Excerpt #4 The Misadventures of The Laundry Hag: Skeletons in the Closet
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Make my holiday and escape with the laundry hag! Now, on with the sneek peek!
Kenny jumped off the stool and scrambled for the front door. I followed as dread unfurled in my stomach. The sweat-covered missing link on the other side handed me a clipboard, and I cradled the phone on my shoulder as I signed.
“What is it, Laura?”
“Your father-in-law and I thought we would send your Christmas present early. No need to thank us, dear.”
“Thank you?” I said absently as I watched Cro-Magnon man and his equally imposing partner unload the couch. The blindingly white couch, which had stain magnet written all over it in special ink that only I could see, along with its accompanying oversized chair and ottoman.
“Oh, Laura, you shouldn’t have,” I said with conviction.
“Where do you want it?” the delivery man grunted at me, and I threw my hands in the air. He shrugged and proceeded to the living room.
“Now, the men have instructions to take away the old sofa and loveseat, so you don’t have to worry about that. Did you get my e-mail about the schedule changes?”
“Changes?” I asked and watched my furniture disappear onto the truck. I wanted to cry.
“Yes, dear, you really should stay on top of your correspondences, otherwise you’ll become a slave to them. Now, I know the timing may be somewhat inconvenient, but I’ve arranged for Leopold to come by at seven to assist you.”
“Seven in the morning?”
“Of course, dear. If we want to have hors d'oeuvres at noon, dinner at one, and dessert finished by two-thirty, he’ll need time to set up.”
“Of course.” I stared at my new couch, wishing I could grow a spine and tell Laura off. Neil was right, I should take a stand, but the scathing words stuck in my throat.
“Well, I have to go. I have a few last minute errands to attend to so I’ll see you at eleven-thirty tomorrow.”
Laura disconnected, and I was left with two puzzled children and a cotton ball white living room set.
The phone rang the instant I replaced it in the cradle, and I implored the All Mighty for a little reprieve. Maybe it was Neil or Marty. Against my better judgment, I picked the phone up.
“Mrs. Phillips, this is Jason Macgregor. We met at the Klines’ soirée.”
I vaguely recalled the gangly man with unremarkable features and light brown hair.
“I’m sorry to trouble you, but I just received a call from Francesca, and she is very concerned about her brother-in-law. He hasn’t picked up the phone all day, and she’s in the middle of preparations for her dinner party tomorrow. I told her I’d check in on him, but I was called down to the courthouse and I doubt I’ll make it anytime soon. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind stopping by to see Mr. Kline to make sure.”
I didn’t say anything but I was thinking why me? Why was I the chosen caretaker for every lunatic in New England?
Jason Macgregor cleared his throat. “I know this is inconvenient, but as Mr. Kline’s attorney, I feel it’s necessary to keep an eye on him.”
Something in his tone stroked my curiosity. “I thought Mr. Kline was cleared of all charges.”
“On the contrary, he hasn’t been charged with anything. His alibi, as you well know, is rock solid, but that doesn’t stop the police from looking into the possibility that Mr. Kline hired someone to kill his wife.”
This was something I hadn’t considered. “Are you telling me Mr. Kline arranged for someone to shoot Alessandra?”
“Not at all.”
“Then why do we need to keep tabs on him?”
“Mrs. Phillips, I’ve been given the impression by both Doug and Francesca, who I am very close with, that you’re a compassionate woman. The man has lost his wife, and his friends and family are worried about him. Will you please set our minds at ease?”
I sighed. Neil was right, I’m a total pushover.
“All right, Mr. Macgregor. I’ll check on him as soon as I can.”
“Thank you.” The attorney rattled off his number, which I jotted down. I was such a sucker.
My pies came out of the oven just as Neil walked in the door. He gave me a kiss on the cheek and a warm smile which I was badly in need of.
“Smells great in here. How’s it shaking, sexy?”
“I have to go check on Mr. Kline.”
The smile faded. “The hell you do!”
“I promised I’d—”
Neil held up his hand. “I’ll go, but only to end this argument before it starts. And when I get home, we’re going to have a discussion about assertiveness with a hint of Nancy Regan’s just say no.”
I hugged him, and he passed Marty on his way out. My brother was unusually quiet, but he sat at the counter, watching while I sautéed onions for the dressing.
Neil returned a few minutes later, still scowling. “He wasn’t there.”
I sagged against the counter. “Are you sure?”
Neil removed the leftover pizza and took two plates from the cabinet before putting the first batch in the microwave. “I knew you’d ask that, so I scaled the side of the house. There were no signs of life; no lights, or TV, or music. No one was sleeping in the master bedroom, and there was no car in the garage.”
Neil pulled the first plate out of the microwave and placed it in front of Marty, who grunted his thanks.
I was more direct. “Thank you, Neil. I know I shouldn’t have said I’d check up on him but….”
Neil kissed me hard, and Marty groaned. “Get a room, guys.” He picked up his plate, and I broke away from Neil long enough to shout at his backside.
“Don’t even think about eating on the new couch!”
“New couch?” Neil’s brows drew together.
“Our Christmas gift from your parents.”
Neil accepted this with his customary good nature. “You’re a pushover, Uncle Scrooge. I really hate that people take advantage of your good nature. But that caring is part of you, and I love it. I see you, Maggie.”
“I see you too.”
“What’s with the Good Humor man rejects?” Marty called from the living room.
I sighed for what seemed to be the millionth time that day.
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