Margery Flax here, the Coronado Tropic Apartments landlady. At least I was until that Snakehead Bay detective arrested me for murdering my ex-husband, Zach.
I’m Helen and Phil’s landlady. They live at the Coronado with their fur bag, Thumbs.
Most people don’t know it, and that’s fine with me, but I was married to Zach the seagoing rat. Then the DEA dropped by one day and told me he was running drugs. I didn’t believe it. I went to his charter boat and caught him with Daisy. He stepped out on me with that frizzy-haired frump.
I bounced the bum and he disappeared for thirty years. Then he walks back into my life with a big purple bouquet, like a few flowers are going to make me forget what he did. Zach swears he loves me and wants to get married.
Married! I wound up with my own personal senior stalker. When he died, I didn’t waste any tears on him. Helen and Phil, the husband-and-wife private eyes who run Coronado Investigations, wanted me to hire a lawyer, Nancie Hays.
I couldn’t see wasting good money on lawyers, but I did hire Coronado Investigations to find who killed Zach. They hadn’t done much good, when I was arrested for killing Zach.
Helen wanted me to identify some of Zach’s wharf rat buddies in an old photo, so she tagged along with Nancie the lawyer to visit me at the Broward County jail. I could tell by Helen’s face she was shocked by my appearance. Purple’s my color, not these ugly jail scrubs.
Once we got the photo ID out of the way, Helen asked, “Now, how are you, Margery?”
“How do you think? I can’t smoke.”
“You said you can’t smoke officially,” Helen said. She’s a sharp one.
“You can get anything you want in prison,” I said. “I’ve scored some tobacco, but the price was high.”
“How high?” Helen asked.
“The jail has these things called Care Packs that family and friends can send. You buy them online through a Web site. I need you to send ten weeks of the thirty-dollar protein-pack Care Packs for this inmate here.”
I handed Helen a scrap of paper. “This has her prisoner ID number, name and the Care Pack Web site. Don’t lose the ID number. That’s more important than her name.” People in jail are numbers, not names.
“She gets one protein pack a week. You can’t order more, and it has to start right away.”
“You paid three hundred dollars for tobacco?” Helen asked.
“I’ve been smoking for sixty years and I had to go cold turkey,” I said. “I would have signed away the Coronado for a smoke.”
“Of course I’ll do it,” Helen said. “What’s in this protein pack?”
“A festival of junk food. Beef and cheddar sticks, salami sticks, chili cheese corn chips, cashews, peanuts, a hot fudge sundae Pop-Tart, two kinds of cookies. There’s more, but you get the idea. It’s the death penalty by coronary.” I was practically drooling as I recited the list. My stomach might have growled, too.
“You’ve got the contraband tobacco,” Helen said. “Where are you getting the rolling papers?”
Like I said, she’s smart. But I wasn’t telling her everything. I said, “My pocket Bible is a great comfort to me.”
“Huh?” Helen said. She knew I never used that particular B-word. But Nancie figured it out and started lecturing – one I’ll have to pay for, since I’m renting her by the hour.
“Margery, if you’re caught using Bible pages for rolling paper—if you’re caught with any contraband—you understand the penalties are severe,” the lawyer said.
“Worth the risk,” I said. “Besides, I’m a harmless old lady.” Nancie didn’t buy that.
Helen switched the subject, the way she does when she gets uncomfortable.
“How’s the food in here?” she asked.
I shrugged. “Bland. You know what BSO stands for?”
“Broward Sheriff’s Office?”
“Baloney Sandwiches Only.”
“Would you like a Care Pack?” Helen asked.
“Would I! I’ll pay you. I’m starving. I’ve got the munchies since I quit smoking.”
“Quit?” Helen said.
“Cut back,” I said.
“I’ll send you one a day,” Helen said.
“Can’t. Like I said, prisoners are limited to one Care Pack a week.”
“How are the other prisoners treating you, besides smuggling you contraband?” Helen asked.
“Okay. Some are mean, some are crazy, and some are mad-dog dangerous. Most like me because I killed my old man. They’ll be disappointed when they find out I’m innocent.”
Nancie looked alarmed. “You aren’t talking to them about Zach’s murder, are you?”
I’m old, but I’m not stupid. I straightened her out right quick. “I’ve watched enough TV to know about jailhouse snitches. Right now, it helps if they think I’m a stone-cold killer.” I gave her my best hardcore face.
“Is there anything else I can get you?” Helen asked.
“Yeah. Out of here.”
You can read more about Margery in Catnapped!, the 13th book in the “Dead-End Job” mystery series, published by Obsidian. The first book in the series is Shop Till You Drop. Books are available at retail and online booksellers.
Socialite Trish Barrymore and her rich husband, Smart Mort, can agree on only one thing in their bitter divorce: shared custody of their beloved cat. But when Mort is found dead and the cat is being held for a half-million dollars in ransom money, it’s up to husband and wife PI team Helen Hawthorne and Phil Sagemont to go undercover in the world of cat shows to find the catnapper — and Mort’s killer. Another cat-tastrophe looms. Their home, Coronado Apartments, is slated for a tear-down when Margery, their landlady, is arrested for murder one.
Read the first chapter of “Catnapped!” HERE
Check out the book trailer for “Catnapped!” HERE
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Meet the author
“Catnapped!,” Elaine Viets’ new hardcover mystery from Obsidian, is set in the world of cat shows and pet custody. The New York Times Review of Books praises her “quick-witted mysteries.”
Elaine’s bestselling Dead-End Job series is a satiric look at a serious subject – the minimum-wage world. Her character, Helen Hawthorne, works a different low-paying job each book. Elaine’s second series features mystery shopper Josie Marcus.
Elaine is a St. Louis native who now lives in Fort Lauderdale. She won the Agatha, Anthony and Lefty Awards.
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