Working hard on my Nano-novel.
I need a word-count infusion, so I’m begging off today.
Real post tomorrow, excerpt from the first ‘chapter’ below. I know I shouldn’t, but what the heck.
And no, I know there aren’t any Pirate Ninja Nuns in here—that’s only a working title . . . so far:
The next dancer, in yellow and black satin stripes and a riot of sunshine-and-soot colored curls to match, strutted onstage and perched on a high backed chair with her cane and bowler hat. Evan waited for the spot to hit and left for the backstage door.
The bouncer eyed him, but his badge got him through with no more than a scowl and a silent promise than his face wouldn’t be forgotten.
Like every backstage area, it was a chaotic mess, stinking of makeup, clashing perfumes, mildewed costumes, and furtive cigarettes and humming with the low-level roar of too many people doing too many things in too little space, while trying to keep the noise down, dammit. But Evan wove his way through the half-naked women without hesitation, politely ignoring the ones who glared, the ones who sized him up and smiled, and the ones who suddenly found somewhere else to be.
He wasn’t there for them.
Verity had her own small area at the end of the row, a shallow cubicle with three walls and an extra chair she appeared to use as a barrier. She was already wearing the dark blue terrycloth robe that left everything to the imagination—she’d told him once that it was much better for sopping up sweat than silk or satin—but hadn’t opened her jar of cold cream. “I have thirty until my next number,” she said, looking at him in the mirror. “What do you have for me?”
“I was hoping you could visit the scene this time,” he said.
She blinked at that and turned to study him.
He didn’t bother to straighten his posture. He was beat and didn’t care if he looked it and didn’t care how much she could see of what the past week had been like. Knowing her, she saw all of it.
“That bad,” she said. It wasn’t a question. Before he could respond, she stood and said, “Sit. Wait here.”
He did, rubbing his gritty eyes.
In five minutes, she was back, untying her robe. “Turn around, please,” she said.
“Why?” he said, already getting up and moving his chair.
“I’m on in seven, we can leave in fifteen.” There was rustling and a few thumps and a painful sounding snap of elastic. One, two, three, four zippers. “Damn.”
“Need any help?” He hadn’t meant the question to sound so suggestive, but he was punchy from less sleep and more bad coffee than was wise.
“No, I’ll leave it open. Better tips.” Before he could turn, she’d brushed past him and was stalking away on achingly high red patent leather boots and a pair of matching patent leather tap pants over fishnets that she must have been wearing under the robe.
He considered following her to catch a glimpse of the front, but was too tired to bother—she’d be coming back soon anyway. He leaned back and folded his arms, falling into the kind of wakeful rest that was so helpful during long stakeouts.
The striped blond bounced down the row, hips and boobs moving in syncopation. “Well, hello, handsome,” she said, in a voice that owed a lot to Chicago. She eyed him like he was tied up with Christmas ribbon. “You waiting for me?”
“Sorry,” he said.
She gave him another once over. “Cop,” she said, cracking her gum.
She shrugged. “You said you weren’t here for me. You here for Verity? What’d she do?”
“I’m a friend.”
“Sure.” The blond turned around. “Can you get my zip?”
He reached out and pulled the tiny black tab all the way down without touching anything else.
“Thanks.” She stepped behind the partition, though not all of her followed. “Didn’t think that one had friends. She’s not even sociable with the customers, not that it doesn’t work for her. But if you’re only gonna have one, I guess a cop isn’t a bad friend to have.”
“I’ve always thought so.”
She stepped out, all fuzzy curls, blue eyes, and bright lipstick, wrapped in a patterned silk robe that was sticking to her in interesting ways. “I could use a friend to fix some parking tickets. And maybe a few other things?”
“Wrong division,” said a voice like a Carolina bullfrog.
Blondie winced and moved back before she was hipchecked out of the way by the owner of Madame Beaux’s, who was two-thirds her height, twice her width, and an indeterminate number of years older.
“You better have a good reason for rearranging my revue and taking my dancers away before the closing number, Detective Kuehl,” she said, fuchsia tipped hands on Lycra-bound hips.
“I’m sorry, Ms. Boudreaux,” he said. “I appreciate the courtesy.”
She pursed her wide mouth, making her look even more like a frog instead of the Still Hot Enough to Headline But Too Busy to Bother she was probably going for. “Bad?”
“Yes, ma’am.” Even as tired as he was, that was all she was going to get.
To her credit, she didn’t push it. “Bring you anything while you’re waiting?”
Blondie fluttered her eyelashes. “My phone number, maybe?”
Her boss rolled her eyes. “Down, sugar.”
Renetta Boudreaux wasn’t one for pet names, especially when she was calling someone to heel. “Sugar?” he asked.
“That’s me.” The glossy lips curved in a genuine smile. “For real. I think my folks wanted to skip saving for college tuition, ‘cause there’s really only two places a name like that can take you, north of the Mason-Dixon line.” She didn’t sound disappointed.
Ms. Boudreaux looked at her. “Don’t you have to get ready for your next number?”
Sugar winked at him and disappeared behind the partition. Mostly.