This is a fictional short story with just a few readers in mind. Anyone who knows about Dani’s book blog will be aware of the interaction in the comments there, and how the names of some characters in modern novels never fail to make me crack up laughing.
I promised a story based around some of those, and here it is.
For everyone else, it is probably best to skip this, and read something else instead.
Dalton Kipper was something of a caricature, even he would admit that. A private eye of the old school, the sort that once only appeared in black and white films, and generally got the girl. But Dalton was long past getting any girls. His paunch connected to the steering wheel, and years of bad food and heavy drinking had made it hard for him to walk more than a few steps. It was hot in the car, but he didn’t want to run the engine to use the air-conditioning, and attract any unwanted attention. So he lit another cigarette, and tolerated the sweat pouring down his face from his round and very bald head.
The linen suit was crumpled from the hours sat in the car, and looked more like an old dish-rag than the once smart outfit it had been. Dalton raised the new camera, peering into the telephoto lens. He had the back windows of the big house in range, so would easily get the shots he required.
Dani had made her own dress. It had taken some time, but if she said so herself, she looked like a princess, with the perfect make-up, and hair just so. She didn’t go out so much these days, especially in the heat of a South Carolina summer, but this big social occasion was just too good to miss. Some English aristocrat had rented the old De Vere plantation for the summer, and had announced a big party, an old-fashioned good old Southern Ball. The Eighth Baron of Wickshire was known to be a real ladies’ man, and was reputed to be very rich, as well as handsome. Dani had been invited by her old flame, Blythe Sol, her big girl-crush from High School, who she hadn’t seen in years. Two young women arriving as a couple was sure to cause a stir, and Dani was excited by that prospect. The creaky air-conditioner in her bedroom was just about keeping the room cool, and she decided to wait in there until the cab arrived, still fanning herself with grandma’s old ivory fan, to stop her make-up running.
Lola Dodge was the epitome of a southern belle. Part of the landed gentry of the area, she could trace her family back to old Septimus Dodge, the famous Confederate general, and before that too. When her parents had died in a mysterious boating accident near Myrtle Beach, young Lola became a rich heiress, and the toast of Charleston society too. The word was that Baron Wickshire had set his cap on her, and organised the party just to get to know her. But Dani knew Lola’s secret, her passionate relationship with former jail-bird and all round bad boy, Dax Janner. Dax was a bad as he was handsome, and didn’t care who knew. Some said he was a drug dealer, others marked him down as an armed robber, but all the women who had ever met him had found themselves falling for his ice-blue eyes, and square jaw. Nobody really had any idea what he actually did. His reputation had followed him from his days in juvenile prison, mainly for fighting and busting up bars.
Kipper mopped his face with a soiled handkerchief, and took a big swallow from his hip-flask. Cheap bourbon was the best, as far he was concerned. No need to pay for famous names. Old Dalton knew a lot more than those saps arriving in their limousines for the party. This limey Baron was nothing of the kind. He was a grifter, a shill, a con-man of the highest order. His real name was Bastian Urso, and he hailed from some place in Europe with a name that Dalton couldn’t even pronounce. He was wanted all over, but managed to elude police forces everywhere he went. He was that good, at least he thought so.
But he had upset one man too many, and there was now a contract out on him from some Russian guy. Dalton had heard the word, and decided to do some digging. If he got a photo of the so-called Baron, he would get a great payday from the Russian, once he gave them the address of the old De Vere plantation house where they could find him.
But Dalton didn’t know everything. Dax had also heard about the reward on Urso, and had his own suspicions about the phony Baron. If he could get the guy alone, he would make the call, and get the payoff. He knew he could get into the party easy enough, as Lola was besotted with him, and wouldn’t dream of asking anyone else to be her plus one. She had even bought Dax a smart new tuxedo, and got her driver to collect him in the limousine. All he had to do was wait for the right moment, and the Russians would send some guys to do the deed, and pay him the cash. Besides, if this foreigner thought he could pull the wool over Lola’s eyes, he was very wrong indeed. She was no easy mark, just ask her parents.
The cabbie tooted his horn outside Dani’s house. She grabbed her evening bag, and scampered down the porch steps, eager to get out of the heat, and into the air-conditioned taxi. Once inside, she snuggled up to Blythe on the back seat. They held hands like the old days, and giggled together. All those years apart just melted away, and it was just like High School again. Dani could hardly contain herself.
It was going to be an interesting night…