“Bastard.” Continue reading

Nancy: Murder Clues Part 2

Last week, I shared a snippet of a scene from the world of Nicky O, that Nordic Noir that I swear I’m going to write in 2018 (she says while safely ensconced in the first quarter of 2017). If you missed it, you can check it out here.

As promised, I spent some time this past week finishing the scene not only so I could share it with you, but so I could continue the discovery process with this character. One thing that emerged was that Nick might not completely trust his married lover. Quelle suprise, right? So, without further ado, I give you the conclusion of the Murder Clues vignette.

***

Pernilla reached into her pocket and pulled out a packet, which she tossed to me. I pulled out a Tyvek cap and booties.

“I don’t need the techs finding your DNA when they come out here.”

I finished adjusting the cap over my hair, then touched her arm. “If you’re going to treat this like a crime scene, what are you waiting for? Why bring me here first?”

I tried to keep my tone light, but something didn’t compute. Maybe Pernilla wanted to see my reaction to the place, to assess whether I’d been here before. Maybe she was still suspicious of me. Maybe the only person in all of Denmark who seemed to have any faith left in me didn’t believe me after all.

“I’m sure this will break your heart, but I want you for your mind. Your weird, hyper-logical, beautiful mind.” She shot me one of those half-grins that made her look like the fifteen-year-old girl who had, in fact, broken my heart into a million thirteen-year-old pieces. “You see things differently. I’m hoping you’ll pick up on something my techs won’t. But don’t touch anything. Not one thing, understand?”

I held my hands up in front of me. “Touch nothing. Got it.”

“And put on your gloves, just in case.”

“Not that you don’t trust me, right?” Continue reading

Nancy: Spring Cleaning and a Vignette

Danish Christmas Hearts

A few days ago, Michaeline told us about her ambitious plans for spring equinox cleaning and decluttering, both physically and mentally. There does tend to be something about the changing season that makes us crave restored order (or maybe it’s just a Virgo thing).

I tend to keep my physical spaces neat and orderly, but even the most stereotypical Virgo can have a mess somewhere that could benefit from some springtime TLC. Mine happens to be virtual. So while Michaeline focuses on her office and brain spaces, I’m focusing on my computer. One of the virtual folders pinned to my desktop I’ve neglected for quite a while is labeled Vignettes. Turns out, that’s where I’ve saved flash fiction pieces inspired by, among other things, Elizabeth’s Friday writing sprints. I haven’t had the time and writing bandwidth to participate in those lately, so it was fun to see what I’d written in the past.

Some of you might recall I have a plan for a mystery series set in Copenhagen, with protagonist Nicholai Olesen, or Nicky O as I often call him. One of the stories in my neglected Vignettes folder is about Nicky O, and while I’m pretty sure this showed up in the comments section at some point in time, I thought I’d post it here just to remind any Nick fans that he still exists somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain and he really will get his own book(s) one of these days. In this partial scene, Nick and his married lover/police detective Pernilla (who is often angry at him for so many reasons) are looking for clues to help track the killer who tried to frame Nick and…well, you can get caught up on how Nick got himself into this mess in the first place by first reading Parapluie (previously titled Copenhagen Blues) and Lost Hearts in Copenhagen. Then come back here to read Murder Clues (yeah, that title needs work, but hey, free fiction!). I’ll finish the scene and let you in on what Nick and Pernilla find in a second installment next week.

And to kick off our writing week in style, how about sharing a scene/vignette/opening paragraph of something of your own in the comments?

Murder Clues

When I slid into the passenger’s seat of Pernilla’s tiny black Puegot a little after nine that night, she didn’t spare me a glance or a word. Just floored the gas pedal and sent us zooming down the side streets of Vesterbro before I could even click my seatbelt into place. I took her dark mood to mean she’d neither forgiven nor forgotten the sins I’d committed against her over the past 72 hours. Continue reading