Authors: Marja McGraw
Tags: #Mystery: Cozy - Vintage Restaurant - Los Angeles
|Marja McGraw - Bogey Man 02 - Bogey's Ace in the Hole|
|Bogey Man Mysteries |
|Marja McGraw (2012)|
|Tags:||Mystery: Cozy - Vintage Restaurant - Los Angeles|
Mystery: Cozy - Vintage Restaurant - Los Angelesttt
Bogey’s Ace in the Hole
A Bogey Man Mystery
The Bogey Man Mysteries
Bogey’s Ace in the Hole
They Call Me Ace
The Sandi Webster Mysteries
A Well-Kept Family Secret
The Bogey Man
Old Murders Never Die
Death Comes in Threes
And Don’t Miss
Mysteries of Holt House
BOGEY’S ACE IN THE HOLE, A Bogey Man Mystery, Copyright 2012, 2014, by Marja McGraw. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations used in critical articles and reviews. For information, contact Marja McGraw at
Cover by Marja McGraw
Silhouette by Andy Kohut
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
To the Church Ladies in my life. Thank you for being there and remaining true to your beliefs, and for each sense of humor.
Thank you to Dorothy Bodoin, my critique partner and close friend, whose gentle comments spur me on. My appreciation to Judy Lang, my sister, who has turned into a great critique partner. Thank you to all of the people who’ve taken the time to create lists of forties slang, and to all the writers of vintage mystery movies who supplied me with even more words and phrases. Al McGraw, I appreciate the patience you’ve shown when I disappear into my office and lose myself in the world of mysteries and computers.
Most of all, thank you to the voices of my characters who constantly ignore what I want to do and push me in directions I never expected to go.
“Pamela, there are some women sitting at the bar and they’re asking for you.”
Someone was tapping my shoulder and whispering in my ear.
Turning around, I found Daniel, our bartender, looking at me with a question in his eyes. I raised my eyebrows at him with a question of my own. Who wanted to see me?
“They said it’s a matter of life and death.
I asked if I could give you their names, and they said, ‘Just tell her the Church Ladies are here.’”
“The Church Ladies are here? It’s a matter of life or death? And they’re in our
” I wanted to gulp, but my mouth had suddenly gone dry.
“Two are drinking iced tea and one is having wine.”
“Are you aware that you’re repeating
what I say to you?” he asked.
He shrugged his shoulders and left me standing there while he returned to his station.
The Church Ladies?
Sitting in our cocktail lounge? A feeling of dread seeped into my heart. These were good women, but sometimes they were trouble. If they’d come into the restaurant for dinner, I wouldn’t be worried. But they’d bypassed the restaurant and seated themselves at our bar. It seemed like these women usually had some kind of a crusade going. I wondered what it could be this time, and how I figured into it. I could hear 1940s music playing in the lounge. They’d like that, I was sure.
Glancing around at my surroundings, I stalled
for time. My husband and I had opened our restaurant,
, in Los Angeles less than a year ago, after our original restaurant burned to the ground. It had been an old house, built in the 1920s, and we’d renovated and remodeled it into a restaurant and cocktail lounge with live music and dancing. I couldn’t help but feel pride as I looked around at the tables, all full, and listened to the hum of voices. The smiling faces should have added to my feeling of well-being. They didn’t.
finally spotted Chris at the front door greeting new customers. The restaurant had a forties theme – and so did my husband who was a dead ringer for Humphrey Bogart.
until the customers had been seated, I waved Chris over. On his way to meet me, he stopped and chatted with a few people.
I glanced at my watch impatiently. I’d already kept the Church Ladies waiting for about five minutes
– probably not a good thing. I waved at Chris again, motioning for him to hurry up.
“What’s the rush?” he asked, looking annoyed. “I can’t just walk away from customers when they want to talk to me.”
The Church Ladies are here
,” I said, drama dripping from my every word.
“You know, the Church Ladies. I’ve talked about them before. The three ladies from my church who keep things stirred up all the time? Remember? Last time I mentioned them it was because they wanted everyone from the church to march on City Hall. They didn’t like a remark the Mayor had made.”
“Yes, those ladies. They’re here and they want something from me. They told Daniel that it was a matter of life
or death. Of course, with them that could mean they haven’t found any volunteers for their latest cause.”
Chris sighed. “Pamela, why don’t you go find out
exactly what it is that they want? It may be nothing.”
“Nothing? It’s never nothing with these women. They’re loveable
little old ladies, but they very seldom take
for an answer. They wheedle and nag until we all do what they want us to just to keep them quiet. They’re still seething because no one would join them on the City Hall march. That was practically a first.”
“Just go talk to them. Find out what they want before you have a coronary. What could they possibly want from you anyway?”
Before I could respond, one of our waitresses approached to talk to Chris. Phyllis Sims looks like Marilyn Monroe, although she’s a bit smaller than the original. Needless to say, we have a theme going at the restaurant.
“Mr. Cross, would you mind coming with me and talking to one of our customers?
You were in the kitchen when they came in and they’re intrigued by you and the restaurant. I think they might be from a magazine.”
Phyllis always called Chris
when customers were within hearing distance. She and Myrna Loy, whose real name is Gloria Stark, had been with us since the beginning. They were loyal employees and friends, and we knew we’d be lost without them.
“I’ll be right there,
Phyllis. Which table?”
toward a table by the window and went back to work.
Chris turned to me.
“Okay, Pamela, find out what these women want. Don’t worry until you find out what they need you to do – if anything.”
“You’re right. It’s probably nothing. They came in here and went straight to the bar because they’re closet lushes. Uh huh. If you see me waving at you again, come a’runnin’, because… Well, just because.”
All of us at the restaurant dressed in the styles of the forties, although occasionally I fudged and wore a thirties style, so I looked in the mirror before entering the bar, hoping I didn’t look too weird because I’d be under the Church Ladies’ scrutiny. What was I thinking? They probably grew up with the styles I wore to work.
I peeked around the corner of the
doorway and studied the bar. Three elderly women sat there, heads together, quietly talking. Well, Jasmine Thorpe was doing the talking, and Lila James and May Martin were doing the listening. I wished for a moment that I could be the fly on the wall so I’d know ahead of time what was in store for me, but then I thought that with my luck that would be about the time the Health Department decided to do a check. No flies.
Jasmine took a deep breath and stopped
talking to take a drink of her tea. Leaning in a bit farther, I checked to see who the wine drinker was. I could see tea in front of May, so that left Lila. Lila? I wouldn’t have guessed it was her. I thought all three of them were teetotalers.
Although I didn’t know their actual ages, I guessed all three women were in their mid- to late seventies.
Jasmine was still blonde. It suited her even at her age, and she was about my height, maybe five feet four or five. She was always impeccably dressed, and tonight was no exception. However, she was a… Hmm. She was what I’d call a solid woman. Not really overweight, but not small by any means – maybe somewhat buxom.
Lila had short gray hair and dressed like an old woman. She hadn’t aged well, but when she smiled it always took about ten years off of her appearance.
She had the most sincere, joyful smile I’d ever seen. I’d heard her friends, on more than one occasion, tell her she shouldn’t age herself with her clothes and that she should have her hair styled and color it. On this night she wore a simple shapeless light blue dress and tennis shoes, and a large, floppy hat.
May seemed to be the most athletic of the group. She was tall and slender, and her salt and pepper hair was usually pulled back in a ponytail.
She had on a flattering yellow dress, which surprised me. I’d never seen her in anything but slacks and a blouse or a jogging suit, except on Sundays at church services.
Taking a deep breath and steeling myself, I entered the
cocktail lounge and sauntered over to the bar. “Good evening, ladies. I understand you wanted to see me?” I smiled broadly and hoped I didn’t look nervous.
“Ah, Pamela,” Jasmine said. “God bless you, and isn’t that an adorable dress you’re wearing?
That shade of green goes so well with your auburn hair, and it really makes your eyes look even greener than they are naturally. Good selection on your part. Your forties theme here at the restaurant is commendable. Those were simpler times.”
“I’m glad you like it. It’s so nice to see all of you. Daniel said you have a life or death
issue you want to discuss. I can’t imagine what anything like that might have to do with me.”
The band started up another number and it became difficult
for us to hear one another. I excused myself and asked them to take a short break when their song was over. It was only a four-piece band, but they sounded like there were ten of them. Occasionally the wife of one of the band members joined them and sang, but not tonight. Hiring Monday Moonshine had been a good move on our part.
my attention to the Church Ladies, stood at the bar, and explained that the band would be going on a break shortly. We all waited quietly for a few minutes and enjoyed the music. The band finally left the stage to take a break and I repeated my question. “So what does a life or death situation have to do with me?”
Jasmine glanced first at May, and then at Lila. Both women nodded their heads, and Lila said, “Go ahead. We need her help.”
“Is this about the church bazaar?” I asked. “Because if it is, I’ve already signed up to work it on Saturday.”
“No, it’s not about the bazaar,” Jasmine replied. “This is a very delicate matter and we believe you and your husband might be able to help us.”
May and Lila were again nodding their heads.
“My husband?” This surprise
d me. Chris never got involved in church activities and the Church Ladies knew that. He always said he’d attend a service with me one day, but to date that hadn’t happened. Once in a while he’d help with special projects, but that was the extent of his showing up at the church. I was getting a bad feeling now that they’d mentioned Chris.
“Yes, your husband. We need your help, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the church, or even church activities.
We read about the murders you solved before you opened this restaurant, and there’s a situation we believe you two are best suited to help us with, and that’s why we’re here.”
Nothing to do with church? Murder? A situation?” I was beginning to sound like a parrot. These women seemed to bring out my dopey side.
“Yes, a situation. Would you like to ask your husband to join us before I tell you our story?” Jasmine took another swig of her tea
, downing it as though it was liquor and would give her courage.
“No, I don’t think so,” I replied. “Why don’t you tell me what’s going on and then I’ll decide if I should call him in?”
“If you think that’s best,” Lila said.
Jasmine glanced at May and Lila, and they nodded
again. May fluttered her hands at Jasmine, as if to say,
Would you please get on with it
I sat down on the barstool next to Jasmine. I had a feeling I might be glad I was sitting when I heard what
“Okay, here’s the deal,” she said. “We have a friend named Addie. You don’t know her because she goes to a different church. There are actually four of us Church Ladies, and yes, we know that’s what everyone calls us. Addie is the fourth member of our little group. Addie is missing. We’d like you and your husband to find her.”
“You’d like us to find her?”
“Dear, are you losing your hearing? You
keep repeating what I say. Isn’t that a sign of hearing loss?”
I took a moment to think over what she’d said before I replied. This wasn’t at all what I’d been expecting. It wasn’t church business. It was a missing person.
“No, I’m fine. I’m just surprised. How long has your friend been missing? And have you called the police yet?”
“She’s been missing since this morning,” Lila said.
“We did call the police,” May added, “but they’re not interested yet.”
“She hasn’t been missing long enough,” Jasmine said.
I was struggling with myself while I listened to the ladies. I was tempted to roll my eyes, a bad habit of mine, but my brain was telling me not to do it under any circumstances. These ladies wouldn’t understand.
“How do you know she’s missing if she’s only been gone since this morning? Couldn’t she be out shopping or something?”
I willed my eyeballs to stay in place.
Jasmine had a very determined expression on her face. “No. We were supposed to go out to lunch together, and she never showed up. The three of us drove over to her house, and she wasn’t there. She never misses one of our lunches.”
“Never.” Lila shook her head.
“Not ever.” May shook her head in unison with Lila.
I almost shook my own head. “What makes you think she’s actually missing? Couldn’t something have come up that required her immediate attention? Did you at least ask the police to do a welfare check on her?”