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Authors: Jennifer Harlow

Werewolf Sings the Blues

BOOK: Werewolf Sings the Blues
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Copyright Information

Werewolf Sings the Blues: A Midnight Magic Mystery
© 2014
Jennifer Harlow

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any matter whatsoever, including Internet usage, without written permission from Midnight Ink, except in the form of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

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Any unauthorized usage of the text without express written permission of the publisher is a violation of the author's copyright and is illegal and punishable by law.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

First e-book edition © 2014

E-book ISBN: 978-0-7387-3934-2

Book design by Donna Burch-Brown

Cover design by Ellen Lawson

Cover illustration: Mary Ann Lasher-Dodge

Midnight Ink is an imprint of Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd.

Midnight Ink does not participate in, endorse, or have any authority or responsibility concerning private business arrangements between our authors and the public.

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Midnight Ink

Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd.

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Manufactured in the United States of America


For Sandy Lu

author's note

The events in this book take place seven years before the events in
Mind Over Monsters
and eight years before
What's A Witch To Do?

part i



Oh, I am not
feeling good.

Ugh. Waking with a dirty litter box in your mouth, throbbing head, nausea, and just general shit feeling does not bode well for the rest of the day. Seriously, let me at least have a cup of coffee before you begin your misery, world. Of course, this is a misery of your own making Viv, but damn it, still. Oh, that fourth shot last night was a terrible idea. I knew it then, and I am paying for it now. I groan aloud. Karma, baby. Karma. The bitch. The ringing phone in my kitchenette doesn't help the situation. Each shrill tone ratchets up the agony to Iron Maiden status. The machine picks up.

“Vivian, it's your mother.” I groan again, and not from the physical pain this time. “It's six o'clock our time, three yours. Your sister just informed me you haven't even called her to wish her a Happy Birthday. I
for a fact you didn't send her a present, but really? Not even a call? Beyond the pale, Vivian. Selfish even for you. Call your sister.” She hangs up.

Hangover and guilt trip, and I've only been up a minute. Ugh, times ten.

I manage to unglue my eyes. Another shit idea on my part. On
days like this, I wish I lived in Seattle not happy, bubbly sunny Cali-
fucking-fornia. I flip over, not only to avoid the perky sunshine. Alone. I slept alone. Thank God. The end of last night is kind of a haze. Okay, mostly a blank thanks to that fourth damn tequila shot. I knew better, I did, but that cute Ensign from Port Hueneme was just tipping so well. How could I not give in when he insisted I matched him shot for shot? Made an extra hundred from him alone if I recall. Not too shabby. Almost makes the pain worth it.

Get your flat ass out of bed, Dahl
. Yes, ma'am. I toss my covers off and pad the ten feet to the only room with a door in my studio apartment, the bathroom. Halfway there I realize I'm as naked as a jaybird. I don't recall stripping last night, but my clothes are strewn around the beige carpet. Wonderful, I'm becoming a blackout drunk. Mom will be so proud. I turn on the shower and even the sound of the falling water is excruciating. The hot water does help clear my head. An overrated state of being if you ask me. I am a shitty sister. Really shitty. Jessie's birthday completely slipped my mind. Thankfully this is the first time that's happened. She'll forgive me. I'll buy her something tomorrow. There isn't time today. I overslept and now only have two hours to pick up my dress, get a manicure, return here to do hair and makeup which will take an hour, then drive to the hotel, pray I can find parking in downtown Ventura on a Saturday evening, and arrive for sound check on time. Damn, I'm exhausted just thinking about it all. I'm so not going to make it through this day. At least not without help.

After the shower I brush my teeth, pop some Excedrin, and gulp
down an entire glass of water before putting on my pink tracksuit and shoving my wet hair under a brown-brimmed beanie. I can spare a second for self-improvement. New Year's resolution to keep and all. I yank yesterday's word of the day from my calendar. Yesterday was “encomium,” compliment. Today is “egregious,” outstandingly bad. Yeah, today's going to suck big hairy donkey balls. Even my calendar says so. Whatever. Sunglasses, purse, flip flops, ready to rock.

I live in a not-so-nice part of Oxnard, which is mostly known for its gang turf wars and being four blocks from the beach. No matter how many times the super paints the side of the brick building, the next morning the gang tags have returned. After two years I still don't know whose territory I'm in. My car, a twelve-year-old Bonneville, is parked unevenly across two spots. I grimace. I was kind of hoping not to have found it here. I drove drunk last night.
. There goes another broken promise to God. I sigh. I really suck. The car appears intact so at least I didn't kill anyone. No time to dwell on what a piece of crap I am. Gotta pay the bills and need my dress to do it.

As I trudge to my car, I notice a blonde man sitting in a black Mustang watching my every step. Huh. I know his face but can't place him, which is becoming a real problem lately. Damn hooch. When he realizes I'm studying him right on back, he turns away. Probably a cop keeping an eye on the building. If I had to guess, at least a third of my fellow tenants are dealers or gang bangers. There have been raids at least three times since I've lived here. Whatever. As long as he's not here to arrest me. I just look away from the man and get in my car.

My tension and misery increase exponentially as I drive to the strip-mall. It's all of five miles away, but with weekend SoCal traffic, it'll take forty minutes round trip. There goes my manicure. Instead of banging my head against the steering wheel, which is my first instinct, I retrieve my cell to call my guitarist/band co-manager/fellow bartender/connection, Cyr. Clicks straight to voicemail, so I leave a message. “Hey, it's Viv. On my way to get ready for the gig. I'm wearing the red dress, so tell the others to wear the red ties. And listen, I hate to ask, but I need you to bring me a little pick-me-up for tonight. I don't think I can make it to midnight without. You are a fellow doll and man among men. See you at five. Bye.”

Now to counteract my bad karma with just a little good. I dial Jessica's cell so there's no chance of getting Mom or Barry. My beautiful baby sister answers on the second ring, laughing at something. “Hello?” she chuckles.

“Hey, Jess, it's Viv. Happy Birthday, darlin'.”

“Thank you! Oh my God, I'm so glad you called,” Jessie chirps.

“Sorry I didn't earlier. It's wedding season, I have gigs coming out of my ears,” I lie.

“It's okay. You're calling now.”

“Is that Vivian?” I hear Mom ask in the background over loud giggling.

“Yeah, Mom. Hey, hang on,” she says to me. I hear the phone jostling as Jessie moves toward Mom. “Sorry. Tiffany and Chrissie are here. You know how loud they can be.”

“I remember the sleepovers, yes. Is Barry taking you all out to dinner?”

“Yeah, Rainforest Café. We may go into Disney afterward. You know how much I love the Haunted Mansion.”

“I do. When I worked there, every time I'd leave for work you'd beg me to sneak you into the park. You're a bit old for Disney now, don't you think?”

“Twenty-two is not old. Not like thirty,” she says playfully.

“Hey,” I warn, mock seriously, “I am
thirty.” Not for a little over a week anyway. I spin the wheel to change lanes. “So, are you enjoying your summer vacation from dental school or does Barry have you cleaning teeth in his office?”

“The latter. I'm learning so much more in the office than in school. Dad's a great teacher.”

“I still can't believe you
to become a dentist.”

“Well, not all of us can be glamorous singers performing for Tom Cruise.”

“Right.” Note to self, stop embellishing so much. I'll be singing
for Prince Charles next.

“Jessie, love, time to go!” Barry, my stepfather calls in the distance.

“Sorry, we're already running late. Call you tomorrow?” Jessica

“Of course. I love you to death. Have a spectacular birthday. Get plastered and flirt with lots of cute boys. That's an order.”

She giggles. “Do my best.”

“Say hey to Mom and Barry for me. Love you. Bye.” I hang up.

They'll make sure she has a blast. I think Mom mentioned last month during our obligatory quarterly call she picked out a new
bedroom set for Jessie's new apartment. I got a twenty in a card for my birthday. I'm shocked she remembered at all. As always, when I sense the green-eyed monster is about to devour
me, I stop the train of thought, take a deep breath, and fill my mind with happy thoughts. Me onstage receiving a Grammy. Working the room at Clive Davis' party. Being in the studio with Etta James and B. B. King, laying down tracks on our new album. Mine and Hugh Jackman's children scampering around our Aspen estate and making snowmen. I just can't conjure the images up like I used to. Age has made the divide between dreams and pipe dreams paper thin.

With the aid of daredevil maneuvering a minute later, I pull into the parking lot and step out into the broiling SoCal summer day. My first bit of luck today, no line at the cleaners. I retrieve my dress, then pop next door to buy a salad. Unless I sneak food at the wedding tonight, this is my only chance to eat before midnight. When I step out of the deli, I get the strange sensation that there are eyes upon me. I glance left. You have got to be fucking kidding me. That cop from my building stands about twenty yards away near the Starbucks with his cell phone pressed to his ear. He isn't looking at me now, but it had to be him who set off my internal warning bells which are now louder than seventeen rock concerts combined.

I know I've seen him before today, I just have no idea where. He
is damn distinctive. Ridiculously muscular with bowling ball biceps,
shoulders from the Pacific to Atlantic, thick torso under a black
t-shirt, and long muscular legs the size of sequoias. Probably a body builder. My observer has to be over six feet as the male shoppers who pass are mostly a head shorter than him. His blonde hair, natural I think, is slicked back and almost long enough to be put in a ponytail if needed. He glances back at me again, giving me a snapshot of his face. Not bad looking. Okay, he's damn fine.
Like I need fresh panties fine. Slavic features with sharp cheekbone
and nose, thin lips, and even from this far, his eyes are startling, like
pale blue ice. Glacial, which is exactly how I feel now with them trained on me again. Stone fucking cold.

I look straight ahead and scurry to the safety of my car. More than twice on the drive home I check the rearview for his Mustang but don't see it. Maybe it was just a coincidence. Hell, maybe it wasn't even the same man. Hot, blonde dudes with killer cheekbones are a dime a dozen in Southern California. Still. I return to my building and dash to my apartment, turning every lock, wedging the safety bar against the door, and checking that the pipe in
the window track is in place. As close to Fort Knox as I can get. Time
to forget all else and start my pre-gig ritual.

I think Nina will help get me in the right mindset for tonight. I leaf through my vinyl collection until I locate Nina Simone's
I Put a Spell on You
. With tender loving care, I remove my treasure from its jacket and set it on the player. Nina's deep, dusky voice fills my studio apartment, and I immediately begin feeling pretty damn good. I have to save my voice for tonight so I only lip sync along to the title track and her iconic hit “Feeling Good” as I begin my beauty ritual. Too bad I can't perform these tunes tonight. No, everyone just wants pop and eighties music. I don't sound terrible when I sing those, but certainly don't shine like when I'm belting Billie Holliday or Mr. Ray Charles. A girl's gotta eat though.

On the topic of food
after I'm done blow-drying my hair but before I start curling, I shove the salad in my mouth. I really do need to eat more. I used to fill a B-cup but now don't even need a bra. Plus being able to count my ribs isn't terribly sexy, and you can't get anywhere in the music business without being sexy.

Since time is of the essence, I do a quick hair and makeup shellacking before slipping on my red dress and checking out the final product in my full-length mirror. Damn, I hate being a ginger. Bright orange hair, pale skin, freckles across my nose, arms, and back that makeup barely covers. This genetic mutation and a kick-ass record collection are the only contributions my real father bestowed upon me before abandoning me when I was one. My long lips and thin frame are the only traits inherited from Mom besides terrible taste in men.

Tonight the freckles are hidden and my long hair appears full and glossy with the fake magnolia clipped over my ear. My blue eyes seem larger than normal, thanks to Miss Maybelline. People have told me I resemble Julia Roberts. We do have the same nose, minus the gold stud in mine, and large lips but my jaw is longer and cheekbones less pronounced. The red satin halter dress' full skirt hides my now boyish hips. The problem is it doesn't hide my tattoos. Chinese symbol for harmony just below the crook of my right arm. Huge cleft note in the upper center of my back with the lyrics of “It's a new dawn” written above. At least the caged mockingbird singing on my lower back, apparently considered a tramp stamp, is masked. Younger couples like tonight's tend not to care about the ink, but I still attempt to be professional when I can. I slip on my white faux-fur half jacket and gold strappy heels, grab my purse, and head to the door.

I'm extra vigilant, checking every corner and window as I walk through the open hallway and down the stairs to my car. No Mustang in sight. Still. Before I climb into my car, I glance in the backseat just in case. I take my Urban Legends seriously. Empty. Okay, I must still be high from the joint I smoked yesterday before work because I'm only this paranoid on pot. “Dumbass.” I'm late enough without my overactive imagination setting up a roadblock. I do keep an eye out for the Mustang as I cruise up the I-10 toward Ventura. I may be dumb, but I ain't a fucking moron.

The Dolan-Velasquez wedding is being held at a swank resort on the beach, and the happy couple should just be walking down the aisle on said beach as I reach the concrete parking garage. The multi-deck parking lot is almost full but I find a slot on the third level. “I'm sorry I'm late,” I call as I rush into the hotel ballroom. “Crazy day.”

This ballroom is exquisite with about two dozen tables adorned with freesias and daisies. Waiters light the candles in the centerpieces. The other hired help, Vivian and the Dolls, are setting up on the white bandstand. My Dolls are already here, checking equipment and tuning their instruments. We're not really a band so much as a musical collective. Jaime plays both classical piano and keyboard with synthesizers. Muriel is on drums, and tonight has removed her five piercings and covered her green hair with a red fedora. Parker tunes his bass guitar. He's the youngest of us at twenty. Cyr has tied back his long dreadlocks and his skin looks almost coal black when he's dressed in a white shirt. We are a motley crew. I'm more jazz/R&B, Cyr reggae, Parker classical, Muriel alternative, and Jaime pop. We only work weddings together, though Cyr and I both bartend at the same nightclub, and jam sometimes after work. He's the closest thing to a best friend I have. And he has

BOOK: Werewolf Sings the Blues
3.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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