by Jayne Ormerod
I have fifty women coming to my house to play Bunco. What? You’ve never heard of Bunco? Allow me to enlighten you. Bunco (or Bunko) is a social dice game involving 100% luck and zero skill. It was originally a Victorian parlor game that made its way to the U.S. in the mid 1850s and has been a part of Braddocks Beach society ever since. Okay, so it has a bit of a bad rap as it was introduced to the California gold fields as an efficient method of separating hard-working citizens from their money (aka gambling.) And yes, it’s true that the term Bunco Squad was coined to refer to the detectives who raided these gaming establishments. While we do have a $5 buy-in and a few will win cash prizes, the modern version is less of a crap shoot and more of an excuse to eat, drink and gossip while rolling the dice. Hence our catchphrase Laissez les Bon Temps Roules, which translated means, “Let the Good Times Roll”.
This is a typical day for me. Not necessarily Bunco, but I’m active in local society. On any given day I’m either hosting or attending one or more social engagements, be it Mahjongg or Sewing Circle (we sew teddy bears to give to children cuddle with after surgery) or a fancy afternoon tea. I inherited this role–along with a house, a crazy neighbor and a couple of million dollars–when my Aunt Izzy died of unnatural causes.
The role of Queen Bee fell to me as I’m the last living descendant of one of the town’s founding fathers. I’m the “official” leader of society and the smiling face of Braddocks Beach, Ohio. A more unlikely Queen Bee you could not find. But I’m easing my way into the role, thanks to my mentor in the social graces, Samantha Greene (the aforementioned inherited crazy neighbor.)
Here comes Sam now. I suppose she wants to check that everything is in order for party. It would look very bad for the Queen Bee to have the knife blade facing the wrong way or a kitchen towel hanging askew. Yeah, it’s a high-pressure gig.
“Ellery?” Sam walks through the door, without benefit of a knock or doorbell ring. Thank goodness I’m not dancing naked on the tables at the moment. Not that I’ve ever done that, but now, as the Queen Bee, it is verboten.
Sam looks elegant in black dress pants and coral-colored sweater set and pearls. “That’s not what you’re wearing tonight,” she says.
I look down at my cozy, white sweater and freshly washed black denim jeans. I thought it clever of me to dress in keeping with the black and white theme tonight.
“I’ve told you before, Queen Bees don’t wear jeans.”
“Never?” I ask.
“There’s a time and place for them. Say if you were tending the local community garden or working at the therapeutic horseback riding program for handicapped children. But never when you’re hosting an event. Oh, and Queen Bees don’t serve Chex Mix, either.”
I tried not to sigh, because Queen Bees Don’t Sigh. It’s one of the ten Queen Bee Commandments. But my Chex Mix was not the stuff out of a bag but prepared by my own two hands opening boxes of ingredients. I’d worked all morning baking batches of it. The aroma still hung pleasantly in the air.
Sam picked up the large pink Tupperware bowl and carried it off towards the kitchen. “Run upstairs and put on the Calvin Klein satin-trimmed pleated-skirt suit and red top that you wore to the governor’s mansion. And if I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times, Queen Bees don’t slouch.”
Being told what Queen Bees do and don’t do is a big part of my day. On a good day, I only hear it once. On a bad day, maybe five times. My personal best-or worst, depending on how you look at it—is eleven. That was on the 4th of July when I was the Grand Marshall of the parade. In my defense, I’d never been a Grand Marshall before.
I straighten my spine and head upstairs to change.
“Oh my God!” Sam screams from the kitchen.
I don’t know whether to run to see what’s wrong or run away from what’s wrong. Sam and I have a nasty habit of stumbling across dead bodies. Last I checked there hadn’t been one in the kitchen, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one there now. I’m sometimes unlucky that way.
Before my fight or flight instinct kicks in, Sam yells (in her loud, bossy Sam voice), “Ellery Elizabeth Tinsdale. I thought it went without saying that Queen Bees do not hide dirty dishes in their ovens!”
Sometimes Sam really rubs my last nerve. I mean, what right does she have poking her nose in my oven? And since I don’t have a dishwasher, where else am I supposed to stack dirty dishes? Even the worst housekeeper wouldn’t leave dishes on the counter when company is expected.
Small comfort that it’s only dishes and there aren’t any dead bodies in my kitchen.
“Ellery. Get in here. Now!”
But that doesn’t mean there won’t be one before the night is over.
Laissez les Bon Temps Roules.
You can read more about the sleuthing adventures of Ellery and Sam in The Blond Leading the Blond, available in hardcover, trade paperback or ebook for Kindle through Amazon.
Meet the Author
Raised in a 150-year-old farmhouse in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, Jayne honed her story-telling skills at a tender age, convincing herself and others her home was haunted. She wove epic sagas: of buried treasure guarded by spirits of slain pirates; and the soul of a crazed aunt locked in the attic pacing the floorboards for all eternity.
Urged by her parents to forge a career in something that would enable her to be financially independent, Jayne dutifully went off and earned a B.S. in Accountancy from Miami University. She then began her professional career as a CIA (not the sexy secret agent thing, but a Certified Internal Auditor.)
But Jayne’s parents hadn’t foreseen her marriage to a naval officer. Nineteen moves in conjunction with his career did not offer Jayne the stability she needed to be a successful CIA, and when the moving box filled with her pinstripe suits was lost in a move, it seemed like a sign that it was time to make a career switch. So Jayne started thinking about what kind of job could be packed up and schlepped across the country at a moment’s notice and somehow combine her passion for reading (and secretly writing) mysteries.
Jayne now writes cozy mysteries with a beach setting from her home in Norfolk, VA.
Books are available at retail and online booksellers.