“Where should this go?” said the mover, with a cardboard box full of books. “Can I just drop this in the living room?”
Vera’s eyes bugged out of her head. J.D. Salinger and Dorothy Parker were in that box.
“It can go in the living room, but could you place it gently there?” Vera made a quieting gesture with her hands, as if she were directing a symphony to a pianissimo.
The mover, who looked to be a college kid, raised his eyebrows before climbing the steps of Vera’s new porch.
Since starting at “Loan Some,” Vera had made a lot of money. As it turned out, being loaned out as a “friend” at baby showers or as a “daughter” at college alumni weekends paid in dividends. Eventually, she realized she had made enough money to buy a house, something she never thought she’d do when she was a librarian.
As she was rummaging through boxes on her new front lawn, she heard the phone ring. This caused her to stand at attention with her ears trying to lead her to where the sound was coming from. She snapped her fingers in triumph when she realized she had thrown the phone in the box with the yoga mat she never used.
“Hello?” she answered out of breath, after finding the phone wedged between the rolled-up mat.
“Vera, it’s Bruce Kitchen.” She always appreciated him announcing himself every time he called her, even though her cell phone displayed his name. She liked the quiet dignity of it.
“Yes, Bruce. What’s going on?”
“Have a new assignment for you. How do you feel about murder mystery parties?”
Vera actually hated them. She had been to a few with literary themes, and they always disappointed her. At a party involving “poets,” it had started out fun, but after too many drinks, people gave up on finding out who the “killer” was and focused on getting toasted instead. She spent the rest of that night trying not to get drunkenly groped by Edgar Allen Poe.
“This woman, Marta Petrou, is having one,” said Bruce. “But one of her friends canceled and she needs a body.”
“So she needs me to be dead?”
“No!” Bruce chuckled hysterically. “Heavens, no. She just needs someone to fill in as a guest since her friend cancelled.”
“She doesn’t have any other friends she can ask?” Not that Vera didn’t appreciate the money, but she found it peculiar that the woman needed to hire someone to replace a friend.
“None of her friends want to go.”
“Okay,” Vera sighed. “When is this shindig?”
“Tomorrow night. Oh, but there’s one catch with this one. She wants you to sign a confidentiality agreement saying you won’t ever reveal you were hired to be a ‘friend’ at this party.”
“She doesn’t want people to know she had to hire a friend. Frankly, I’ve been thinking about adding this into our offerings. It hasn’t been a problem, but it could be in the future.”
“I mean, sure. Yeah. I can sign it, I guess.”
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