A Dirty Business


Rosemary Harris

Minotaur Books New York

 Copyright © 2009 by Rosemary Harris. All rights reserved.

Also by Rosemary Harris

Pushing Up Daisies


To all the booksellers who welcomed me and made a newcomer feel like an old pro, especially Barbara Peters, Mary Alice Gorman, Maggie Topkis, Roberta Rubin, Mitch Kaplan, Dianne Defonce, and Sharon Roth. To the dedicated librarians—one of whom was kind enough to say that I must have been a librarian in a previous life— especially to my friends in Stamford, Fairfield, New Canaan, Darien, Westport, Newington, Forestville, Easton, and Milford, Connecticut, and to my friends in Princeton and Hunterdon, New Jersey, and in Cary, North Carolina.

Special thanks to Suzanne Wickham, Kim Hicks, Hector De-Jean, Monica Katz, and Talia Ross for looking after me.

For Bruce and Paula,

who continue to inspire me

Dirt Nap – n. a state of permanent rest,

death, as in taking the big dirt nap.


Maybe I'd have had a drink with the guy if I had known the next time I saw him he'd be sprawled out in a Dumpster enclosure, with a greasy newspaper tented over his face. Then again, maybe not.

Nick Vigoriti had unsuccessfully hit on me as I sipped club soda at the bar. There were two or three likelier candidates in skimpier outfits who weren't working on a laptop, but he zeroed in on me.

I knew him, sort of. Earlier in the day, Vigoriti had been on line behind me checking into the Titans Hotel in Connecticut's wine country. We'd spent what seemed like twenty minutes listening to a statuesque redhead spitting out demands and fidgeting almost as much as the white Maltese she carried in her plastic designer bag.

'That is not friendly.'

The pimply kid behind the reception desk nodded furiously. That, combined with the oversize jacket that hopefully fit his night-shift counterpart better, gave him the appearance of a life-size bobble-head doll.

'April does not need a sitter. I only came to this establishment because it's supposed to be pet-friendly. I could have gotten comped at Hunting Ridge.' She towered over the poor kid, the pile of hair on her head giving her an extra four inches, as if she needed it.

Vigoriti and I exchanged brief 'whaddya gonna do' glances, until the dog's owner finished tormenting the desk clerk, then teetered off accompanied by a full luggage cart and the only bellman in sight.

When it was my turn, I set my backpack on the counter, leaned over, and told the clerk my name.

'I don't see you,' he said, scrolling down the computer screen. He forced himself to say the words, anticipating another pain-in-the-neck customer. Beads of sweat popped up on his forehead like condensation on a glass. I felt for the guy; he was getting a crash course in Difficult Guests 101 on what I was guessing was his first week on the job. 'I'm sorry,' he said, his voice cracking. 'Did you make the reservation online, by any chance?'

Great. I'd sat through rush-hour traffic on the highway and now there was no room at the inn. 'It has to be there,' I said, trying not to betray my real feelings. 'Will you please look again?'

He continued to scan the screen; then it occurred to me that my friend Lucy had made the reservation. Maybe it was under her name or her company's.

'Can you check under KCPS-TV? Or Cavanaugh. Check Cavanaugh,' I repeated, louder, in that stupid way people do when they're talking to foreigners, as if saying something louder is going to make it easier to understand.

'Okay, okay, I got it. Here it is. ‘Two adults, two doubles, no pets,' ' he read off the screen. Relief washed over the kid's face; he didn't need another guest with problems. This job was already an interruption of his real life—which was probably football, getting good grades, and procuring the perfect fake ID, not standing in a gold- braided uniform two sizes too big and catching verbal abuse. I didn't blame him; I was in a service business myself and sometimes it wore thin.

I gave him my credit card for the 'incidentals' and watched as he mindlessly swiped it and handed it back without even checking my name or the photo on the front.

'I'll just need one key. My friend will be joining me later.' I plucked the paper folder from the counter and slid one plastic key back to him.

'Thank you, Ms. Cavanaugh.'

I started to correct him, then thought, What's the point?

'You're welcome.' I snatched my bag from the counter and turned to leave. Asking him where the elevators were would only have extended the experience, so I went off in the same direction as the woman with the dog. I was hardly going to get lost in a suburban Connecticut hotel.

On the way, smack in the middle of the lobby, was an octagonal enclosure about twenty feet wide. Inside it, in a huge terracotta pot, was the reason I was there. Well, one of them anyway. Inside the glass enclosure was a corpse flower. I moved in for a closer look, setting my things down briefly on one of the laminated benches that circled the glass gazebo.

The pot itself was about four feet in diameter, and shooting straight up from the center was a light green veined shaft tinged with purplish pink. I hadn't seen one in a few years and there was no getting around it—with that color and that shape . . .

'Pretty sexy if you ask me,' Vigoriti had said, over my shoulder.

'I didn't ask you,' I said, firmly enough to let him know I wasn't about to engage in a junior-high-school-level conversation regarding a certain part of the male anatomy. Not with a stranger anyway.

I picked up my bags, headed back toward the bank of elevators, around the corner from reception, and made a beeline for the first white triangle pointing up. Once inside, I pushed the button for my floor and crumpled, exhausted, against the side of the car. Just as the doors were closing, a hand slapped them apart.

The hand was an unlikely combination of manicured and rough, as if a boxer had buffed his nails. A black leather strap was twisted around the thick wrist and the large tanned hand held, of all things, a man bag, almost lost in its owner's large palm. The shirtsleeve was rolled up, thin gray stripes on black silk. Expensive, but not top of the line. And it half covered the muscular forearm of Nick Vigoriti.

'Hello, again.' He smiled, pushed the doors open, and settled politely into the opposite corner of the car. I could tell he was looking at me, but I pretended not to notice.

Вы читаете The Big Dirt Nap
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату