Vegas or Bust: An Aggie Underhill Mystery, p.1
Vegas or Bust
An Aggie Underhill Mystery
Michelle Ann Hollstein
Edited by Laura Martinez
Ms. Aggie Underhill Mysteries (In Order)
Something’s Fishy in Palm Springs
Maid in Heaven
A Hardboiled Murder
One Hell of a Cruise
A Prickly Situation
Vegas or Bust
The Niberia Chronicles (In Order)
Ashes to Diamonds
Written under the name Michelle Matkins
A Lost Souls Novels (In Order)
Vegas or Bust, An Aggie Underhill Mystery
Copyright (c) 2012 by Michelle Ann Hollstein
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
CAST OF CHARACTERS
Aggie Underhill - An independently wealthy widow in her fifties. She’s originally from England and recently moved to Palm Springs, California to be near her daughter Sarah, son-in-law Everette, and grandson Shawn. She has the uncanny ability to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and gets herself involved in all sorts of trouble. Her passion is buying oversized purses, which she calls pocketbooks. She owns one in every style and color and design imaginable.
Betty Wilcox - Aggie’s best friend for over twenty years. Betty moved with Aggie to Palm Springs and lives in the condo next door in a luxurious country club on a golf course.
Roger Dunlap - A well known interior decorator/designer in the Palm Springs area and tends to be a bit on the flamboyant side. He’s Betty’s long lost cousin and only living relative. Through Betty, he and Aggie have become close friends.
Sarah Underhill-Ferguson - Aggie’s daughter. She is the proud wife of a United States Marine. The military recently transferred them from Twentynine Palms, CA to Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, CA. Sarah is very practical to the point of being a stick in the mud. She doesn’t understand why her mother is always the one to trip over a dead body. She feels that it’s just not normal and is always coming to her mother’s aide.
Everette Ferguson - Sarah’s husband and Aggie’s son-in-law. He’s a United States Marine and the son of Aggie’s archrival, Anita Ferguson, a.k.a. The-other-Grandmother.
Anita Ferguson - Everette’s mother and Aggie’s arch-nemesis. Anita is very busy in social circles, not only in her own community, but online also. She recently became a member of an online social site called My Corner which helps her to keep tabs on everyone’s life. She fears there’s not enough of her to go around. She’s very busy helping desperate souls in need.
Officer Tom Wood - A handsome police officer that is a friend of Aggie’s. He and Aggie are not clear on the conditions of their friendship.
Jack Osgood - Jack is engaged to marry Miriam Smith. He and Miriam are planning to have their dream wedding in Las Vegas. They met on a Mexican Riviera Cruise six months prior.
Sylvie Osgood - Jack’s overbearing and insensitive mother.
Miriam Smith - Jack Osgood’s fiancé and the love of his life.
Harold Smith - Miriam’s cheating ex-husband who will do anything to win back her affection.
Linda Price - A long lost friend of Aggie’s. Aggie recently reunited with Linda through the online site, My Corner. Aggie graciously invited Linda and her daughter, Jill, to feel free to visit her in the states. She didn’t actually expect them to take her up on the offer.
Jill Price - Linda’s gothic daughter who went to grammar school with Sarah. Jill does anything and everything to irk her insufferable mother.
Thursday, November 17th
Sitting at Betty’s kitchen table, Aggie buried her face in her hands. She couldn’t deal with them anymore. She was afraid that if she had to entertain her guests for much longer, she’d yank all of her hair out. And no one wants to see a bald woman in her fifties running down the street screaming at the top of her lungs because her dreadful houseguests have caused her to lose her mind. Well, some people might want to see it, but in her opinion those people deserved to be shot.
Aggie groaned. She really wished she hadn’t given an open ended invitation to an old girlfriend she’d found online through the social website My Corner. She’d been so excited about reconnecting with Linda that she’d stupidly made the mistake of inviting her to come out and visit anytime she’d like. Then in a moment of true insanity, she idiotically opened her mouth and told her that she and her daughter could stay for as long as they’d like.
Ugh! She wondered why in the world she’d do something so stupid. Never in a million years had she thought that Linda and her daughter, Jill, would accept her invitation. And if they did, she never thought they’d stay for so long, especially in her one bedroom condo. The least they could’ve done was take up on her offer to stay in a nearby hotel. She’d even offered to pay for it. But no, they said that they didn’t want to put her out by taking her money. They said they’d make do with sleeping on her couch and recliner in the living room. Now it’d been just over a week and last night Linda mentioned they were thinking of staying for possibly a month or two.
“It can’t be that bad,” Betty said, stopping by the table to try and console Aggie by gently patting her back.
Aggie groaned again.
“The hell it can’t!” Roger grumped. He was sitting across from Aggie, smoothing his thick reddish brown mustache with his forefinger. “You know what I’d do? I’d tell them they’ve got to go.”
Aggie lifted her weary head. “It’s not that easy,” she said. “I wish it was.”
“It is that easy,” he insisted. “Just look them in the eye and tell them to leave. Or better yet, just book them a hotel room and have a cab come pick them up. Don’t take no for an answer. You can already have their luggage packed and on your doorstep ready to go.”
Betty poured more coffee into each of their mugs and then returned the coffeepot to the counter. She took her seat at the small table between Roger and Aggie.
“I can’t do that,” Aggie said. “We’re old friends.”
“I agree with Aggie,” Betty said to Roger. “It’s unfortunate, but you can’t just turn houseguests away, especially old friends. It’s rude.”
“What? Rude my a…!”
“Knock, knock!” A high-pitched voice rang out when the front door swung open, cutting off Roger’s emotional outburst. “I thought you’d be here! When I didn’t see you puttering around your own kitchen, I knew you’d be visiting Betty.” A sandy blonde head peaked around the corner into the kitchen.
“Good morning, Linda,” Betty said.
“Good morning, Betty,” Linda sang as she waltzed into the kitchen with her daughter, Jill, in tow. “I’m so happy to be here!”
Aggie threw Roger a look and Betty shook her head to warn Roger to keep his thoughts to himself. Betty didn’t want him to cause a scene. But of course, she knew her cousin and knew he’d say something regardless. She just hoped he’d tone it down a bit.
Betty got up from the table. “Here, sit down, dear. Have my seat.”
“I prefer to stand,” Jill said, brooding.
Or hang upside down from the rafters, Aggie thought. She was surprised to see her up during daylight hours. Linda kept saying the reason Jill slept all day and only went out at night was due to jetlag and the time change. But after a week, Aggie was beginning to have her doubts.
“Oh, um, okay.” Betty frowned. “Would either of you like some coffee?”
“Yes,” Linda chimed. “I could do with a cuppa. There’s nothing like a little caffeine buzz early in the morning!”
“No. None for me,” Jill said, leaning against the kitchen counter. “Do you have any tomato juice?”
Aggie raised an eyebrow. Tomato juice looked an awful lot like blood.
“Um, no,” Betty said. “I have orange juice if you’d like some.”
“Uh, okay.” Betty wandered over to the cabinet to get a mug for Linda.
“So,” Roger said, reaching for a biscuit from the tin at the center of the table. “How long are you thinking of staying for?”
Betty spun around and shot daggers at Roger with her eyes. “Roger!”
“What?” he said defensively. “Someone had to ask.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Linda said, oblivious to Betty and Aggie’s reaction. “Since I’m going through another divorce, I don’t really need to go home.”
“You can’t stay with Aggie forever,” Roger chuckled, shaking his head. “You must have some sort of plan in mind.”
Betty rushed to the table and set a mug in front of Linda. She threw Roger another look, which he ignored.
“Oh,” Linda said, smiling. “I don’t plan on staying with Aggie forever, silly. Besides, I’m not very fond of the desert. It’s a bit too dry for my taste. Not at all good for my skin.” Linda lifted an arm to admire her skin. She ran a finger over the top of her hand. “As you can see, it’s aging a little already.”
“Really,” Roger huffed. “Then how long do you think you can handle the desert before you shrivel up and die?”
“Roger!” Betty hollered, mortified that he’d say something like that.
“What?” he questioned, throwing his arms in the air. “It’s a reasonable question.”
“Roger,” Aggie said, trying to keep everyone at the table happy. She really wasn’t in the mood for a confrontation. She was much too tired and she had a headache. “It’s really no problem.”
“It is a problem,” Roger said, and then glared at both Aggie and Betty. He was determined to speak his mind and he wasn’t about to let either one of them stop him. “We wouldn’t want Linda to shrivel up like an old prune now, would we?”
Linda, oblivious to the insinuation took a sip of her coffee and then explained her recent state of plans. “I’m hoping to find a wealthy man to latch onto before my skin ages. Just look at my hands. Soon they’ll look as leathery as everyone else’s in the desert.”
Both Betty and Roger looked at their hands and frowned.
“In fact,” Linda continued, “my poor little girl is getting way too much sun already. Isn’t that right, Jill? And it’s only November. It’s apparent that we must leave sometime before summer hits. I can only imagine what the sun is like then.”
Aggie, who was taking a sip of her coffee, swallowed the wrong way when this alarming information was revealed and began to cough and sputter. Summer wasn’t for several months. They couldn’t possibly be planning on sleeping in her living room for that long.
Betty jumped up from her seat and began to vigorously pat Aggie’s back. “Are you all right, Agsie dear? Are you choking? Roger!” she shrieked. “Hurry! Get up and do the Heimlich!”
Aggie shook her head and pushed a hand to her chest. She held her other one out to stop Roger from jumping up. She sputtered a bit as she tried to bring air into her lungs. “Just swallowed the wrong way,” she managed to croak. “I’m all right.”
“Are you sure?” Betty asked.
Aggie’s eyes watered. She nodded and coughed some more. To show she was all right she tried to take another sip of coffee. “I’m fine, dear,” she sputtered and then cleared her throat.
For a moment, Linda stared wide-eyed at Aggie. “Well,” she said, when Aggie’s coughing subsided. “What are the plans for this weekend? Are you still going to take us to the coast? My heart is still set on seeing the ocean and Sarah. You said she lives a few miles from the beach, right?”
“Yes,” Aggie said and cleared her throat again. “That’s right.” Sarah had recently moved to Oceanside. Her husband, Everette, a United States Marine, had gotten orders to Camp Pendleton which was in San Diego County. It was about a two hour drive from Palm Springs to Oceanside. Aggie was dreading the thought of being in a car for that long with Linda. Oh no, she thought, we’ll have to drive back together, too. It wasn’t a very pleasant thought.
“I can’t wait!” Linda sang. She tilted her head to look at Jill who was now sitting on top of the kitchen counter. “Aren’t you excited, sweetie? You’ve always wanted to see the California beaches! Maybe we’ll get lucky and see some movie stars.”
The chances of seeing any movie stars in Oceanside were pretty slim. They had a better chance of spotting famous people in Palm Springs, considering many Hollywood stars kept second homes in the desert. But Aggie didn’t feel like wasting her breath trying to explain it. Plus, she didn’t want to give Linda a reason to want to prolong her stay. She looked over at Jill and noticed that the corners of her lips twitched a bit. Aggie guessed that was a sign of a smile trying to form.
“Awww,” Linda crooned. She turned all the way around in her chair to get a better look at her daughter. “Look at that smile. My baby is simply beaming! She can’t wait to be reunited with Sarah. Isn’t that right, baby girl?”
“Yeah,” Jill said, the lip twitching was now gone. “Sure.”
Linda spun back around to face Aggie. “This is so exciting!”
“You were going to see Sarah this weekend?” Roger asked.
“Yes,” Aggie said, solemnly. “That’s right. We’re going to head out tomorrow morning.”
“But you can’t. What about the wedding?”
“The Vegas wedding,” Roger reminded. “Jack Osgood and Miriam Smith are getting married. Don’t tell me you forgot? I had to RSVP for all of us. They’re holding rooms and everything.”
“Oh!” Aggie had forgotten all about the wedding because she’d had no intentions of going. It was a last minute invitation for people she’d met on a Mexican Riviera cruise about seven months ago. Betty had had a crush on Jack Osgood’s brother, Brice, who ended up being a not so nice man. And Miriam Smith left her cheating husband, Harold, for Jack. Aggie really didn’t care too much about seeing these people ever again. The only reason why they had her contact information to begin with was because of Anita Ferguson, a.k.a. the other grandmother. Anita was Sarah’s motherin-law and gone on the cruise with Aggie. She had a habit of staying in contact with everyone she’d ever met and decided to take it upon herself to share Aggie’s information as well. In fact, Aggie was quite shocked that Roger made reservations without first getting her cons
“Remember, Agsie, dear?” Betty asked, jumping into the conversation. “We discussed it right before Linda and Jill came out to visit.”
Aggie thought back a week. She knew it had only been a short time since her houseguests had arrived and only just over a week since she received the wedding invitation, but it felt like centuries ago. “I vaguely remember, dear.”
“You nodded when I asked you about it,” Betty prodded. “I told you that I was thinking of wearing my lavender two piece with the long beaded skirt. And I told you that I thought you should wear something pink. And then I asked you if you thought Brice would be at his brother’s wedding and you said that he was more than likely still in jail.”
Aggie vaguely remembered. She hadn’t meant to accept the wedding invitation. She’d had a lot on her mind at the time and hadn’t really been listening to Betty blabber on about Las Vegas and what she wanted to wear to the wedding. She’d been too busy getting the house prepared for her guests. She remembered just nodding a lot and saying uh, huh, uh, huh, and not really paying attention to what Betty was going on and on about.
A thought suddenly occurred to Aggie. If Anita was the one who had given out her information to Jack Osgood and Miriam Smith, then Anita was probably on their guest list as well. “Anita isn’t going to be there, is she?”
Betty shook her head. “Anita sent out an email on My Corner apologizing to everyone who’d be missing her at the wedding. I guess her husband doesn’t want her gallivanting around in Las Vegas without him.”
Aggie remembered receiving an email on her My Corner account from Anita and had deleted it without reading it. “Surely, her husband was invited to go with her.”
Betty shrugged. “He probably just doesn’t want to go.”
“Las Vegas?” Linda asked, pushing her way into the conversation while reaching across the table for the tin of biscuits. “We’ve never been to Las Vegas. That sounds wonderful! We love weddings! Right, sweetie pie?”