“Can I help you?”
The sun had long since set, but the air was still thick with Southern Louisimana humidity. I decided to lounge for longer than normal on the beach as my house still didn’t have air conditioning. As I stretched out on my colored stripes, I felt eyes staring at me. I flipped over on my side to be faced with a young man with scraggly hair and sea green eyes walked over in the sand and stood above my beach towel.
“You’re that Colt woman, aren’t you?” he sneered.
“Excuse me? Do I know you?” I balanced on my elbow as I replied.
“Yeah Shark Racket… I’m Bill’s nephew… and Julienne’s cousin, Shakira Knack is my girl… and you’re… what… the trash that’s banging my uncle, aren’t you?”
I blinked rapidly. So the news about Julienne’s and my confrontation has stretched around town by now. Figures! I was in politics. I could do damage control.
“Shark Racket… Bill’s talked about you at work,” I said, trying to think through what my next words would be. “He says you’re a gifted soccer player.”
“Fútbol,” he corrected me, flipping hair strands out of his eyes. “Only in the Nation do we call it soccer. Shakira is from Mexsimco and we’re going to make it big someday and get out of this stinking town, but you are ruining that for me.”
“How am I ruining anything?” I asked.
“You can drop the whole innocent act. Everyone knows about you and your train wreck encounter with Julienne and now she’s told Shakira she’s not allowed to date me,” Shark grunted. “She won’t call me back and it’s all your fault.”
“Shakira Knack, you say?” I said, thinking fast. “Does she live with Julienne?”
“No, with her aunt and uncle, the Knacks seniors and why do you care?” Shark shrugged.
I smiled. I had met with Nick Knack two weeks ago as he came to ask the state for money for a new trauma ward at Twinbrook Foundation Hospital. I had met Pattina just the other day who wanted town approval for an expansion on her home. The land sitting next to their lot was empty but currently owned by State Assemblyman Dorthemeir, my boss. I also overheard Dorthemeir’s wife say he was a huge soccer fan and wanted to invite Mia Simm to the opening ceremonies of the new Bachelor Stadium. I could fix this easily with a few little favors.
“I have a solution to your problems,” I said. “I can help you get back together with Shakira.”
“Yeah, well I don’t want your help. I just want you to crawl back in your can, trash!” Shark retorted, spitting on me.
“Hmm,” I turned my face away, trying to appear unfazed. “I thought you’d like the opportunity to smooth things over with Shakira.”
“I can do that on my own,” Shark said, stomping his foot for effect as he walked off across the beach.
I sighed. I didn’t really care about the “little fish,” but I would still go through with all the favors. If word really had spread all over Twinbrook, I needed to do what I could to keep my job. I would not be run out of town by gossip and speculation. Scandal always followed politicians around, so a little disgrace might actually help my career. At the very least, people would now notice me.
I stood up, deciding it was time to head home. I’d shoot an email to my friend, Mia Simm’s agent, and request a visit to the opening ceremonies. As I tucked my rolled towel under my arm, someone tugged on the other end and tossed it out across the beach.
“Hey!” I shouted. “What gives?”
An older woman shook her mid-length grey waves back and forth as she stood fuming in front of me. She was much too over-dressed for the beach – her sleeveless dress brushing the ground, her heels sinking into the sand, and her fancy red gloves waving in my face.
“You! You’re the trash my son is sleeping with?” the woman shrieked.
Shark reappeared at her side and I put two-and-two together. This was Marigold Racket, Shark’s grandmother, Bill’s mother, and wife of one of the biggest crimelords on the Southeastern shore. I should’ve been more worried. Perhaps she’d have me chopped in half in my sleep… or worse… kidnapped and sold to Florsimidian pimps. Suddenly, I found myself wishing I hadn’t blabbed to Julienne, but the perfect little trust fund baby irritated me to no end. Bill may have wanted her money, but he sure wasn’t happy with her in other departments as he had confessed to me during pillow talk on more than one occasion.
“Yeah, this is the trash,” Shark sneered, eyeing me up and down.
I wished I hadn’t worn my bikini to the River Junction tonight.
“You must be Mrs. Racket,” I tried to polite approach. “I am Rachel Colt of the Colt Manufacturing family. Your son, Bill, and he was kind enough to get me a job with the state Assemblyman Earl Dorthemeir.”
“Colt Manufacturing?” she narrowed her eyes and then widened them. “As in weapons manufacturing?”
“Yes,” I replied.
Marigold didn’t need to know that I wasn’t blood related to the owners, or that the Colt family manufactured printers and copy machines instead of firearms.
“Grandma, she’s sleeping with Bill. She’s trying to ruin the family and ruin my life,” Shark interjected with a whine.
“Shut up, Sharkie,” Marigold growled. “You don’t know anything.”
Shark dropped his head and balled his fists, but he didn’t say anything more.
“Call me Marigold, Rachel, is it?” his grandmother offered. “So my husband is in the arms business himself. Us Rackets have contracts with multiple companies up and down the Gulf Coast. We’d welcome connections to the Colts.”
“Oh,” I replied, wondering how many favors I would need to call in to get in touch with the Colt Manufacturing Company owners, who wouldn’t be happy about being connected to a crime family. “Yes, I’m sure I could talk to my family members and arrange something say in a few weeks? There are quite a few weddings…” I coughed. “And funerals… coming up for us… the Colts… our family. However, for a family like the Rackets, I’m sure we could come to some kind of arrangement.”
“Hell, I like you already!” Marigold exclaimed. “Better than that suck-up Julienne…” she sneered. “The woman’s got her claws into Bill so tight the poor guy hasn’t had a chance to breathe, but I bet you’re changing things for him,” she gave me a friendly nudge. “Breathe of fresh air, hmm? You’re welcome at the mansion anytime.”
“But Grandma…” Shark protested.
“Shut up, Sharkie boy,” Marigold slid her arm around my neck. “This woman here is going to be good for the family business. Who cares about your whiny twit of a girlfriend?”
Shark covered his face and raced down the beach.
“You must come over for tea,” Marigold insisted.
“Oh I don’t know,” I twisted my toe in the sand.
“Nonsense! Come on over for tea… although we don’t drink tea. We drink whiskey in teacups… my mother’s fine china… hell, she’d roll over in her grave if she was alive, but we really have no other use for them. You like whiskey?”
“Ssuuuree…” I said, dragging out my letters.
Marigold certainly was interesting.
“Come on over for whiskey and I’ll get my mayor daughter-in-law to bake a batch of Southern biscuits for hospitality’s sake,” Marigold invited. “I’ll see you tomorrow, dear… and oh!” she waved as she walked away. “…Bill’s gonna like you in that little number you got on.”
I feigned a smile as I inwardly cringed, unsure of how I felt with my lover’s mother complimenting my swimwear or inviting me to “whiskey and biscuits.”
It’s just business. Politics requires me to keep up with the local families and gain some recognition. If I could be connected to the Racket family, who I’m sure has most politicians in their pocket, maybe I’d move up in this world. I’m going to move on up in this world one way or another and the Rackets just might be my ticket. But who am I kidding? The Rackets? It was one thing to sleep with Bill. It was another thing to be making nice with his family. My plans could seriously backfire.
How the hell did I do this to myself? I sighed.
I would need a miracle to keep up with all the lies.
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