Authors: Tonya Kappes
A Laurel London Mystery
Ding, ding, ding, ding.
“Whoooohoooo!” The loud, drawn out scream was louder than all of the ringing slot machines in the entire new Glitz and Glam Casino.
I didn’t have to run over and see who was making such a spectacle of herself because I already knew. Trixie Turner.
Trixie had been going to the Glitz and Glam every day since it had opened up a month ago in what used to be our dead town of Walnut Grove, Kentucky.
My fingertips were black from all of the coins I had pushed through the money-sucking slot machine’s coin entry. The little red light on the top of my machine hadn’t lit up or screamed a win like Trixie’s machine. The cherries didn’t line up in a row of three like a good machine. The black bars or the lucky sevens didn’t like each other either. Luck was not on my side.
Ding, ding, ding.
“Yes!” Trixie screamed from one aisle over. Her machine and my machine backed up to each other. The beacon on the top of her machine twirled and swirled all sorts of colors as it screeched her win through the entire casino.
I leaned over to the right where there was a little space between my machine and the guy sitting next to me to get a look at her. Her small bony hand was curled around the ball at the top of the slot machine arm. In a swift motion, Trixie’s hand pulled the ball, bringing the arm down.
Clink. Clink. Clink
. The cherry Gods must’ve gotten together because the light on Trixie’s machine twirled in delight and the sound of a win echoed over the casino. Trixie jumped up, threw her arms in the air, and wiggled her tiny hips from side-to-side. Her aluminum foil hat slightly slipped to the side, but that didn’t stop the victory dance. She planted one hand on the hat and continued to do the dance with the rest of her body.
On her third full body twist, her eyes caught mine. “Laurel! I’m in the money!” she screamed and continued to do her victory dance.
“How much?” I asked between the machines, knowing she wasn’t going to get much of a payoff on the penny slots.
“Five dollars!” She twirled as happy as could be, laughing triumphantly.
“We will be eating high on the hog tonight.” I stared at her and burst out laughing. She sure did know how to let loose and have a good time. Something I was envious of.
“Do you mind?” The man on the machine next to me asked in a not-so-nice tone.
I jerked my head to the side, my honey blond hair flipped with it, nearly smacking the guy in the face. I lowered my eyelids and I glared at him.
“Actually I do.” I nodded quickly. “I do mind.” I shifted back in front of my machine and put another coin in the slot before I hit the button wondering from what stink pit of the earth he had come from. Rude.
Glitz and Glam owners and managers promised our small town nothing but unicorns, rainbows and gold, leaving all of us to believe it was going to be such an economic boost when in reality it brought us nothing but rude and greedy people.
Our little town of twelve thousand citizens had become the vacation destination for not only our state but also the surrounding states. Like the saying, you build it and they will come. They came all right. They came in vans, cars, trains, trucks, and chartered buses. And they came in packs. Poor old Pastor Brown and Rita, his wife, did everything they could to stop the casino from coming to our little part of the world. He even had the Holy Rollers, the old ladies of the community, protest from their crutches, wheelchairs, and black orthopedic shoes out in front of the crowd at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“I guess a five-dollar win is good for the penny slots.” I looked at his machine and noticed he was clearly not winning.
I leaned back over and looked at Trixie one more time before I leaned back in front of my machine and gave an
eat my shit
stare to the guy next to me when I caught him giving me the stink eye. I wished I could win back my pennies or punch him in the nuts. I curled my nose and growled at the machine like we were about to have a face-off.
“I’m moving over to the five-dollar slot and sticking this baby in there,” Trixie whispered in my ear startling me nearly out of my skin.
I turned around from my stool and there she stood. Her five-foot-four-inch frame topped off with that crazy tinfoil hat over her long grey hair cascading down over her shoulders stood with a five-dollar chip tightly pinched between her finger and thumb. Her mouth twitched with amusement.
“You scared me to death.” I sucked in a deep breath, holding my hand up to my heart.
Out of the corner of my eye, the man next to me was gawking at Trixie.
“I’m going right over there.” She pointed to the group of the Holy Rollers, the aforementioned casino protesters for the Friendship Baptist Church and Pastor Brown and Rita.
The old blue hairs were lined up like ducks on the five-dollar machines, popping one chip in after the other, barely giving the machine time to stop rolling.
Poor Pastor Brown, he couldn’t cut a break. The draw of a big payday was a little too exciting for the congregation of Friendship Baptist Church and too tempting to stay away. This was probably the biggest excitement, besides basement church bingo, they’d had in a long time.
“This is a big place.” She held the Glitz and Glam plastic bucket that held her winnings close to her chest protecting her newfound gains. “I don’t want you to get lost from me, especially since SyFy said they are closer than ever.”
“Right over there.” I pointed. Even though I was twenty-three, she still mothered me. I didn’t mind. It was nice to be loved. “Gotcha.”
“Hi do.” Trixie gave a polite nod to the gentleman gawking at her before she sauntered over to her machine. Before she sat down, she looked back over at me and mouthed, “Watch him.”
I smiled and nodded.
“What’s her deal?” the man asked, his brows arched. “Is she drunk?”
“Excuse me?” A swift shadow of anger swept across me. I already didn’t like this guy and I just dared him to give me a reason to punch his lights out.
Trixie Turner might be a lot of things, but a drunk she was not. I owed my life to her and I was going to spend every waking second of the rest of my life making sure she was taken care of. And if a little bit of time at a casino made her happy, so be it.
“That crazy lady with tinfoil.” He pointed toward Trixie. She eased down between Sharon Fasa and Norma Allen, wasting no time with the beast in front of her. She put in her coin and flung the arm down.
“She is neither crazy nor a drunk,” my teeth gnashed. “You better watch it because I don’t care what they say about southern hospitality, I will knock your lights out.” I grabbed the handle of the slot machine. Through gritted teeth, I seethed, “That’s not a warning, it’s a promise.” In a fluid motion, I pulled the arm down, releasing the handle.
Who did he think he was coming in our town with his creased tan pants, pressed collared shirt, clean-cut brown hair, and fancy slip-on shoes?
“Whoa,” he stuck his hands in the air. Hands that were as clean as a girl’s. There was no way he had seen a hard day’s work. . .ever. “Don’t go all postal on me. You two must be related.”
“You sonofabitch,” I jumped up and pulled my fist back.
“There you are.” Someone grabbed my hand from behind and pulled me close. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you,” Jax Jackson said, giving me a good squeeze and a Baptist nod to the asshole I was about to punch out.
Jax grabbed my coin bucket sitting next to my machine and dragged me away like a caveman who just killed his dinner for the week.
“What are you doing?” Jax asked sharply. I looked up at him and when our eyes met, he couldn’t help but smile. Every time I looked into his big brown eyes and saw his chiseled jaw, my heart went
just like it did the first time he had jumped into my car.
Not in a carjacking-jump-in-my-car way, a client way. I own and operate the only car service in Walnut Grove. Some would say I was a taxi, but car service sounded so much better. I’m pretty smart in the technology department, not from book learning, but I was street smart. I grew up in the orphanage right outside of Walnut Grove where Trixie was the house mom. I spent many nights with different foster families and was really rebellious. I learned about technology through hacking computers and creating all sort of havoc on our little town. Not that I was proud of my past, but it did lead me to where I was today.
I had just gotten fired from Porty Morty’s Porta-A-Let and my best friend, Derek Smitherman, had a bunch of junkers at his mechanics shop. I needed a set of wheels and the ‘62 Belvedere spoke to me. Not only did it speak to me, it spoke to everyone who needed a ride. Derek fixed it up for me and painted it bright yellow, just like a taxi. Wherever I went, someone jumped in ordering me to take them somewhere. Since I was between jobs and needed cash to pay rent, it was a no brainer. I created the Drive Me app and I had more business than I knew what to do with. Of course my clients were among the elder generation, or as I referred to them the home-of-the-near-death generation, who needed to go back and forth between doctor appointments, but their money spent just as good as the younger generation’s.
“You cannot go around threatening people. Especially gamblers. They are focused on their gambling and can be hostile at times. Besides, I thought those days were behind you?” Jax asked bringing me back to reality.
“They are behind me, but he was badgering me.” Anyone who knew me, knew that it put a burr in my saddle when anyone spoke ill of Trixie. She wasn’t crazy. She was what the south referred to as
Maybe dumpster diving was her way of shopping, but it was thrifty. Not that we needed to be thrifty since I did just inherit a very large sum of money from my biological mob boss family that would last me until the day I died. That was still a secret between me, Trixie and Ben Bassman, my family lawyer from New York City.
Trixie and I went about our daily business as if we still didn’t have money. Besides, what would we do with ourselves?
“Laurel, you are twenty-three years old.” He pointed to himself. “I’m on the law’s side and I’m the security guard here. You can’t be my girlfriend with me kicking you out each time you and Trixie want to come play the penny slots just because you get into arguments with other players.”
He was right. The casino crowd was new to Walnut Grove and had never seen Trixie like the citizens of our little town had. Everyone in Walnut Grove was used to Trixie and her ways, but not the casino crowd. Every time we came, I was threatening someone who talked about her or made fun of her.
She raised me and I saw her like my momma.
“I know.” I sighed, nuzzling my head into the warm crease of Jax’s neck. He smelled so good. The deep musk cologne drove me wild. I took another whiff before I pushed myself off of him.
Jax had come to Walnut Grove as a FBI agent on a gun smuggling tip which I ended up getting in the middle of. Jax was always coming to my rescue. Instead of leaving Walnut Grove after his case was over, he decided to stay and open up a private investigation office. Since I had a pretty good eye for criminals due to my background and my crazy knack for hacking, Jax used my expertise on a couple of cases which turned into long nights and a couple of romps under the sheets, if you know what I mean.
Our relationship had recently reached the
I’m with him, he’s with me
stage without saying we were a couple. I wouldn’t say we were in love, but maybe on the road there.
“You know I’m on duty.” He gave me a quick kiss on the head. “And I’ve already been warned that if you create any more scenes, you and Trixie will be banned.” He pushed me out to arms length. His eyes flashed a do-you-understand look.
“Got it.” I pulled away, bit my lip, and gave him a pouty look that I knew was going to send his boy parts into overdrive. I ran a finger down his white button down and tucked the tip in the waist of his pants. “Come see me when you get off work. I’m sure I’ll have a few beers in me since it’s bowling night.”