miss fortune mystery (ff) - targed by the tempest

Table of Contents

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Targeted

by the

Tempest

 

A

Sinful

Mystery

 

 

by

J L Johnson

Chapter 1 - Saturday afternoon, August 24, 1974

 

“Since Marge is going to Seattle for Labor Day weekend,” Gertie announced as she waltzed into Ida Belle’s kitchen, “how about we take a road trip?”

“A road trip?” Ida Belle asked before sticking the black, rat-tail comb back between her teeth. She pulled the last curler out of her hair with her now comb-free fingers and sprayed the strand with hair spray, shaking the can again and again. The curls had to last the rest of the night, and then overnight, right up until church the following morning. Walter had been out of her favorite brand, White Rain, and she’d had to settle on a new brand which she didn’t trust, so she kept spraying until the curls were drenched.

“You’re gonna start a fire with that stuff one of these days,” Gertie coughed, blinking ferociously, and waving her hand to clear the air.

“Oh please... Don’t be so dramatic,” Ida Belle shook the can again and scowled when the spray died out. “Damn Walter! He better’ve restocked,” she muttered, angrily throwing the comb on the table. She shook her head, closed her eyes and took a deep breath to compose herself.

“Yes dear, you’re right, I guess
I
shouldn’t be so dramatic...” Gertie snickered.

“Fine, you made your point. Now, what’s all this about a road trip?” Ida Belle asked after she exhaled and opened her eyes.

“You should think about buying one of those new iron curling things. I hear they make curling your hair take minutes instead of hours.”

“New?” Ida Belle scoffed. “There’s nothing new about them. My grandma had an old curling iron she put right in the wood burner and she burned the back of my neck something fierce one time when she was trying to curl my hair. I still have the scar. See?” Ida Belle moved the stiff mass of curls off her neck so Gertie could see the raised, oblong scar.

“Ouch! I bet that hurt,” Gertie winced. “But these new ones plug right into the wall…”

“Same idea but add electricity? No thanks, I can electrocute myself just fine by sticking a fork in a wall socket. Did that when I was a kid too,” she snorted, “and it
did
curl my hair, but I don’t want to repeat the experience on a regular basis.”

“Oh dear…”

“I promise I won’t be rushing out to buy one anytime soon,” Ida Belle said. “I hear they can also burn your hair right off your head. There’s absolutely no way to control the temperature on them.”

“Okay, I guess I should’ve known the commercials were exaggerating. Maybe I won’t get one… Anyway, road trip,” Gertie unfurled her copy of that morning’s
Times-Picayune.
“I think it’s high time we went to another concert,” she pointed her finger at a full page ad.

“Oh no… No more concerts... You remember the last one?” Ida Belle narrowed her eyes at Gertie and then snorted. “No, that’s right, you don’t. You had a tad too much cough syrup and slept through the last couple of hours of the concert. Walter had to carry you out, if I remember correctly. We’re getting way too old for such foolishness.”

“I remember more about that concert than you think I do,” Gertie nodded slightly and then cocked her head to the side. “Yes, ma’am, I sure do...”

“Then you should understand what I’m saying,” Ida Belle said, wondering what exactly Gertie thought she remembered. She and Walter had gotten a little too cozy while they’d thought Gertie was asleep.

While she’d definitely enjoyed herself, it wasn’t something she was entirely proud of, and most of the time, she could forget it had even happened. “Anyway,” she shook the uncomfortable thoughts out of her tightly curled head. “No more concerts.”

“Even if it’s Joe Cocker and Santana?” Gertie coyly smiled, sweeping her hand dramatically across the ad in the newspaper like a Hollywood starlet showing off a new car.

“I know you’ve always regretted not getting to go to Woodstock, so here’s your chance to see two of the original performers at one concert. It’s supposed to be a day-long event. We’d have to stay over.”

“If it was CCR, I’d think about it,” Ida Belle chuckled.

“Creedence Clearwater Revival, right dear? Aren’t they the band who sings that song about the bayou?”

“That’s the one, the song about being born down here.”

“You
do
realize that band is from California, don’t you dear?”

“They may be from California but they’ve got the right ideas about life down here... Hell, life in general. They also wrote
Fortunate Son
and
Proud Mary;
they supported those of us who served, even though they were against the war. They
got
it, not like some of those other hippy-dippy bands who blamed us for just doing our jobs!” Ida Belle exclaimed.

She’d gotten herself so riled up, she was pulling at her hair, which now stuck out from her head in stiffly coiled springs. “Now see what you’ve gone and made me do?” Ida Belle was picking at the curls with her fingers, and making the sticky mess even worse.

She turned to level her best glare at Gertie. “That was the end of that can of hair spray! I can’t go to church like this tomorrow. C’mon, we have to get to Walter’s before he closes. He better have my White Rain!” Ida Belle gritted her teeth as she reached for a sun hat to cover her hair. “Well, are you coming, or not?”

“Oh, yes dear. I think that’s a good idea. We can ask him about the concert while we’re there,” Gertie smiled serenely, folding the paper carefully and sticking it in her purse. She then plucked her purse from the table and followed her, “I bet he’d love to go, he’s always up for a road trip.”

 

“This is the concert I’m talking about,” Gertie said. She folded the paper over to the full-page advertisement for ‘ZZ Top's First Annual Texas Sized Rompin' Stompin' Barn Dance and BBQ,’ while Ida Belle went in search of her White Rain. “Not a single comma in whole sentence,” she marveled, shaking her head as she looked up at him. “It’s almost painful to read.”

 

They were Walter’s only customers, so she had most of his divided attention. He was listening to her but she noticed his eyes followed Ida Belle’s every move. Gertie could almost tell exactly where Ida Belle was just by watching his eyes, it was fascinating.
The man still has it bad
, Gertie pondered to herself.

She’d thought Walter had given up on his quest to be Ida Belle’s beau, but she decided she might need to rethink that thought. Maybe she just hadn’t been paying attention... He was every bit as stubborn as Ida Belle.
What a frightening couple they’d make if Ida Belle ever admitted she returned his feelings
, she thought, and Gertie was fairly certain she did.

 

“You never stop being a teacher, huh Gertie?” Walter chuckled, turning his eyes back to her.

“It’s in a newspaper, for crying out loud,” Gertie replied, “I know they have editors who work there, so how did that sentence get published?”

“I’ll bet they probably inserted the ad as it was, and an editor never even saw it,” Walter mused.

“Damn it! You moved it again! Which isle is my hair spray in now Walter?” Ida Belle asked, raising her voice and sounding very irritated when she couldn’t locate it on her own.

“It’s over in isle two, by the other hair stuff, you know, by the shampoos,” he yelled back at her and then turned back to Gertie. “The concert’s in Austin?” Walter asked. “That would mean staying overnight, right?”

“Yes, the concert’s on Sunday, I guess because of the holiday. We could leave Friday afternoon or even Saturday morning. Saturday works best for me. Anyway, I looked up the route this morning. We can take Highway 90 all the way to Houston and 290 from Houston to Austin. Eight hours or so.” Gertie was almost jumping up and down, she was so excited.

“It says here, tickets are only eight dollars, all general admission. They say they’re expecting around twenty thousand to attend,” Ida Belle read over her shoulder, clutching two cans of her precious White Rain hair spray against her chest.

“Can you get the time off?” Gertie asked Walter.

“Well, I always close for holidays, just like dad always did. He never opened the store just in case someone forgot to buy something,” Walter was on a rant and both women had heard this particular rant from him before.

“This nonsense about staying open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week is ridiculous, people just need to plan better. Why should I miss out on a holiday because some idiot didn’t plan better? I think staying open all the time teaches people not to plan…”

“Settle down Walter,” Gertie snorted, “you’re preachin to the choir. We
still
agree with you.”

“Sorry,” Walter said sheepishly. “It just gets me all riled up. I’ll go with you, but only if we can stop for a few days of fishing. Dad already said he’d cover my shifts if I wanted to go fishing after Labor Day.”

“Stay gone till Tuesday or Wednesday? We could manage that, right Ida Belle?” Gertie asked. “Where do you want to fish?”

“I’m thinkin that new reservoir, Toledo Bend, right there on the border? They stocked it a couple of years back, right after they flooded it, and the whole thing is chock-full of trees so there should be some big fish hiding in there just waitin to be hooked. Plus, it’d be right on our way back. We wouldn’t have to go very far out of the way to get there.”

“I heard it’s inaccessible by boat
because
of all those trees,” Gertie said.

“Big motor boats have problems but I’m thinkin we could rent a small rowboat wherever we stay. There’s a bunch of brand new fishin lodges and cabins,” Walter scratched his chin.

“New cabins sound good, but couldn’t we just take one of your rafts?” Ida Belle asked. “We could pump it up when we get there.”

“Depends on what we drive,” Walter said, “the raft would fit in the back of my truck…”

“I’m not sure your old wreck would make it all the way to Texas. Anyway, it’d fit in my trunk,” Gertie huffed. “I say we take my new car.”

“New?” Walter seemed surprised. “Did you trade in your Caddy already?”

“No, of course not,” Gertie snorted. “Okay, almost new. It’s only a year old.”

“Your car would definitely be more comfortable,” Ida Belle said, “but, you really think your trunk could hold his raft?”

“Marge once said my trunk was big enough to hold ten dead bodies,” Gertie claimed. “I never did understand where she came up with that particular number.”

“That’s just Marge,” Ida Belle chuckled, shaking her head. “You know how she is. Some people measure spaces by imagining hay bales or sacks of flour. Marge imagines dead bodies. It’s just a quirk.”

“Pretty twisted quirk, if you ask me,” Gertie reflected.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 2 - Early Saturday morning, August 30, 1974

 

“Everything ready?” Ida Belle asked as she inspected the tightly-packed trunk of Gertie’s year-old Cadillac Coupe DeVille. “You sure you want to take her?”

“All this wouldn’t fit in your Mustang, and I don’t think any of us want to take your old truck or even Walter’s old truck, for that matter. Anyway, she’s never been out of the parish, at least not since the day she was delivered,” Gertie ran her hand lovingly over the rear bumper of the car. The Regal Blue Firemist paint sparkled brilliantly in the morning sun. “It’s about time she got to stretch her legs.”

“Speakin of stretching legs,” Walter peered in the front driver’s door, “I’ll plan on sittin in the back when you drive Gertie.” He chuckled as he measured the distance between the seat and the steering wheel. “Seein how close that seat is to the wheel, I’d be kissin my knees in the front seat.”

“I know who you’d rather be kissin,” Gertie smirked, raising an eyebrow at Walter.

“You stop that right now Gertie Hebert!” Ida Belle hissed between her tightly clenched lips, her entire face turning an unbecoming shade of purple.

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