Authors: Jennifer Stevenson
Tags: #humor, #hinky, #Jennifer Stevenson, #romance
The Hinky Velvet Chair
Hinky Chicago Book Two
Book View Café Edition
September 10, 2013
ISBN: 978 1 61138 287 7
Copyright © 2013 Jennifer Stevenson
Jewel Heiss squinched her eyes shut. She was so tired that
her hair hurt. Her clothes stank of gasoline. She and her partner Clay Dawes
had spent a satisfying day measuring gas, writing tickets to stations whose
pumps filled shy, and sitting in traffic. Only one part of her body was in a
good mood, and she was even tired of that.
Late Monday afternoon, the staff room at the Chicago
Department of Consumer Services was empty. They were the first team back in the
office. Jewel drooped. Clay looked fresh as ever, in an annoyingly laid-back
“I’m gonna become a nun,” she muttered.
“That would be a waste.” Clay put whitener and coffee in her
mug and black coffee in his. “Take tomorrow off. Get some sleep.”
She sighed. Sleep sounded so good. “I can’t.”
“Why not? I’ll babysit Randy,” he suggested. “We can do gas
Randy was her sex demon. Her source of fantasies-come-true.
Some nights, it was so good, she wanted to die in his arms. Some days, she
never wanted to set eyes on him again. Once an English earl, Randy had
possessed a brass bed for two centuries, after his mistress complained that he
was a lousy lover and put a curse on him:
one hundred women.
The curse was only kind-of broken.
He sure knew his way around a bed, though.
“You need a break from each other,” Clay suggested.
That was way true. Today she’d left Randy in her apartment,
messing with the computer, but he was still waiting for her to come home…and
get naked. “There’s a catch, right?”
“Well, we might go shopping.”
“You don’t shop. You shoplift.” Clay was a mostly reformed
con artist. “But it’s a lovely idea all the same.” Clay had been using the
possessed brass bed to sell fake sex therapy when Jewel met him. He wouldn’t be
reformed now if she hadn’t ruined his scam by scoring Randy’s hundredth notch
in the bedpost.
Now Randy was celebrating his freedom in her apartment, in
her bed, with Jewel. Over and over and over.
The boss, Ed Neccio, waddled into the staff room, his hands
full of files. “You two get in here.” He went into his office and drew the
blinds shut. “I’ve got an important case for you. Siddown. Heiss, you look
whipped. Don’t your partner let you sleep?” He leered perfunctorily and passed
across a thick file. “This is totally stop secret hush hush on the QT
confidential, like nobody never knows nothin’ about it, okay?”
“That means no blabbing to my wife, Heiss,” the boss said. “You
two are chummy, but I’m telling you this is classifired. You talk in class, you
She muttered, “Yeah, yeah.”
Ed aimed his bushy eyebrows at her. “The Fifth Floor’s got
an interest in this one.”
Jewel groaned. She lifted the cover of the file with a
fingernail. “Looks like this one’s stale.” She recognized signatures from three
different divisions of the department. “Gee, I get to bat cleanup for Digby and
“To hell with them,” Ed said, slapping the file shut. “This
is the important stuff. Number one, it’s fraud. I dunno how or where. That’s
your job to find out. Guy runs a psychic spa thingy, you get fortune-telling
with your facial and shit. Got a million ways to service customers, each one
shadier than the other. Every team we send in there, he
to them somehow.”
“You try Building Codes and Safety?”
“They went in first. Clean as a Pekinese’s asshole. His
permits are in order,” Ed admitted. “But the guy’s a crackpot. Calls himself a
magician. Thinks the city handles the hinky shit all wrong. Wants to start a
new era of peace an’ magic an’ age of aquarium moon is in the seventh house and
Jupiter lyin’ with Mars. He’s running for Mayor,” Ed returned to coherence.
“Oh,” Jewel said. “Has it hit the press yet?”
“No. That’s why this is a rush job.”
“Shit,” she echoed. “I get it.”
“Fabulous,” Clay said. “What do you get?”
Ed waved a dismissive hand. “Explain it where I don’t hafta
listen. Couple more things.” He tossed down another file. “Consumer complaint.
Woman claims her brother is getting rushed by a golddigger trying to sell him a
“Should be open-and-shut,” Jewel said. “Find out what her
claims are, make a ruling.”
“He’s a millionaire. You gotta at least pretend to use kid
“No problem,” Clay murmured, leaning over her shoulder.
and a millionaire. Scary combination.
“No problem,” Ed muttered, as if thinking the same thing.
Clay peered closer at the file and stiffened.
Then Ed took her breath away. “So, listen, you two. On both
these cases….” He hesitated. “I guess I gotta authorize you going in
Jewel choked on a gasp of ecstasy. She sat up.
“Don’t get excited. You’re still no
bitch. Uh, woman. Person.” Ed appealed to Clay. “Keep her
outta trouble? Fill in the gaps in her expertise.” He rose. “Now, scram.”
“One more thing. Know that punk kid you’re always
protecting? He’s selling something again, some kinda consumable. If you give a
shit, take it away from him before the Department of Health busts him for not
having a pushcart license.”
“Sure, okay, fine,” she muttered. Inside she was wooting.
Jewel was sick of inspecting
In the empty staff room, Clay flicked the top folder away
from her. “Okay, let’s split these up. You take the political case and I’ll
deal with this little golddigger thing.”
“Forget it.” She pulled a chair close to him. “Listen. While
nobody’s in here but us.”
He sat. “The Fifth Floor?”
She nodded. “The thing is, it doesn’t matter who runs
against da mayor, we know he’ll win. But it’s the campaign fuss. The media
circus.” She lowered her voice. “This guy’s platform is totally against Policy.”
They exchanged glances. The Fifth Floor had a lot of
policies, but only one with a capital Pol. The Hinky Policy, the reason for their
tiny division’s existence.
“Yeah, yeah, we don’t see magic, we pretend it’s normal, and
we cope,” Clay said.
Jewel winced. If she had to define hinky, she wouldn’t use
the word magic. That was kind of the whole point of the Policy and the
Division. You just knew hinky when you saw it.
“Don’t say that word.”
“So?” Clay opened the skinny file. “Why’s he dangerous?”
“He can screw up the city. Suppose the nut goes on TV with
something hinky? What if he starts giving the public
about how to deal with the hinky stuff? Other cities are
getting sick, but Chicago is da city dat woiks. We work hard at that.”
“Other cities.” Clay looked up from the file he was reading.
“Brussels is actually doing okay,” she said. “But—”
She met Clay’s eyes.
They both said, “Pittsburgh.”
“First thing is to figure out why these other teams flopped.
Oh, hi, Britney,” she said in a louder voice as her friend came into the staff
room and slumped into a chair. “Run some background on the parties concerned,
if you’re so excited about the golddigger case. I’ll talk to Britney about this
Clay took the file to a workstation. His heart was racing.
He hid behind his computer screen, opened the file, and glared at the names
burning on the single page inside.
A Ms. Ernestine Griffin (42) had phoned in a complaint
against one Sovay Sacheverell (30?), whom she accused of trying to sell a
magical antique to Ms. Griffin’s brother—
— one Virgil Thompson (70).
blah, blah, she told me all this on the phone.
Between every printed word, a dozen had been handwritten and
scratched out. That was Griffy. Never could tell a story in a straight line.
Clay leaned his head on the screen and breathed softly.
This is what I get for refusing to help her. I can’t believe she called
this in over my head.
He glanced at Jewel. She was deep in a girl-type powwow with
Britney, the Blonde To End All Blondes.
He turned back to the file and the computer.
A quick background check on Griffy, as he’d expected,
yielded a pinup poster for her first and only Atlantic City revue. It was
probably on the web because of the famous movie star standing next to her in
the chorus line. A bimbo of Griffy’s vintage didn’t leave a big paper trail,
not when she’d scored so young.
The Sacheverell woman next. Vassar degree but no social
mentions. Hm. He tried the last name, then the first. A Sovay Claire once
played on a high school soccer team in south Florida. He traced Sovay Claire
for a while and found a head shot at a Vegas talent agency. Zowie. Major
brunette. He printed it off. If she wasn’t the right Sovay, she’d draw Jewel
off the scent.
But there wasn’t much else.
Fishy, that Vassar thing. Long way from south Florida to
Vassar. He tried a few different spellings of Sovay, and hit the jackpot with
Sauvée. Society wedding, the same major brunette in white next to a
millionaire. Society wedding, the same brunette again, with a different
millionaire. Clay got a bad feeling. He narrowed his search to five spellings
of Sovay and the word ‘wedding.’
Five different mentions.
He googled the bridegrooms and, on a hunch, asked for
Dead. Every one.
Drawing a deep breath, he googled Virgil Thompson.
Here we go. Author of numerous essays on fake Shrouds of
Turin. The articles went back twenty years, which startled Clay.
Member of the Amateur Mechanical Engineers Society of Great
Britain. Lots of old-timey engravings of whiskered guys showing off
Rube-Goldberg-like apparati. With every picture he found the note, ‘From the
collection of Virgil Thompson.’
Breathing deep again, Clay opened AFIS, the fingerprint
Clay searched under AKA Virgil Athabascan, Virgil Marconi,
Virgil Dante, Dante Virgil, Inaeas O. Virgilius. He scratched his head and came
up with nine more aliases.
Well, he hadn’t expected to find anything. His old man was
With care, he wiped the record of his search off the system.
Good grief. How was he going to finesse this one?