Read Follow the Dotted Line Online

Authors: Nancy Hersage

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Humor & Satire, #Humorous, #Women's Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Women Sleuths, #Contemporary Fiction, #General Humor, #Humor

Follow the Dotted Line

BOOK: Follow the Dotted Line
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

No part of this work may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission of the publisher.

Published by Kindle Press, Seattle, 2015

A
Kindle Scout
selection

Amazon, the Amazon logo, Kindle Scout, and Kindle Press are trademarks of
Amazon.com
, Inc., or its affiliates.

This is book is for:

My jet packing children, Tom, Molly, and Shannon

My sibs, great and gracious, Norma and Russ

My wonderful mom, Elnor, and my enigmatic dad, Walt

My friend and partner in screenwriting, Shirley

And the Lorna of my life, Barbara

A special thanks to my college roommates—

Sandy, who helped so much by proofing the manuscript and by sharing my ridiculous worldview, and Cathy, who helped me remember it’s never too late to get that story down on paper.

Contents

Prologue Phone Tree

Chapter 1 Loss of Gravity

Chapter 2 Israelites in LA

Chapter 3 Elvis Impersonators

Chapter 4 Smoking Cubans

Chapter 5 What Goes on in Texas

Chapter 6 Such a Lovely Face

Chapter 7 No Rescue from the Inevitable

Chapter 8 Cremains of the Day

Chapter 9 Unrepressed Memories

Chapter 10 Eye of Newt

Chapter 11 Cheaper than Polyester

Chapter 12 Superior Color Commentary

Chapter 13 Cheeky Bastard

Chapter 14 Worst Behaved Person in the Room

Chapter 15 An Obvious Observation

Chapter 16 Animal House Remake

Chapter 17 The Queen of Hearts

Chapter 18 Life Imitates Movies of the Week

Chapter 19 Free of Pink Flamingos

Chapter 20 The Lull before the Brainstorm

Chapter 21 What’s an Elks Lodge?

Chapter 22 The Attitudes of Entomologists

Chapter 23 Witty Transgressions and Buried Futures

Chapter 24 The Auld Woman of Wicca

Chapter 25 The Ingenious Part

Chapter 26 The Warm Waters of Denial

Chapter 27 Take a Load off Fanny

Chapter 28 A Dotted Line to Follow

Chapter 29 More Convoluted than the Tax Code

Chapter 30 Cloudy and Confused

Chapter 31 No Time for Mulligans

Chapter 32 Right Thing for the Wrong Reason

Chapter 33 The Non-answer to Your Unasked Question

Chapter 34 The Amber Haze

Epilogue Better than a preacher, I guess . . .

About the Author

Prologue

Phone Tree

Mitch Kornacky stared, more than a little appalled, at the human ashes in the Styrofoam burger container. The young entrepreneur could not take his eyes off the box that his assistant had just brought into his office, set on his desk, and opened gingerly.

“Not the sandwich you were expecting. Right, boss?” asked Billy, the bearer of both the box and the bad news.

Mitch nodded in the affirmative, as the assistant then handed him a small, handwritten card that had arrived in the same package as the box of ashes.

The underling was feeling a touch squeamish. “I think I’m done opening your mail.”

“Thanks for your undying devotion, Billy,” hissed Mitch, still reeling from the delivery. “How did it come?”

“Regular mail.”

“God, she didn’t even have enough respect to send my poor father FedEx,” Mitch snorted, as he read the accompanying card.

“Your father’s wife?
She
sent this?” the assistant asked, feeling his duty now included closing the squeaky yellow box with as much reverence as possible.

“His fourth,” Mitch pointed out. “They’ve been married less than a year. Never met her.”

Mitch’s eyes wandered to the north-facing office window with a view of the Getty Center on the hills above. His father had never actually seen Mitch’s company in the fashionable Santa Monica office tower or met any of his nearly 50 employees.

“Did you get an eyeful of that note . . . accompanying the . . .
remains
?” Billy prompted.

Mitch looked down at the desk and read it for a second time.

Dear Mitchell,

Your father died recently. I had him cremated, so I could send him to you. So there’s no need for any more annoying phone calls about your new house or your business. Just leave me alone or I’ll put a hex on you.

Sincerely yours,

Tilda Trivette Kornacky

“My old man sure could pick ‘em, couldn’t he?” mused Mitch.

“How old was he?”

“Almost 60. She’s, like, 32.”

“Whoa. Is she serious about the hex thing?”

“He met her at a palm reading. That pretty much says it all,” Mitch announced. “You wanna put him someplace? I gotta make a call.”

“What place?” the assistant asked, warily.

“Ah, how ’bout the fridge?”

“Really?”

“Why not? In the freezer compartment. Just be sure to mark the container.”

The underling mulled over the request for a moment.

“How do you want me . . .”

“Shit, Billy, I have no idea,” Mitch said, with more emotion than he intended, probably because he was feeling more than he expected. “This is the part where you show me some initiative, okay?”

“Okay.”

Billy walked solemnly out of the office, hoping to impress his superior, then glanced quickly from side to side, desperate to attract an audience with questions about what he was carrying; he was going to dine out on this one for a long time.

Mitch picked up his cell and dialed.

“Hey, Mitch. What’s shakin’ on the Left Coast?”

“Hey, Ian. Glad I caught you. I’ve got some sad news.”

“What? What’s wrong?”

“Dad’s dead.”

Ian missed a beat. In fact, he missed about four quarter notes, which was considerable for a man who made his living playing music. Then he said, “Dad? Our dad?”

“Um hum.”

“The one in Texas?”

“You got another one?”

“Jeez, I’d forgotten he was alive.”

“That’s mean, Ian.”

“I’m being serious. I literally haven’t talked to him in ten years. What happened?”

“No clue. His latest life partner just sent me his ashes in the snail mail. With a little sidebar saying: ‘Don’t call me or I’ll put a hex on you.’”

“Is this the palm reader?” Ian asked.

“And woman-of-curses, apparently. Dad was always into exotica.”

“Double jeez!”

“God, Ian, you’re starting to sound like a girl. You’ve got to find a different band.”

“Not a chance. Making too much money, bro. Girl bands are very big in Nashville these days. Doing the Tonight Show next week and opening for the Chili Peppers in Atlanta the week after.”

“Well, double jeez yourself, old buddy!”

“Thank you, thank you,” Ian said and then realized this was probably not the time to brag about his career. He sucked in a deep breath and released a sigh of heavy responsibility. “Who’s telling Mom?”

“Not me,” Mitch said. “In fact, why don’t you call Sam later tonight and then have her call Lilly in the morning. Let them figure it out.”

“Good solution. What should I tell them?”

“Just say he arrived in a fast-food container this morning, and I’m doing everything I can.”

“What does that mean?”

“I’m keeping him on ice.”

“Really? Why do you have him on ice?”

“I’m not sure. It just seemed appropriate.”

Ian nodded and thought for a moment about what, exactly, was appropriate at a time like this.

“Are you, you know, upset, Mitch? That he’s dead, I mean,” Ian asked.

“Too early to tell, I guess,” replied his brother.

“Yeah,” Ian sighed again. “What about a funeral?”

“No need to rush. Let’s talk to the girls, and we can decide later. We can have it at my new house.”

“Cool. I saw the pictures online. It’s beautiful, Mitch.”

“Thanks.”

“Right. Sounds like a plan. Sad day, buddy.”

“Sad day. Later, bro.”

“Later.”

Samantha Kornacky Bravos, who had changed her last name to satisfy her mother’s political agenda and now kept it to satisfy her own, heard her cell ringing but was too out of breath to answer right away. She had just conquered the bridge spanning the Firth of Forth in a pair of truly outstanding cross trainers. Her watch announced it was a new personal best, which would put her among the top 115 women finishing this year’s Scottish Bridge 10K.

“Yo,” she wheezed, “Ian! I can’t believe you called. What time is it there?”

“About 2:30 in the morning. I just finished a show,” her younger brother said.

“I didn’t think you even knew about today. And if you did, I didn’t think you’d have the social skills to remember.”

“Remember?” he said without thinking—and confirming that he didn’t actually have the social skills to remember.

“My race,” she prompted.

“Oh, yeah, your race,” he said weakly, once again making it abundantly clear he had no idea what race she was talking about.

Okay, Sam thought, this phone call is evidently not about me. “Right,” she said. “Just give me your congratulations, Ian, and we’ll move on.”

“Congratulations,” Ian repeated, sounding as inept as he felt.

“Thanks,” she answered. She was determined to be pleased with her running accomplishment, even if no one else noticed. “And congratulations to you and the Girls with Grits. I hear you’re going to be on the Tonight Show.”

Sam, he knew, had enough social skills for the both of them. While he paid no attention to her career teaching history at the University of Edinburgh, she remained one of his biggest fans. Samantha did everything well, including being a big sister. Still, this conversation would not go well, that was a given, even before he picked up the phone.

“I’ve got some news, Sam,” he said. “About Dad.”

She didn’t respond, but he could feel the heat in her cheeks all the way across the Atlantic.

“Mitch got a letter from his latest wife. Tilda. He’s dead.”

“Oh.” The word popped out involuntarily, and they both waited for the emotion to follow. Nothing came.

“Sam?”

“He didn’t come to my wedding,” she said, evenly.

“I know.”

“Or do one thing to acknowledge the birth of Ella and Jake.”

“I know.”

“I haven’t heard from him in 12 years.”

“He was an alcoholic,” Ian reminded her, trying not to sound too sympathetic.

“He was a narcissist,” she spat, and now he could visualize the small puffs of steam accompanying her words.

“He did his best, Sam.”

“I don’t think so,” she retorted, her voice cracking with bitterness. “He was a son of a bitch!”

“Okay,” Ian agreed, hoping the worst was over. “That’s a big ten-four. I haven’t talked to him in a decade myself. But I thought I should call to let you know.”

With that, his big sister retreated.

“Sorry, Ian,” she said, mollified by the fact that he, too, hadn’t stayed in contact with their old man. “Sorry about my attitude. And I certainly never wished him dead. So what happened?”

He filled her in on the burger box and ashes. Then he told her about the hex.

“She’s the palm reader, right?”

“Mitch said Dad liked to call her a spiritualist.”

“Yes, well, Dad was always one for inflating job titles, wasn’t he?” She let her mind wander to the obvious thought. “Has anyone told Mom?”

“Not yet. I was hoping you’d call Lilly, and then maybe she could call Mom, . . . and then, also, maybe you two could kick around some funeral ideas . . .”

Sam took a moment to process everything he had packed into this last sentence. “I’m sensing a major burden shift here, Ian. From the boys to the girls.”

BOOK: Follow the Dotted Line
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