Read The Housewife Assassin's Killer Christmas Tips Online
Authors: Josie Brown
Tags: #action and adventure, #Brown, #chick lit, #contemporary romance, #espionage, #espionage books, #funny mysteries, #funny mystery, #guide, #handy household tips, #hardboiled, #household tips, #housewife, #Janet Evanovich, #Josie Brown, #love, #love and romance, #mom lit, #mommy lit, #Mystery, #relationship tips, #Romance, #romantic comedy, #romantic mysteries, #romantic mystery, #Romantic Suspense, #Suspense, #Thriller, #thriller mysteries, #thrillers mysteries, #Women Sleuths, #womens contemporary
(Side note: Make sure the copyright is in your name, and register the song with ASCAP so the royalties go to you, as opposed to that drunk you married or the kids who whined and snickered all the way through the process. And yes, you can leave all the money you make on this sure-fire hit to your cat.)
“Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.” I choke up as I whisper this to the priest on the other side of the confessional booth inside Saint Basil’s Church in downtown Los Angeles.
The lump in my throat has nothing to do with what I’m about to say, and everything to do with what I had for breakfast—boulder-heavy scones made by Mary, who just so happens to be baking-challenged. What a mother won’t do to encourage their children toward feats of domestic glory.
“How long has it been since your last confession, Sister?” Father Michelangelo Casari’s English is excellent for a Libyan of Italian descent.
His eyesight isn’t so bad, either. I can barely make him out through the wooden grill that separates us, but obviously, he can see the nun’s wimple on my head.
“Too long, Father. Since the twenty-seventh day of October, 2011.”
Father Casari stifles a gasp. Of course, he would recognize that date. Forty-five of his devout parishioners—all part of the anti-Qaddafi rebel faction, which had secured the arms cache that may now be stateside—disappeared that day, right after communion at his church, St. Francis of Tripoli.
Among them was Allegra Monticello, who began her confession by divulging how and why her husband was able to secure their safe passage out of the country and ended it with a teary prayer for innocent lives soon to be lost at her expense.
Her penance came with the thumb drive she handed over to Father Casari. On it are files that verify everything she told him.
No doubt it has caused Father Casari many sleepless nights. “I pray for the souls of those lost on that day.” This code phrase tells him I’m here to give him absolution for any guilt he may have with his own confession about Allegra.
He cocks his head suspiciously. “I was not expecting a nun to do the pickup.”
“Neither are your enemies. But they’re onto you, so the sooner you can hand it over to me, the better.” I don’t like the way he’s stalling. Time’s a-wasting. Besides, this wool habit is itchy. That’s what I get for putting it over bra and panties without a T-shirt.
He reaches under his collar and pulls out a silver thumb drive, hanging from a thin silver chain.
He’s about to hand it to me through the wood grille that separates us when his head slams into the wall to his right, forced there by a bullet from a gun with a silencer, which now has now splattered his blood and brain matter all over his colorful silk vestments.
After my shock and awe, I lunge forward to grab what I came for, but the grille is too strong for me to rip off, let alone punch through it. I turn to open the confessional’s door, but Father Casari’s assassin was smart enough to lock it from the outside.
I struggle with it, but I’m too late. Two slim, hot pink-tipped fingers pluck the thumb drive from his dead hand before I have a chance to kick open the door.
By the time I do, the nun with the gun is on the run.
The bullet from my Glock whizzes by her wimple. She ducks and rolls, shooting off a round of her own. I kill the light, literally, when one of my bullets pierces the chandelier hanging over her head. It falls, winging her shoulder. As she drops her gun, she shouts out a stream of Slavic curses.
“Naughty nun,” I taunt her as I make my way over to her, my gun pointed at her heart. “Do you know how many Hail Marys that’ll cost you?”
The sound of the parish’s school children caroling down the hall has me pausing just long enough for her to leap behind a pew and scramble for her gun.
Too late. I kick it out of her way.
But this gives her the opportunity to grab my ankle. When I stomp on her wrist with my free foot, she grunts in pain, then rolls out of the way. She gets up in time to feel my side kick to her gut, which sends her toppling over another pew.
When I scurry over it after her, I see it, on the floor, halfway between both of us.
The thumb drive.
We circle each other slowly, assessing for weaknesses. She takes the first punch, but I block it. My front kick misses her by inches. She jabs with a closed fist, but I move quickly out of the way. Her pale gray eyes blaze in anger. She realizes we’re well matched.
We freeze as the carolers walk up the aisle. With eyes downcast, we kneel in the pew together and pray.
Just as the last caroler strolls off, I hit her with a jab to her side. By the time she’s on her feet, I am, too, but barely. A side-winding kick puts me back on my ass.
A sneeze from a parishioner lighting candles has her turning her head, just slightly.
That’s my chance. I roll over, grab the thumb drive, jump up, and fly out the door.
Two blocks later, I’ve ducked into a barbershop. I watch from behind an old copy of
as she runs by the window, angry and frantic.
The barber doesn’t even look up from the head beneath his shears as he asks, “Shave and a haircut?”
I pull up the habit and hold out my legs. Stubble does not become me. Jeez, how long has it been?
“Yeah, a shave sounds nice,” I say. “But I’ll skip the cut.”
Hearing my voice, the barber does a double-take. Still, he shrugs. “Whatever you say, Sis.”
Secret Santa Etiquette
When playing Secret Santa, there are a few unspoken rules that gentlefolk follow.
The first is never to grimace should you draw a name you don’t like. Instead, squeal with delight, maybe even give a clap or a bounce, to prove the gift is worth what they are to receive, even if you’re planning on re-gifting something you got last year from some cheapskate.
(Remember: your recipient is watching, and will remember any frown. So will the person drawing your name, and you want to set a good example.)
Secondly, stay within the price set for the gifts. Obviously, prior to the drawing, you can lobby for a higher price point, especially if you’ve got your heart set on something sporting a designer label.
Seeking out the person who drew your name is uncouth. However, should you happen to run across the piece of paper with your name on it in anyone’s wastebasket, wallet, or purse—no harm, no foul.
And finally, should the gift you receive be a disappointment, smile graciously through your pain or embarrassment.
Payback comes later. In a dark alley. With a crowbar.
The files on the thumbnail drive have turned Acme’s offices into a beehive of activity. Our operatives are working in teams, matching the Catholic rebels’ fully itemized munitions list to any intel regarding sales to rogue nations since Tripoli’s fall.
Besides sixty-five anti-aircraft missiles, three Russian T-55 tanks, and nineteen SA-24 Grinch surface-to-air missile launchers, the cache also included tens of thousands of small arms, and thousands of anti-vehicle mines, tank shells, and mortars.
The thumb drive also holds a video file. Allegra’s husband covertly taped the munitions-for-cash exchange, with two men and a woman. The image is grainy, but one is tall and Western looking. The other man looks to be of Middle Eastern descent.
“Arnie, isolate the unknown suspect’s face as best as you can. When you have the cleanest digital image possible, lateral it to Emma so that she can run it through Interpol’s Universal Face Workstation.”
Arnie nods. With a few clicks of his mouse, Emma has what she needs.
As for the male Quorum operative, I recognize him immediately:
He’s my soon-to-be ex-husband, Carl.
Jack recognizes him, too. I can tell because his hands tighten into fists before he crosses his arms at his chest.
He glances over at me in time to see my eyes glaze over with tears. When our gazes cross, it’s me who turns away first. I can’t stand the look in his eyes. He presumes my tears mean I still care.
Well, he’s wrong. I’m crying for my children. I pray the day never comes when they learn the truth.
Their biological father is a traitor and a monster.
The other suspect is positioned in such a way that his face is hidden in shadow.
As for the woman, all we’ve got is a partial image. Who is she? We know for a fact that Allegra wasn’t at the exchange. By simply handing off the thumb drive to her priest, she paid with her life on a later day.
Finally, the woman shifts slightly to her right, pulling her face out of the shadows. Her head turns directly to the camera, if only for a split second, before she steps back into darkness.
“That’s the money shot,” Arnie mutters. He clicks back to it and isolates it onto his computer screen.
Bingo. She’s grainy, but he’s got her.
I hold my breath as he zooms onto her face, enlarging the tiny square pixels into the peaks and valleys of skin and emotion.
Because her head is covered with a headscarf, you’d have to guess if she’s blond, brunette or a redhead.
Ah, but if the eyebrows are any indication, she’s honey blond.
If you’re a man who had ever loved her, you’d still remember those almond-shaped eyes, those full petulant lips, and those sky high cheekbones.
I’m guessing that’s why all the color has left Jack’s face.
She’s Valentina, the wife who left him. The wife who ran away with Carl.
She is also my nun on the run.
The pain in Jack’s eyes now mirror my own, but for all the wrong reasons.
“Okay, folks, you’ll get your marching orders as soon as we figure out our reconnaissance hot spots. Jack, if you’ve got a moment, I’d like to see you in my office.”
As always, Ryan’s matter-of-fact tone doesn’t give a hint as to why he and Jack need to go behind closed doors this very second, when we should be tightening the noose around Valentina’s pretty little neck.
Emma slaps Arnie upside his head.
“Ouch! What did you do that for?” he yelps. Her kohl-eyed stare is making him sweat.
“What, do you think I’m stupid? You’re using your new ex-ray software to check out her boobs under her habit, aren’t you?”
“Well… okay, yeah. But you’ve got to agree, it’s the perfect application—”
Emma isn’t buying it. She stomps off to her own cubicle.
Arnie’s cockeyed wooing of Emma is a lot like a game of Chutes and Ladders. His desk jockey derring-do may earn him a few inches within proximity of Emma’s hardboiled heart, but in so many ways he’s still a nerd and a Neanderthal. No amount of manscaping can change that.
Valentina’s mesmerizing eyes draw me back to Arnie’s computer screen. Speaking of DNA, I have to admit. She’s drop dead gorgeous.
part happens later, if she runs into me again.
The drive home with Jack has been conducted in complete silence. I can’t stand it anymore. Now that we’ve pulled into the garage, I’ll be damned if the rest of our afternoon is going to be haunted by Valentina’s resurgence in Jack’s life.
Or I should say, in
So I blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. “Who did you draw for Secret Santa?”
For the first time since we left Acme, Jack lips raise into a smile. “You tell me first.”
I adjust the mirror so that I can apply some lipstick. “I pulled Emma’s name.”
Not really. I pulled Jack’s. I wonder what’s considered an appropriate gift to a man whose wife you’ve just tried to kill. He’ll have to settle for a pair of cufflinks.
“How about you?” I ask innocently. “Who’s stocking are you stuffing?”
He shrugs. “I got Arnie. I think I’ll get him a shoe phone. You know, as a gag. He eats up all that retro spy stuff. The only television channel he watches is TV Land. He’s memorized reruns of
The Avengers, I Spy
The Man from Uncle
That gets a snort out of me. “If you do, he’ll have it rigged into a satellite phone before the party’s over.”