Narrator: Parlortown. This seedy little city was seeming more hopeless by
the minute. It had a reputation for being rife with drugs, petty theft, illegal
solicitation and cold-blooded murder, but now things were getting out of hand.
Stella Decker and Macy Hayes, Parlortown’s diamonds in the rough, had
been cracked apart by an increasingly uncrackable case. Tess was out of the
picture, and her resurrected husband was dead again, and Stella and Macy were
less powerful without each other. Seeking comfort in something to focus on,
and an old friend, Stella had gone to visit Stickler in the hospital in the
company of Julian McGuiness. Now, with Tommy passed out on the couch, his
lady interest Rhiannon Rose was parked outside Stella and Macy’s house,
having followed Stella home from the hospital. Her formerly sweet, young voice
came out hushed, husky, almost sultry, as she spoke slowly into her cell phone.
Rhiannon: Yeah, I took care of the guy. He was easy. (pause.) Pillow. It’s
tried and true. (pause.) I wore gloves…no, no one saw me. What’s
with the third degree, P, I’m not stupid. (pause.) Yeah, I saw the girl,
followed her home. What’s her story? (pause.) Okay, just asking, don’t
get touchy. You know, I don’t feel so right about this. It’s been
a while, P, what’s so important that you had to call me out of the blue? (pause.) I remember perfectly well, you don’t make it very easy to forget.
I know what I said, but you don’t call me out for just any job. This
has got to be important. (pause.) Alright look, this isn’t the best
place to argue. But I’m not going to do this tonight, it’s too
risky. I’m sure they’ve found the guy by now, and I don’t
want them to be too easily linked. (pause.) P? Are you there? (to
herself) Damn cell phones. (into the phone.) P? Pal? Paladin, are you there?
Narrator: Rhiannon slammed her flip phone shut.
Rhiannon: Technology. This was so much easier when we used telegrams, he
didn’t have room to annoy me.
Narrator: Rhiannon turned her engine on, shifted to Drive, and purred her
car away. Inside the apartment, Stella was reclined against the arm of the
sofa with one leg stretched out and one knee up propping the book she wasn’t
reading. The phone on the table behind her rang, and she picked up.
McGuiness: Hey Stel.
Stella: Jules? Can’t get enough of me, eh? Look I told you, I don’t
swing that way.
McGuiness: Do you want my news or not? I can wait ‘til morning, toots.
Stella: Well make it quick, I was engrossed in this book.
McGuiness: Stickler’s kicked.
Stella: You’re kidding! He was stable when we left!
McGuiness: If you can ever call that wacko stable. No official news yet,
but a nurse friend of mine mentioned something about asphyxiation.
Stella: Maybe you sucked up all his oxygen.
McGuiness: Well my gut says homicide, but I’m pretty sure I’m
not the culprit.
Stella: Alright, you want to meet back at the hospital in the morning?
McGuiness: It’s a date. Say 10ish? I’ve…you know, got a
Stella: (being disgusted) Ugh, Julian. Gross. I don’t want those details.
McGuiness: Well, I’m just sayin’. So 10?
Stella: Sure. (pause.) Jules?
Stella: You’ve got friends?
McGuiness: Nurse friends, even.
Stella: Sexy. See you in the morning.
McGuiness: Get some sleep. You looked wiped today.
Stella: Thanks, Jules. Good night.
Narrator: Stella hung up and leaned back against the sofa, her book turned
upside down on her thigh, her arms crossed. She fell asleep thinking, and
awoke with a start a minute before the alarm in her bedroom went off at seven.
She blinked and rubbed her eyes for a minute, and stretched out the leg that
was still supporting her book. She winced as her knee creaked out its stiffness
and her muscles loosened up. She put her book down on the couch. Stella walked
gingerly into the bedroom to turn off her alarm, which was set to a local
station from a couple towns over. Just as she put her hand on the button,
the morning news came back from commercial and she stopped.
Newscaster: And we’re back with continued coverage of the Jack Nichols
murder. An autopsy conducted late last night revealed six bullet wounds. No
murder weapon has been uncovered yet, but the lead suspect is still Private
Detective Macy Hayes, who has not been located. If you encounter this woman,
she is to be considered armed and dangerous. Do not approach her, but call
the police and alert them as to her whereabouts. This description of the suspect
has just been issued to us from the local police station-
Narrator: Stella clicked off her radio. She could still smell Macy’s
hair, feel the soft touch of her lips, she could still see the way her clothes
clung just right to her beautiful figure. She didn’t need a stranger
from the police department telling her what her lover looked like. She wrapped
herself in a robe and went into the kitchen to make some coffee.
Stella: (kind of muttering) What, does it get colder every night in this
Narrator: Stella looked out the window at the two feet of snow that had fallen
Stella: Guess I’ll have to break out the big boots.
Narrator: Stella leaned over her kitchen counter lost in thought as her coffeemaker
started to percolate. She tapped her fingertips on the counter for a minute,
and then turned off the coffeemaker brusquely, dressed quickly, put on her
snow boots and heavy coat, and left slamming the door behind her. She got
in her car, coaxed the engine on, and drove to the Blue Diner. Just as she
was getting out of the car to go inside, a faded green truck pulled into the
barren parking lot behind her. She walked over to the driver’s side
as a husky man in a surprisingly well-groomed man in a clean coat and pair
of pants stepped out of the truck.
Stella: (in an outdoors voice) It’s a little early, isn’t it?
Jones: (kind of a southern accent, not too exaggerated) Not for me, ma’am.
Been makin’ deliveries since four.
Stella: You always deliver here?
Jones: Yes, ma’am. We give Mister Stickler here everything he needs.
Stella: Everything, huh? Look, how about I buy you a cup of coffee? Stickler’s
a friend, I’m sure he won’t mind waiting a few minutes.
Jones: I’m not one to turn down coffee from a pretty lady. After you.
Narrator: The two went inside the diner, where the waitress that Macy had
intimidated was working the counter.
Stella: So you’re open, huh?
Waitress: Business is business, miss. Two?
Narrator: The waitress seated them and brought them some coffee.
Jones: So what’s this all about? Not to be rude, but no one has ever
asked me to coffee so eagerly.
Stella: What’s your name?
Jones: Jones, ma’am. Felix Jones.
Stella: Stella Decker. That truck out there, where’s that from?
Jones: Green Light Supplies, ma’am, at your service.
Stella: (chuckling a little) Are you the guys who always run the red?
Jones: (very earnest) Oh, not me, ma’am. I never break the law.
Stella: It was a joke, Prep School. How often do you deliver to Stickler?
Jones: Well usually once every other month or so. We give him glasses when
they break and silverware when it gets bent, stuff like that. Lately I been
here at least once a week on account of his plates keep getting smashed up…look,
I really don’t mean to insist like this, but I feel wrong talking about
Mister Stickler like this. Can’t you tell me what’s going on at
Stella: I’m a detective, Felix. Here’s my card, in case you’re
worried about any funny stuff.
Jones: Oh no ma’am, I wasn’t implying anything like that…
Stella: It’s okay, Prep School. I’m ribbing you. You should lighten
up. I hope that’s decaf she brought you.
Jones: I don’t drink anything but.
Stella: I figured as much. So I take it you’re dropping off more plates?
Jones: Yes indeedy, got the call about three days ago.
Stella: Three days? Are you sure about that?
Narrator: Stella looked at her watch. She’d have to hightail it if
she was going to meet McGuiness.
Stella: Well listen, Prep School, you’ve been awfully helpful. I’m
sorry to take you away from your job. Take my card, seriously, and if you
think of anything give me a call…at my office.
Narrator: Stella winked and left a pretty confused Jones to his decaf coffee.
Stella: I’ll be back.
Narrator: Stella waved to the waitress and flew down the steps. She opened
her car door and had one foot inside the car when she felt a quick pressure
in her left shoulder that knocked her torso over the open door, followed by
a searing pain, and everything went black. Back at Rhiannon’s house,
Tommy awoke on the couch to the smell of French toast and the sound of Rhiannon
humming in the kitchen, her normal cheery manner having returned. He sat up
groggily, and then gave a start. He frantically ran his hands over his clothes,
feeling very mussed up, then brought his fingers up to his mouth and just
audibly muttered –
Tommy: Oh….oh dear!
Rhiannon: (from the kitchen) That you, hun?
Narrator: Tommy stood up and straightened out his shirt, making sure it was
tucked in. He checked the button and zipper of his pants, and walked hesitantly
into the kitchen.
Rhiannon: Good morning, sleepyhead. Hungry?
Tommy: Oh, it smells delicious. Rhia. I don’t really know how to ask
this, but…nothing…indecent happened last night, did it? I wasn’t,
improper, was I?
Rhiannon: Oh goodness no, silly. You passed out and I let you sleep.
Tommy: (heaving a sigh of relief) Oh, thank goodness. I was so worried. Not
that that’s something I would do, I was just….I just don’t
remember a thing!
Rhiannon: That beer must have knocked you out.
Tommy: Must have.
Narrator: Tommy’s cell phone rang, making his pants vibrate, which
caused him jump a little and then blush. He took it out of his pocket and
walked into the next room muttering-
Tommy: (muttering) Way to be awkward, Thomas. Get over it. (into
the phone) Hello? Yes, it is. What? WHAT!? Oh my goodness! I’ll be right there!
Narrator: Tommy ran into the kitchen, kissed Rhiannon on the cheek, apologized,
and ran out leaving the second person of the morning confused and feeling
a little rejected. At the hospital, Stella awoke to the sounds of Tommy’s
voice from down the hall-
Tommy: Stella! Miss Decker! Stella!
Narrator: Tommy stopped outside her room, looked in, and ran in the room
in a state of complete panic.
Tommy: Oh Miss Decker, I thought you were dead!
Narrator: Tommy threw himself over the foot of her bed, cause her to wince
Stella: What the hell is going on here?
Narrator: A nurse rushed in, following the noise.
Nurse: Sir? Sir! Could you please keep it down, this is a hospital! There
are sick people here, in case you don’t know what a hospital is. They
need their rest! Oh, Miss Decker, you’re awake. You suffered a nasty
shot to the shoulder, but you’re going to be just fine. The doctor will
be in shortly to talk with you.
Tommy: (still frantic) OH MY GOD SOMEONE SHOT YOU!
Nurse: Sir! Please! If you can’t control yourself I’m going to
have to ask you to leave!
Tommy: (in an over exaggerated whisper) I’m sorry, miss. I’ll
Nurse: See that you do.
Narrator: The nurse walked out.
Tommy: (in a normal tone) Gee, Miss Decker. You got shot!
Stella: So it seems. Man, my shoulder is sore. I don’t know what happened.
Tommy: Well, the doctor will be in soon, she said.
Stella: I guess so. (chuckles a bit) It’s funny, I was supposed to
be here checking out someone else who got shot.
Tommy: What do you mean?
Tommy: The Diner Owner? No kidding.
Stella: Not this time. God, I hate these places.
Tommy: I know, Miss Decker. You’ll be out soon.
Stella: I better be. Anyway, Tommy, Julian McGuiness is in the cafeteria
getting some coffee. He’ll fill you in on everything. I’m pretty
tired. Will you help him with anything he needs help with?
Narrator: Tommy stood at attention and gave a salute.
Tommy: I’m on the case, chief.
Narrator: His cuteness was almost sickening.
Stella: Tommy? Why isn’t she here? She watches the news. She reads
the news. She must know. Why isn’t she here?
Narrator: Tommy sat down and rubbed Stella’s foot through the hospital
Tommy: She’ll be back, Miss Decker. Give her some time.
Stella: Thanks, kid.
Narrator: Just then, Julian knocked on the door and came in the room.
McGuiness: I see your right hand man has arrived. Good to finally meet you,
Tommy: You too, sir.
Stella: Listen, McGuiness. The delivery guy for the Blue Diner says Stickler
called in a delivery for more plates three days ago.
McGuiness: You don’t stop for a second, do you. Wait a minute, three
days ago? That makes no sense. He had plates then. He said he stopped the
vandal when he was shot. Why would he order more plates before he knew he
Stella: That’s what I need you two to figure out while I sleep off
this pain. Now get out of here, there’s too much testosterone in this
room. Go send one of those cute nurses in.
McGuiness: That’s the spirit, doll! Good to have you back.
Stella: Tommy will help you out, Jules. And thanks for all your help. You’re
the cutest butch I know.
McGuiness: Aw, shucks, you flatter me, Stel.
Narrator: Why was Stickler jumping the gun on ordering his plates? What did
Rhiannon have to do with Paladin, and since when was she a hired assassin?
Was Tommy in danger? Where was Macy? Had she committed a double murder? And
who shot Stella? Tune in to next week’s installment of Decker & Hayes,
entitled "Up The Creek."