Today I’m standing outside of my Aunt Ginny’s green stucco bungalow in Palm Springs wondering what’s going on here. I flew to the Springs yesterday to spend a much needed short vacation (possible romantic weekend) with my private eye friend Blade Garrett. He’s working a case here and invited me to join him to attend The Bob Hope Celebrity Ball. When I arrived here, things were not going as planned.
I’m a former dancer of the Manhattan Toppettes. Now in my early fifties, and single, I opened my business, SUPERDUDS DANCE TOG SHOP in the Galleria Mall near Sacramento. Last week, the first week of January, the escalators were filled with “after the holiday shoppers” and I hoped to ring up lots of sales at my store. Customers were lining up beautifully and the stock moving quickly when I heard and unexpected familiar voice. I glanced over my shoulder. “Mom! What are you doing here?”
“Hey Sugar. Do I have to wait for an invitation to visit my only daughter? I drove up here because I need your help. You’re the best dancer ever, and right now it’s real important I learn a few dance steps.”
My mother, Trish, currently a real estate broker from Yucca Valley, formerly lead singer of The Malones, a popular radio and TV singing trio during the Fifties and early Sixties, blew into my shop with the personality and stage presence of Debbie Reynolds to inform me she’s filling in at the Palm Springs Fabulous Follies for her sister Ginny who is on leave recuperating from hip replacement.
So, okay, okay. Not a good time during Starduds after Christmas sales, but I’ll help. Maybe I sound like my shop comes before family, but that’s not always the case. I have twins in college and I’m there for them whenever they call. But my relationship with my mother is testy, and I struggle with resentment stemming from my childhood. I was raised by Trish’s mother, my grandmother while Trish was on the road performing with the trio. I’ve never known who my biological father is, a fact that has always been kept hush, hush. Maybe Trish doesn’t know who he is. She does drink! And that’s being polite. Trish Malone is an alcoholic, and has been in the Betty Ford Clinic more than once. During this current visit to Starduds, she assured me that she has been sober for some time. She also tells me she’s worried about an old friend, a plastic surgeon from Florida who is in Palm Springs to speak at a conference. He called upset to let her know he’s deeply concerned that his life is in danger. Trish belongs to a poker group, the doctor does too, along with three other men from her past. The plan? They all meet in Palm Springs at a condo when she returns for her Follies audition. And they have unanimously requested her to be the card dealer.
So here I am at my Aunt Ginny’s, the aunt with the hip surgery, and she doesn’t know where my mother, Trish is, who should be over at the theater auditioning today for next weekend’s Follies performance. After calling around, it appears she’s missing. Now I’m standing out here waiting for my detective guy, Blade Garret to pick me up, hoping I can run all or any part of this info by him. We worked a murder case together last fall at the Cal Neva in Tahoe, but If he’s too involved in his own case today then my plan is to find out where the poker party was held.
Before I take off, after Ginny and I checked out the Betty Ford Clinic again, my aunt hands me a local news paper and points to an article on the front page. A prominent plastic surgeon in town for the conference collapsed and was pronounced dead during a poker game at a dentist’s condo. Natural causes or not—the article doesn’t say.
Okay, all right! That did it! I’m off to the local police station to report my mother missing.
You can read more about Abby in Deadly Shuffle, the second book in the “Abby Rollins” mystery series, published by Camel Press. The first book in the series is Timestep to Murder.
Meet the author
Norma Lehr, a former nurse and health food store owner from the Bay Area, has four children and five grandchildren, and now lives in Auburn, California in the beautiful Sierra foothills. She is a multi-genre author of short stories, a middle-grade ghost series, and an adult supernatural suspense novel, Dark Maiden published by Juno Books. Her current Abby Rollins mystery series: Timestep To Murder and Deadly Shuffle are available from Camel Press and Amazon.