Authors: Cynthia Cross
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Humor, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Romantic Comedy, #Humor & Satire, #General Humor
her. “He’s no good for you!”
“Don’t be a dog in the manger, Danielle. You didn’t want
him. He’s been so torn up over it. I’m just trying to help him
“Are you kidding me? What made you think I didn’t want
him?” I asked. “He didn’t return my texts!”
But Jill wasn’t even listening. “Brian, I was so
worried! Where have you been?”
Mom broke in. “I’ve got a pot of coffee,” she
said. “Jill, we wanted to be sure to introduce Mr. Daemon Lucifer to
With difficulty, Jill’s gaze broke away from the Devil’s,
and she looked around at Mom. “Where is he,
“You’re talking to him!”
said. “It seems you’ve already met?”
Patty was inspired. “Jill does RPGs too, Mom.
They’ve met, but Jill only knows him as Brian Bunch.”
“Oh, I see,” Mom said, nodding sagaciously.
“Don’t sign anything,” I broke in.
“I’m hungry,” Doug announced.
“The diner across the street opens at six,” I told
him. It was amazing how many more options we had, now that we were back
on the time grid.
Tina said solicitously, “It’s nearly six. Come on,
honey, I’ll get you some breakfast. This has been such a long night for
the problem of that contract they signed,” Patty reminded us.
“Oh, that’s not a problem,”
said. “Rush Limbaugh said—“
“No, please,” Patty said. “I didn’t agree to hear
anything about that windbag tonight.”
“It’s not tonight anymore,”
said with dignity.
“Or today, either,” Patty said.
“Well, Dr. Laura said—“
“Even worse,” Patty said.
Jill turned her moony eyes away from Daemon Lucifer long
enough to say, “Please, no Dr. Laura. Dr. Laura thinks I’m an idiot, and
I really hate that.”
opened her mouth.
“Please, no,” said Patty, Jill, and I.
“You’re very rude to your mother,” said Tina. “Would
you like to come have breakfast with Doug and me?” she said politely to
Mom. “I listen to Dr. Laura on satellite radio all the time.”
Mom smiled graciously and took the arm Doug offered
“There go three of them,” I said, counting heads.
“That leaves Patty and me.
Daemon, or whatever he’s calling himself at the moment.”
“It could have been worse,” Patty said. “At least we
don’t have Angel Battle and Josh to contend with.”
We could say whatever we wanted, because there was no chance
that either Jill or Daemon Lucifer were listening. The front desk opened
at 6 AM, and they were heading toward the lobby.
“If you’re getting a room, make sure it’s FAAAR away from
this one!” I sang out. “I don’t want to hear any wall-banging or
The Devil turned and saluted. Jill rolled her eyes,
but I could tell she was well under his spell.
“And Jill, one more thing,” I said. “Don’t—come on,
Patty, say it with me—“
“Don’t sign anything!” we both called out.
“I’m getting my two hours,” her voice drifted back to us.
“Oh geez,” Patty said. “I hope they put them across
the parking lot from us.”
“Mark my words,” I said, “Jill will find a way to text the
experience. She’ll probably do another blast text.”
,” Patty said.
“She wouldn’t. Wait. She would.”
“I hope that Doug and Tina have the sense to keep Mom away
“Heck,” Patty said. “I’m hoping they drive her back to
Schaumburg and install her into their guest room permanently.”
“Think there’s much of a chance of that?” I asked.
We watched as an older-model car swung into the motel
parking lot. The Sun Devil Motel was getting popular.
“Mom likes her coffee,” Patty said. “Maybe we can go
by in 20 minutes and stall them.”
“There’s a gift shop next door. They sell the usual
southwest junk—silver and turquoise bracelets made in China, Grand Canyon postcards,
petrified wood, dinosaurs made out of plastic.”
“That should keep her occupied. But as soon as Jill
leaves that motel room, we’re going to have to do an intervention,” Patty
“Good idea,” I said. “I know I needed one.”
“Not to be nosey or anything, but we should know which room
to keep an eye on.”
“Wonder if they got a day rate?” I mused. “I doubt
Jill would be that tacky.”
“There they are,” Patty reported, from the balcony.
“They’re going into the far left end of the one-story part of the motel, across
from the pool.”
“Good scouting.” I had to admit to some feelings of
“Come on, let’s go get some breakfast.”
As we headed out through the lobby, we saw a pleasant-faced older
man with a clerical collar at the front desk. He was pointing to the hot
sauce, still on its side and uncapped. He seemed distressed. “Do
you have any idea how long that bottle’s been open?” he was asking the hotel
“No, sir, I didn’t even realize it was there,” was the
“I opened it last night,” I told him.
The man looked worried and earnest. “I don’t suppose
you know what was in there,” he said.
“Actually, I think I do,” I said.
“We were heading over to the diner,” Patty said. “I
have a feeling this is a long story. Why don’t you join us?”
“Sure,” said the pleasant-faced man.
“Just a second.”
He peered inside the bottle, shook
his head disappointedly, and replaced the cap. “I’ll just take this with
me, though it’s kind of like shutting the gate after the horse has bolted.”
We got inside the Bullhead Diner and spotted Mom, Doug and
Tina right away. They were in a booth and were all laughing about
As we approached them, Tina said, “There’s room! Patty,
Danielle, your mom is a hoot! I’ve never laughed so hard!”
“I was telling them about the time you froze your tongue to
the freezer case at
“Just like ‘A Christmas Story,’” said Doug, still laughing.
“Oh god,” I said. “I suppose the dog pooping on my
foot is next.”
But Doug was looking past us. “Father Fritz!” he said
“What?” Tina said. “Oh
Father Fritz! How did you know that we needed you? When did you get
“I’ve been here for a month,” Father Fritz said. “To
think I’d find parishioners in Bullhead City.”
“We noticed we’d had a guest priest for the past few
Sundays,” Tina said. “Didn’t we, Doug?”
“It’s a small world,”
“We needed you for an exorcism last night,” Doug said.
“I messed up. I used the wrong holy water.”
“Father Fritz, can you do an exorcism for us?” Tina asked
“May I attend?”
hopefully. “We Lutherans just don’t offer the full menu of religious
experience, I’m sorry to say.”
“An exorcism,” Father Fritz said slowly. “I wonder…”
“We need introductions pronto,” I said. “Because,
Father Fritz, I need to know what you know about that bottle of hot sauce!”
“Father, that’s Danielle and Patty Webster there, and
is their mom,
said. “Okay, we all know each other. Everyone have a seat.
You must all be starved!”
“Keep the coffee coming,”
told the waitress.
“If there’s hot sauce available,” Doug said, “I could use it
on my hash browns.”
“It was open all night on the motel counter,” I said.
“That’s fine,” Doug said. “Where is it now?”
“I’ve got it,” said Father Fritz. “I suppose it’s
perfectly okay to open it now. I’m sure what was in it has disappeared.”
“Oh, no, he hasn’t,” I told him. “He’s over at the
motel right now, with a Do Not Disturb sign on his door.”
“Really?” said Father Fritz. “Surely you realize who
he is, if you tried to perform an exorcism.”
“Yeah,” we all said, all except Mom.
“Who is it?”
more role-playing games,
Mom,” Patty said.
“So we’re talking about Mr. Bush.”
“Bunch,” everyone corrected her.
“Bush…” I murmured. “You don’t suppose—“
“Text from Jill,” Patty announced.
“Me, too,” I said, getting my phone out.
“It must be a blast. Can we read it in mixed company?”
“I think so. It says ‘delicious,’ only
spelled wrong, and she put one of those emoticon things
with a tongue hanging out.”
“That means she’s being a smart
,” Mom said.
“Very good, Mom,” I said, impressed.
“I wonder who’s doing who in
Patty said in my ear.
“Jill is watching the
now?” Doug asked.
“Bingo,” Patty said, but I rolled my eyes.
“Did you seriously just say ‘
Josh would love you. He uses jargon like that all the time. You
must watch the same crime shows.”
“The hot sauce,” Patty said. “You two can argue
later. How did you know about the hot sauce, Father Fritz?”
“I should start at the beginning,” he said with a deep
breath. “My dad is 92 and lives here in Bullhead City. Recently he
got friendly with a guy selling church bonds named Daemon Lassiter.”
“Lassiter,” I said. “He’s sure got a lot of names.”
“Well, under Daemon Lassiter’s influence, Dad decided to
change his will, remove my brother and sister and me, and leave everything to
the Church. I wasn’t concerned for myself; the Church will take care of
me just fine when I retire. But Bob and Linda both are sick and could
really use inheritance money to pay bills at some point. So a month ago,
I came down here to try to talk some sense into Dad.”
I was putting two and two together. “I know your dad!”
I said. “Frank Foster, right? He’s one of Jill’s clients. He
doesn’t like faxing, so I came up to get his signature on a new will. I
just saw him yesterday.”
“He changed it back, then?” Father Fritz asked
anxiously. “He’s been really cranky for the past few weeks, probably
because—well, I‘ll tell you about that in a minute. He told me to get out
of his sight for the day, so I ran some errands, got him some cigarettes—“
“Cigarettes?” we all asked.
cigarettes have extended his life.”
,” I said.
defended him. “He
probably really enjoys them. If he really looks forward to that, it gives
him something to get up for. I know people who have just one martini,
right at five every afternoon.”
“And then another one at six,” Patty said in my ear.
“Exactly,” said Father Fritz, smiling his earnest smile at
. She was eating it up.
“I’d say you know my dad,” he went on. “Dad’s got
to have his daily dose of Jim Beam, right at about that time. What can we
say, when he’s 92 and healthier than two of his kids?”
“I know there’s a confidentiality issue here,” I said, “but
Jill, my boss,
, is unavailable at the moment, and
these circumstances seem highly unusual. Let me just say, Father Fritz,
that from what I saw yesterday, I don’t think you or sister and brother have to
worry about being cut out of the will.”
“Why would Daemon Lucifer, I mean Lassiter, or do I mean
Brian Bunch, try to steer money into the Catholic Church, anyway?” Doug asked.
“I wondered about that, too. But it’s not as out of
character as you might think. My guess is he saw an opportunity to sow
dissension in a family, and thought the price was worth it,” Father Fritz
“Or else the Catholic Church is a tool of Satan,” Patty said
in my ear.
“Text from Jill,” I said. “Dispatch from the
front.” I looked.
says is OMG
“Well, we know what’s happening with her,” Patty said.
“Are her two hours up?”
“That means Oh My Goodness,” said
parading her knowledge. “But how do you know what’s happening?”
Doug choked on his hash browns.
“Too much hot sauce?”
was not easily
deterred. “What’s happening with Jill?”
“More of that darned role-playing,” Patty said with
disgust. “I hope they realize that check-out is at 11.”
I looked at Patty with respect. She could bullshit Mom
I was almost ready to believe her
“So where does the bottle of hot sauce come in?” Doug
asked. “It tasted fine, by the way. I poured a bunch of it on my
hash browns. The kitchen really burned those hash browns though.
There were a couple big chunks that almost got caught in my throat.”
“That’s the reason you started choking just now,” I said
affably. “Now I get it.”
“Hush,” said Doug. “Go on with your story, Father
Fritz. So your dad cut all his children out of his will?”
“Yes. It was about three weeks ago that Daemon
Lassiter succeeded in talking Dad into changing his will in favor of the
Church, despite all my efforts. That night, Dad had gone to bed, and
Lassiter and I stayed up, talking. Well, arguing, really. I pretty
much accused him of having his eye on Dad’s money himself.”
“Oh, surely not,”
“Well, he probably didn’t. I just didn’t understand
his motivation or his influence with Dad. I mean, why start
interfering? So he told me Dad’s money was not of the least interest to
him, that he had only the Church in mind, and that as a matter of fact, he had
a diamond worth a lot of money that he was going to donate to the church,
“Wow,” Doug commented. “Do you think he was telling
“I don’t know, but he did seem to have a diamond. We
had gone back to the dining room to talk, and not all the dinner had been
cleaned up, you understand. I’d cooked up fajitas on the grill, but no
one was in a hurry to wash the dishes or put the food away.”
“You need a woman’s touch,”
said, nodding her understanding.
“So what happened, Father Fritz?” asked Tina.
“He could tell I didn’t believe him, so he pulled a small
stone out of his pocket—a stone, unset, you understand—and showed it to me in the
palm of his hand. I said, that doesn’t look so big to me, and he said,
well, it’s a red diamond and worth a lot more for that reason. He said a
client had given it to him and asked him to give it directly to the Pope.
She said she’d always called it the Pope Diamond.”
“Oh, like the Hope Diamond,”
“Cute,” I observed. “I wonder how much of this story
we can believe.”
you saying Father Fritz is making this up?”
“No, mom,” I said patiently. “I’m saying that Mr.
Role-Player cannot be trusted.”
“That’s a shame,”
“We need to keep him lifted up. I’ll put him on the prayer chain.”
“Text from Jill,” Patty interrupted.
“’I’m in love,’ followed by a heart,” I said grimly.
“Leave it to Jill.”
“Well, we knew that was going to happen,” Patty said.
“Their two hours will be up soon, so let’s get back to the story.”
“There’s not much more to say,” Father Fritz
continued. “I guess I startled him, reaching across to pick up some of
the food still on the table, and he must have thought he had to protect his
fancy diamond. He fumbled the diamond and grabbed for it, but it fell out
of his hand right into the open bottle of hot sauce. He shouted, ‘No!’ and
I can’t describe it, but he dived right in after it.
“Unbelievable!” said Doug.
“It must have been expensive,” said Tina.
“That’s right,” said
struck. “Otherwise, who would want to jump into a bottle of hot
sauce? Just think how messy and smelly that would be. I hope he
“I presume so,” Father Fritz said. “But I must confess
what I did next. In a split second I realized no natural power could have
accomplished what he had just done. Enter a bottle? Execute a
near-perfect swan dive doing so? No, that had to be supernatural, and not
a good supernatural, either, judging by the discord he’d brought into the
house. So I clapped my hand over the top of the bottle, found the cap in
the kitchen, and managed to cap the bottle with our Mr. Lassiter securely
inside.” He showed us the palm of his hand. A burn had blistered
over and was healing.
“It’s the same size as—
and brought the opening of the hot sauce bottle over to the palm of Father
“Perfect fit,” said Tina.
“How brave you were!” said
“How much that
must have hurt!”
Pleasant-faced Father Fritz smiled at my mom. “I
hadn’t thought of it that way. Thank you!”
“So that’s how he got in,” I said slowly. “Three weeks
ago, you said?”
“Yes, right at the end of May.”
“Daemon Lucifer did say three weeks,” I said slowly.
“But how did he get from Frank Foster’s dining room table to the front desk of
the Sun Devil Motel?”
“Things can end up in the strangest places,” said
. “Remember the time, Danielle, when you looked
all over for the cat’s flea collar and found it in the diaper pail?”
“Text from Jill,” Patty reported. We both got out our
“’incredible talent swoon
That borders on TMI,” she
“Too Much Information,”
“Mom, did you start texting?” I asked, suddenly suspicious.
“The prayer chain ladies showed me how,” she said
primly. “It’s a faster way to get people in need of prayer up on the