The Miss Fortune Series: Nearly Departed (Kindle Worlds Novella)

BOOK: The Miss Fortune Series: Nearly Departed (Kindle Worlds Novella)
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Text copyright ©2015 by the Author.

This work was made possible by a special license through the Kindle Worlds publishing program and has not necessarily been reviewed by Jana DeLeon. All characters, scenes, events, plots and related elements appearing in the original The Miss Fortune Series remain the exclusive copyrighted and/or trademarked property of Jana DeLeon, or their affiliates or licensors.

For more information on Kindle Worlds: http://www.amazon.com/kindleworlds

 

 

Nearly
Departed

 

A Miss
Fortune Kindle Worlds Novella

 

 

 

Written
by

Shari
Hearn

Cover by Susan Coils at www.coverkicks.com

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

“We’re gathered here to mourn the
passing of Gertie Hebert.”

Yuck!

I slammed
my pen on the table, ripped the page from the notebook and wadded it up into
the size of a golf ball. An hour and two cups of coffee and all I had to show
for it was a hundred balled-up wads of drivel that filled my backpack. It didn’t
matter that Gertie wasn’t really dead and the eulogy I was writing was fake. It
bothered me. And I had no idea why.

“Care for
another refill, Fortune?”

I looked
up. Ally was standing by my table, coffeepot in hand. I was so engrossed in the
eulogy I almost forgot I was sitting in Francine’s waiting for Ida Belle and
Gertie to show up.

“Oh, thanks,”
I said, sliding my mug over to her. “I could use more caffeine.”

Ally eyed
the forest of paper wads. “How’s the eulogy coming?”

“Just
great. I have a hundred variations of ‘welcome to Gertie’s funeral.’” I rubbed
my eyes. “Don’t you think this whole thing’s a little weird?”

Ally shook
her head. “Are you kidding? Gertie’s fake funerals are a Sinful tradition. And
they’re fun. She always hires the best entertainment. Last year it was a
magician who sawed her in half while she was lying in her coffin. This year
Lady
Lamé and Her Divas from Down Under
are headlining. They’re guys, by the
way.”

“No
kidding,” I said, tapping my pen on the notepad.

Ally shrugged
and poured my coffee. “I think everyone should have a fake funeral. Why wait
till you’re dead and you can’t hear all the good things people say about you?”

The bells
jangled above the door. A man stepped inside.

Just over
six foot. Early forties. Blonde hair sticking out from under his Sinful
Sluggers baseball cap. Hates Yankees. Threat level: High.

Ally
pointed toward a table near the kitchen. “Take the two-top in the back, Fred.
I’ll be with you in a minute.” 

He glanced
at the two-top, then at me. “Why does the Yankee get to have a table for four
by the window and I get stuck in the hinterland?” he asked.

“Because
the Yankee got here first and is waiting for someone.” I’d been wanting to take
this guy on since I first arrived in Sinful. “Is that okay by you?”

His eyes
were like steel. But it was his hands I was most interested in watching. If it
looked like he was going for a gun, I’d have to be ready for mine in my
waistband. And no, I wasn’t paranoid. This was Sinful, where it seemed every
other resident was packing. But he just shook his head, walked to the back and
sat.

Wimp.

I poured
cream in my coffee, ripped open a packet of sweetener and tapped half the
granules in.

“Don’t let
him get to you,” Ally said.

The
squeaking suspension of Gertie’s ancient Cadillac outside signaled my breakfast
dates had arrived. I watched as they got out of the car, Ida Belle still in
curlers, Gertie’s bulging purse causing her body to tilt to the right. The
shock of their door slams shook the old Caddy, the front bumper slipping a
couple of ticks lower. The car reminded me a little of the one Thelma and
Louise drove into the Grand Canyon. After it was plucked off the canyon floor,
of course.

And then I
spotted trouble—Celia Arceneaux, Sinful’s temporary mayor, storming from across
the street and barreling toward them.

“This
doesn’t look good.”

Ally turned
and glanced out the window, shaking her head. “Celia’s probably trying to shut
the funeral down. She does this every year. Tries to find some permit that
Gertie didn’t get, or find some loophole to stop it. She just can’t let Gertie
have her fun. If you ask me it’s because Celia knows when her time comes, there
won’t be many people in this town who’d come up and say something nice about
her. So she’ll be damned if people get to come up and say nice things about
Gertie.”

We couldn’t
hear everything they were saying through the glass, but it didn’t matter. You
didn’t need to be an expert lip reader to decipher some of the most interesting
swearword combinations on earth spilling from Gertie’s mouth. And it only
intensified when Celia pointed to Gertie’s bumper, held up to the car by a
piece of rope.

“Uh-oh,
here comes Gertie’s middle finger,” I said, taking a sip of coffee.

“Is Celia flipping
her back?”

“Trying to
anyway. Has she never flipped a bird before? Looks like one of the wings is
clipped.”

“Ooh, Ida
Belle just shook her head so hard a couple curlers flew off.”

I spotted Sinful’s
sexiest deputy, Carter LeBlanc, crossing the street toward them. “Here comes
the cavalry.”

Several of
Francine’s customers stood up from their chairs to get better views of the
action. There was nothing like a fight between three hot-tempered old ladies to
tear people away from their breakfasts. Most were calling out support for
Gertie. Fred, the Yankee hater, stood from his chair, craning his neck to see
past the people standing in front of him. “Show the Yankee lover who’s boss,
Celia!” he shouted, before sneering at me and plopping back in his chair.

Carter
stood between Gertie and Celia and seemed to be doing a good job of calming
Gertie down, until he must have said something she didn’t like because she
mouthed a word to him that I’d never seen or heard coming from her mouth before.
A collective “Oooooh” went up in Francine’s as Gertie turned on her heels and pushed
her way inside. Even the jangles above the door sounded angry. Ida Belle was
close behind.

“Honestly,”
Gertie hissed as she stormed over to my table, yanking out a chair and dropping
into it.

“You tell
her, Gertie!” one of Francine’s customers shouted, prompting a few claps and
cheers.

Ida Belle
held up her hands. “Okay, thanks for all your support, but show’s over. Go back
to your eggs.” She took her seat next to Gertie. “Damn woman made me lose a few
of my curlers.”

“Do I dare
ask if you want coffee?” Ally asked.

“I want
coffee and the biggest, fattiest breakfast you have,” Gertie said. “I deserve
it.”

“Short
stack for me,” Ida Belle said.

I ordered
eggs and a side of turkey sausage. After Ally filled Ida Belle’s and Gertie’s
mugs she turned and headed back to the kitchen. 

“She tried
to shut your funeral down, huh?”

Ida Belle
nodded. “And when she realized she couldn’t do that, she tried to get Carter to
arrest Gertie for having her bumper tied with rope.”

Gertie’s
hand shook as she poured cream into her coffee. “Do you know how many Sinful
residents have their bumpers tied with rope?”

“A good
seventy-five percent?”

“Sounds
about right,” Gertie huffed. “But somehow
my rope
is an eyesore. And I
put a new one on just yesterday.” She blew on her coffee, then took a sip. “But
the worst part is, she’s making Carter miss my funeral. He has to do some
stupid city thing with her.”

I glanced
out the window. Celia was waving a handful of Gertie’s funeral fliers in
Carter’s face. It hadn’t been easy for him since Celia became temporary mayor.
It hadn’t been easy on the town, either.

“That new
rope does look nice,” I said, trying to calm Gertie down.

Ida Belle
winked at me. “Yep, nothing says high-class ride more than a new white rope
holding up the bumper.”

“Don’t you
start,” Gertie said. “My bumper money went into hiring the Divas for my
funeral, so the rope will have to do for another month.” Gertie’s eyes landed
on my open backpack sitting next to me on the floor, stuffed with paper wads.
Her gaze then traveled to the pad and pen on the table in front of me. A pad
with no words written on it. “Please tell me you’re writing my eulogy in
disappearing ink,” she said, pointing to the empty sheet of paper.

“Um… about
your eulogy…”

She folded
her arms and lifted a brow. As a CIA assassin I had risked my life to get close
to some of the most dangerous people on earth. People like Ahmad, the arms
dealer who had put a price on my head, causing me to hide out in Sinful in the
first place. But that was child’s play compared to getting in Gertie’s way when
she was in a bad mood. That I wouldn’t do.

“I’m trying
to get it down from five pages to four,” I lied. I half expected a lightning
bolt to crash through Francine’s roof and strike me dead.

Gertie relaxed.
“Five pages?” She clapped her hands. “You don’t know what it means to me that
you’re doing my eulogy this year, Fortune. Especially since, you know, you
might be gone by the end of the summer.”

My handler
at the CIA, Harrison, had assured me Ahmad would be found and neutralized by
the end of the summer. When I came to Sinful five weeks ago, the end of summer
seemed like an eternity. But that was before I made friends. And had a date
with Carter. Now I wasn’t sure what it felt like.

The bells
above the door jangled. Carter stepped inside, a bundle of Gertie’s fliers in
his hand. He came to our table and pulled out the fourth chair.

“Are you
coming to apologize?” Gertie asked.

“For what?”
Carter dropped down into the chair. “I stood up for you out there. Despite the
fact I’m trying to forge a civil relationship with Celia.”

Gertie
sighed. “I really wish you were coming to my funeral.”

Ida Belle
looked at me. “He’d rather spend the day with Celia showing some Hollywood
location scout around Sinful.”

Carter
pointed his finger at Ida Belle. “This could be good for Sinful businesses.” He
then cast his gaze on me. “There’s a movie shooting in Mudbug and they’ve added
some new scenes. If the location scout can’t find what he wants there, he might
want to film some stuff here. Tell them how that’s a good thing for our town.”

After some
of the most incredible kisses Carter and I had shared the past couple of weeks,
it was tempting to side with him so he’d have to reward me later. But I knew
what I was up against, and shook my head instead. “Don’t flash those sexy eyes
at me and expect me to agree with you. In the mood Gertie’s in she’s likely to
shoot me.”

Carter
turned back to Gertie. “Look, I talked her down from declaring your funeral a
public nuisance. But I had to assure her that it would be uneventful. And we
all know how your funerals can get a little out of hand.”

“That riot
last year was not my fault. How was I to know Skinny’s girlfriends would all
show up at the same time?”

“His wife
didn’t take it well,” Ida Belle explained.

Carter held
out the bundle of fliers to Gertie. “Oh, and I also promised you wouldn’t
staple any more funeral fliers to her fence.”

Gertie
smiled slyly. “I guess she hasn’t been inside her office in City Hall yet, has
she?”

Just then
Yankee-hater Fred walked by on his way out. He plucked one of the fliers from
Carter’s hand and took a look. “Yankee Doodle there is giving your eulogy this
year? Well, maybe I will show up.”

We locked
eyes for a moment as he folded the flier and jammed it in his pocket. Suddenly
writing a eulogy was shaping up to be the least of my concerns.

* * * * *

“Isn’t she a beaut?”

After
breakfast Ida Belle, Gertie and I stopped in at the Sinful rec center where a
few workers were transforming the basketball court into tomorrow’s funeral
extravaganza. Gertie’s casket rested on wheeled risers underneath one of the
basketball hoops. Camouflage design. The half lid propped open like it was
gasping for a breath. I almost felt like I was losing my own breath, so I
pulled in a deep lungful of air.

“You okay?”
Ida Belle asked.

No.
But I lied
and said I was fine. During my career I had put a good number of people six-feet
under. Seeing this casket shouldn’t have bothered me. But it did.

A voice
broke my reverie. “Excuse me.” We all looked over toward the bleachers, where a
man sat alone in the front row.

“Is that
Grabby Hands Jo-Jo Martin?” Ida Belle whispered. “He hasn’t been back in over
ten years.”

He stood.

Early-thirties.
Close-cropped yellowish hair, probably due to working outdoors. Muscular, but
with a beer belly starting to develop. Threat-level: High, due to his nickname
of Grabby Hands.

“I was
hoping I’d find you, Miss Hebert.” Jo-Jo hopped down from the bleachers, stuck
his hands in his jeans pockets, and walked toward us. “You probably don’t
remember me. I’m Jo-Jo Martin. I was a student in your class way back when.”

Gertie
smiled. “Of course I remember you, Jo-Jo.”

He stood a
few feet away, his right foot performing toe circles into the floor, as if
something grabbed hold of his insides and wouldn’t let go. Finally, he planted
his foot flat on the ground. “You probably didn’t know this at the time, but I
kinda had a crush on you.”

BOOK: The Miss Fortune Series: Nearly Departed (Kindle Worlds Novella)
4.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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