She wore a short skirt and a tight sweater
and her figure described a set of parabolas that could cause
cardiac arrest in a yak. —WOODY ALLEN, GETTING EVEN, 1973
Eve Meyers, my BFF, a gothic fashionista with a
steampunk edge, tall in her black and brass Lindi Buckle Leather
Booties, invaded my vintage dress shop with mischief aforethought.
"Madeira? Did you ever tell Nick about that thermonuclear kiss you
shared with Werner the night you and the detective slept together?"
Even though we were alone right now, I grew warm
in my fifties Lilli Ann flared-sleeved, cinch-waisted,
pencil-skirted suit. I’d purchased it at a miracle of a bargain,
though a rabid collector would pay a grand for the set.
You had to love the goods you sold, which I aced,
but right now, I wasn’t loving my BFF too darn much.
Eve knew she’d hit home when she turned to face
beverage buffet. "Caffeine. Gotta have more
caffeine. My morning fix has left the building." She chose a zinger
of a caramel tea as black and powerful as her outfit.
From the back, her long, straight hennaed hair
spilled over the stand-up collar of her cotton point textured faille
jacket, same fabric as her skintight cropped pants. For contrast,
I’d designed it to be worn with that bold-print girlie top—earth
tones hidden among the black—a barely there ruffle flowing just
below the cropped waist of her jacket.
Her necklace of assorted copper gears picked up
the red sheen from her hair, which she flipped as she turned back to
me. "If you didn’t tell Nick," she said, "you’re about to have your
chance. I hear he’s on his way home." She sipped her tea and eyed me
with calculation over the rim of a blue Wedgewood teacup.
"Werner and I did
together!" I snapped. "We were out cold, both of us concussed . . .
in the same bed. There’s a difference."
Dropping the subject, I stacked the fifties
outfits I’d sold earlier that morning, to be worn at my sister
Brandy’s costume fund-raiser this coming Saturday night. "Be right
back. Have to top my list of alterations with this lot."
Eve leaned on the doorjamb at the base of my
enclosed stairway sipping and watching as I climbed. "If I didn’t
know better," she said, "I’d think you’re ignoring me."
What I chose to ignore, I acknowledged to myself,
was the amusement in her voice. I hung the items to be altered in my
work corner, boxed in by several antique sewing machines and a few
of today’s finest technical wonders that did everything but wear the
Back downstairs in my sales area, I switched out
winter purses for summer box bags in straws, metallics, Bakelite,
and Lucite, and showcased their funky shapes: rectangle, trapezoid,
beehive, hatbox, lunch box, not to mention the fifties icon: the
sleek single-clasp, rectangular box clutch, a purse known to endow
its owner with ladylike behavior.
"You and Werner can’t escape your scorching
past," Eve warned, arms crossed, eyes bright, smile at half-mast.
"Neither can you escape me."
Atop the purse pyramid, I placed a white oval
Lucite Llewellyn bag, the bottom edged with a two-inch, molded,
silver floral band. "Gorgeous," I said.
"Face it," Eve persisted, the kiss
"You and Werner couldn’t
dreamed it. Besides,
he’s the one
who called it ‘thermonuclear.’"
"Get out, Meyers!"
Eve’s grin grew. "You
Nick, did you?"
I huffed. "First I said I didn’t want to talk
about it. Then when I tried, Nick didn’t want to hear it. So first
we avoided the subject and then we avoided each other. Fact is,
Nick’s been on one secret assignment or another for nearly the
entire four months since."
seriously, the FBI takes advantage of their special agents that way.
Plus we took an official time-out before he left."
or off, you and Nick have always stayed friends. What did you do,
lose his cell phone number or something?"
inwardly. "For your amusement, Meyers, I’ll admit that Nick seems to
have changed his cell phone number."
Before my eyes, she turned into a member of gossip central. "So you
did try to call him?"
"Of course, I did." Once, after a lonely six-pack
of Dos Equis. Bad idea: the call and the beer. Both had come back to
"Hah!" Eve did smug well. Probably reading me
like a book. "You procrastinated beyond what was reasonable,
confession-wise." she said. "Now he’s either pouting or plain old
I turned on the air-conditioning. "Thanks,
Sherlock Poppycock. I never would have figured that out."
"Hey." Eve tapped her lips with a finger. "Ever
think that maybe
Nick about the kiss?"
I raised a brow. "Your optimistic encouragement
Her watch alarm rang. "Gotta run. If Kyle’s
metallic gold, stretch Lamborghini is already sitting in my
driveway, it’s giving my frugal, old-world mother a heart attack."
"I can’t believe you’re still dating Kyle DeLong. Multibillionaires
are so not your style."
Eve swallowed, hand on the doorknob. "You’re
trying to scare me to pay me back. Sure, he’s practically a record
for me, but he’s just a plaything."
"A plaything who’s buying a mansion in the town
where you live."
"Because having him stay at my house would
"Let’s hear it for the odd couple," I said.
Kyle’s mother, Broadway actress Dominique DeLong,
died under suspicious circumstances this winter, and when we went to
the city to help find her killer, cupid struck Eve and Kyle at first
"Have fun mansion shopping," I called, waving her
off. "Hey," I added before she closed the shop door and headed for
her Mini Cooper parked right outside. "Have Kyle enter the
Lamborghini in Brandy’s vintage car show Saturday, as part of the
Carousel of Love fund-raiser. The Nurture Kids Foundation is his
mother’s kind of charity."
"Great idea. See you around." Eve closed her door
but powered down her window. "Please don’t tell Nick about kissing
Werner until I get back, ’kay? I don’t wanna miss the fun."
I gave her a dubious look. "Payback’s a stitch."
I watched her pout as she drove away.
My Out to Lunch sign and the click of the shop
lock became an
imperative to release my breath. I needed, at the very least, a
thimbleful of control and a bit of downtime to sort some sticky
issues, Nick being only one of several.
I’d barely sat when
the shop phone rang. "Vintage Magic; how can I dress you?"
"Give me Isobel,"
demanded a chipmunk with attitude before he/she/it demonstrated, not
quite beneath its breath, an impressive and varied case of potty
mouth. The obscenities ended with the same demand they’d started
with: "Give me Isobel," delivered like Darth Vader on helium, or a
squirrel on steroids; take your pick.
I wondered. The intern I was taking under my Vintage Magic wing,
despite my strong—and growing stronger—reservations?
As if sensing my angst, Dante Underhill, my
shop-bound ghost, appeared beside me. We couldn’t even touch, my
friend the resident spirit and I, but I felt safer with him beside
The voice, no matter how silly, carried a threat
I didn’t know how to answer. "I beg your pardon? Can you repeat
that?" I stalled while my heart raced.
"What time is Isobel due?" the now rabid rodent
asked. While less threatening than a full-out black-hearted villain,
the critter hadn’t yet mastered its audio modulation device.
Panicked humor aside, I gave in to a whole-body
shiver. "Who is this?" I asked.
came a deeper, more cavernous voice, followed by a charged pause.
"Ya hear me?" Deep Throat asked. "I’m her brother!"
So . . . I was hiring an intern I didn’t want,
brother best aped James Earl Jones and tiny striped rodents.
Fact is, his emphasis on the word "brother" made me wonder if it
might not be a woman. Voice changers could easily be set to mask
gender. They were computers, after all, so Eve studied them in grad
school when we lived together in New York. They could make
inexperienced users sound like deep-voiced, slow-talking drones or
fast-talking chipmunks. This caller was all over the map.
Dante placed his hand on his heart, like he’d
protect me, and he meant it, but unless Wrath Vader stepped foot in
my shop—which I so did not want—I was on my own.
Well. Not entirely on my own. I could call
Yeah, that Werner. The one I
Only the minute and the future are
interesting in fashion—it exists to be destroyed. If everybody
did everything with respect, you’d go nowhere. —KARL LAGERFELD
I placed the phone on its charger and rubbed my
arms. Isobel York hadn’t started interning yet, and one of her
theoretical relatives—who did not sound the least loving—had already
scared the wooly knobby knits out of me.
Brandy, Brandy, Brandy. What do you know about this friend of a
friend from the Peace Corps?