“Dottie, I know you’re there. I can hear you doing crunches,” Dashiel sang into his sister’s answering machine. “Come on, sweetie, pick up.”
“I wasn’t doing crunches,” she snapped after grabbing the receiver. “I’m watching Jeopardy.”
“Somewhat. So, what’s up? How are you? Where are you?”
“In New York.”
“You’re back and you haven’t picked up your dog yet?” Dottie glanced across her living room to her brother’s Pomeranian as it licked itself on her sofa.
“I’ve only just arrived, sugar plum. Whooshed through Customs and into a taxi.”
“You’re on your way here?”
“Actually, I was hoping you’d meet me for dinner at Red Bamboo and bring Monsieur Guy with you.”
“Dinner? Now? Dash, it’s 10 o’clock.”
“They’re open ‘til midnight. Come on, sweetie, you know you love their Tonkatsu Chops. Besides, I have exciting news. So, quick like a bunny. Mwah!”
“Dash?” Dottie sighed and replaced the receiver. “Guy. Get in your case. Daddy’s home.”
At the sound of “Daddy”, the Pomeranian’s ears pricked up and he hopped down from the sofa and scampered into his case.
“Amazing.” She shook her head.
* * *
“Why do you have to pick restaurants so far downtown?” Dottie asked and hefted the Kate Spade carry case onto her brother’s lap. She sat opposite him and sipped from a full glass of water.
“Salut, mon amour, mon petite prince,” Dash cooed as he unlatched the case and exchanged kisses with Monsieur Guy.
“Thanks for waiting to order,” Dottie said sarcastically and removed a bit of lightly breaded gluten pork chop from her brother’s plate. “That’s delicious. Did you order for me?”
“Hel-lo, Dorothy,” Dash chastised.
“Oh, stop it. You ignored me and blathered on and on to that stupid dog.”
Dash gasped dramatically.
“Sorry. Guy is not a stu–“
“It’s pronounced Ghee,” Dash corrected.
“Yes, in France. We’re not in France, Dash, calm down.” She stole another nibble from his plate. “And, ‘Thank you for taking such wonderful care of my precious prince while I was away.’”
“Well, that goes without saying.”
Dash sighed. “Thank you, Dottie. You know I appreciate it. Where is that lovely waitron? She’s got the most adorable tattoos.” He looked around and beamed when they made eye contact.
“I’ll have what he’s having. Thanks,” Dottie addressed her and began to relax her shoulders.
“Honey, you are so stressed,” Dash said and resumed his meal.
“Yeah, I know. Work’s been relentlessly insane and getting a cab here was no picnic.”
Dash put down his chopsticks and sighed. He reached across the table and took her hand. “Dottie, you need to get away and de-stress.”
“So, tell me your exciting news. You look wonderful, by the way. I don’t know what you had done this time but you look great.”
“I do, don’t I?” Dash gave her both profiles. “And did you notice that I wasn’t so shallow and gauche as to comment on your slippers?”
Dottie sighed. “Dash, these are Kitson ballet flats.”
“See? I’m so over brand names and labels.”
“Why is there a third place setting?” Dottie pointed, having just noticed it.
Dash grinned. “OK, this is fabulous. You’re not going to believe it. I’m going to introduce you to someone. He’s brilliant. He’s my new partner, actually.”
Dottie’s eyebrows rose.
“Business partner, Dottie, business. He’s fabulous. You’ll love him.”
“Really? Why will I love him? And what new business venture are you into now?”
“I wish you wouldn’t say it like that. You make it sound as if I’ve got no business acumen at all.”
“One word – Glutter.”
Dash pursed his lips and narrowed his eyes at his sister. “That was a long, long time ago, Dottie. Had there not been a shipping embargo, and the product arrived on time, Glutter would have been a huge seller.”
“Dash, I sincerely doubt the time will ever come when Goths and Grunge want to wear glitter. I realize your intention was to brighten them up, but Glutter was found to contain lead, remember?”
Dash made erasing gestures with his hands. “Back to the topic at hand. My exciting news…where is he? He went to make a phone call ten minutes ago.”
“You didn’t give him any money, did you?” Dottie’s face registered horror and she peered out the window to the darkened sidewalk.
“No, I did not. And I’m not asking you for any money, either,” he said triumphantly. “Though if you want in on the action, I may be persuaded to make you a silent partner. Emphasis on silent.”
“Where to begin? Where to begin?” he said giddily. “OK, first off, you agree I look wonderful.”
“I didn’t have a bit of work done.”
“Well, not the sort of work you’re thinking.”
“Is it some sort of lotion/potion? ‘Cause I’m in.”
Dash laughed. “You’re so cute, Dottie.” He sipped his green tea and sighed contentedly. “Well,” he began when he felt he had his sister’s rapt attention. “While on the plane to Singapore for my tummy tuck which, ta da,” he stood and unbuttoned his white linen jacket, exposing a trim abdomen, “I did not have.” He grinned when Dottie’s jaw dropped in awe. He sat and resumed the slow sipping of his green tea, basking in her reaction. “That’s right, sweetie. I was truly headed for Sansabelt territory if you recall. No surgery. No hideous girdle either.” He stood again and lifted his shirt to reveal his unadorned bare skin.
A sometime amateur sleuth, Billie offers to help the cops solve a local murder. One mention of her psychic visions and they scurry, but when a body from a cold case appears in her backyard, they’re all ears. During this turmoil, Billie realizes her accountant, Emmett Gilmour, is sweet on her. She’d like to let him know the feeling’s mutual but doesn’t remember how; it’s been decades since she dated.
“You’re killing me here,” Dottie squealed, eager for information.
“Naturally I got to talking to my seatmate and told him about my tummy tuck plans in Singapore and he told me about the marvels of yoga and meditation.” Dash chuckled. “He says, ‘meditation, not medication.”
“And?” she coaxed.
“Well, you saw my flat tummy. And my face. I’m gorgeous.”
“So, what is this guy, some sort of swami/guru type person? Did he cover you in seaweed and Saran-wrap and give you herbal enemas?”
“Dottie, please! I’m eating.”
“Well? He’s not one of those guys who pretend to stick his fingers through your chest and painlessly remove tumors with fake blood?”
Dash closed his eyes and turned his face away. “I’ll wait until you’re finished.”
“Oh, go on.”
“I can’t blame you for being close-minded. You weren’t there.”
“True. So tell me, O Wise One.”
“Mockery does not become you, Dottie.”
“I’m not mocking you, Dash, it’s just that you’re driving me crazy. Come on, tell me your exciting news and how you look so gorgeous.”
Dash beamed at the compliment. He held up the butter knife and gazed at his narrow reflection. “I still can’t get over it. So, drum roll, please. We’re opening a Zen-like spa in Montana – Om On The Range. Isn’t that just darling? Don’t you love it?”
“Dash, while I have to admit you look fabulous…”
Dash raised an eyebrow at her and sipped his green tea. “It’s in Big Sky country, as Ollie calls it. Isn’t that precious? But not in the twee sense. Darling and butch at the same time. Somewhere near one of those national parks with natural springs and snow-capped mountains and some purple magic majesty or something. He’s got a ranch there with a couple of barns, split-rail fences, and horses. Oh, my God, it sounds divine. If you like that sort of thing. There will be renovations, of course. We’ve agreed to keep the exterior all rugged and rustic and the interior will be top-of-the-line, state-of-the-art fabulous. At first we’ll only be open for major holidays and the brochures will say, Om For the Holidays. That was my idea. Don’t you adore it? And Om Is Where the Heart Is will be our big Valentine’s Weekend special for couples of whatever gender combination. And as the business grows, we’ll be able to accommodate our guests on a more permanent basis.”
Dottie sat back and stared at her brother, unaware of the meal placed before her.
“Thanks, sweetie,” Dash acknowledged the waitron and smiled benignly at his sister. “It’s brilliant, isn’t it?”
“Dash, I have to admit,” Dottie found her voice. “It sounds interesting. Tell me more. Who’s coming up with the financing? What about staffing it? Who’s going to check credentials?”
Dash waved a dismissive hand. “Ollie’s handling all that.”
“Ollie? Your swami/guru?”
“He’s a genius.”
“And you’re somehow business partners yet you haven’t given him any money?”
“You know if you keep doing that skeptical squint you’re going to develop a deep crevice between your eyes that I’m not quite certain even Ollie will be able to vanquish.”
“Vanquish? I’ll take that to mean you have given him money.”
Dash cleared his throat. “The money I was going to spend on the tummy tuck, I invested in the business. I didn’t give it to Ollie.”
“So, Ollie’s shown you photographs of the ranch?” Dottie asked gently.
Dash pet Monsieur Guy and gazed at the night-blackened window. “He’s got everything under control. Permits and certificates of occupancy, licenses…he knows all that stuff.” His voice carried a hint of doubt.
Dot reached across the table and gave Dash’s hand a squeeze. “Sweetie, I think it’s a brilliant idea.”
Dash turned and smiled. “You do?”
She nodded. “And you look fabulous. I’d love to be partners with you on this. But I can’t promise how silent I’ll be.”
Dash blinked back a tear and checked his watch. “He should’ve been back by now. You haven’t even noticed that I’m not smoking.”
“Oh, my God, Dash, that’s great.”
He nodded. “Ollie hypnotized me and I haven’t had a cigarette or a drop of alcohol in three weeks. He’s amazing.” He drummed his fingers on the table and glanced at the door. “Maybe he can hypnotize you to stop that annoying habit of yours.”
“What annoying habit?” Dottie asked.
“Oh, don’t look so crushed. I’m sure we’ll be able to zero in on at least one.” He patted her hand and turned his face to the window, holding Monsieur Guy up to shield his face from his sister.
“OK.” Dottie nodded encouragingly.
“Oh, dammit, Dot, do you think he scammed me?” He strained his eyes to search the darkened sidewalk. “I’m such a pushover for a pretty face.”
Dottie patted his hand. “Well, sweetie, even if that’s the case, look at what he’s done for you.”
Dash buried his face in Monsieur Guy’s fur. “Daddy’s a fool,” he mumbled and sighed.
“Hi, you must be Dottie. I’m Ollie,” the tall, ruggedly handsome man extended his hand.
Dottie turned and took his hand. “Hi.”
“You’re back!” Dash cried.
“Of course, I’m back,” Ollie said and sat beside him. “This guy, huh?” he said to Dottie. “I was on the phone with my father out in Montana. He’s all enthused about our idea.” He grinned. “Doesn’t he look fabulous?” He cocked his head toward Dash.
[box type=”bio”] Born and raised in the Bronx, MARY VETTEL has spent the last 15 years residing in Southampton, NY, where she’s written six of her nine novels, two of her illustrated children’s books, and The Chronicles of Dot & Dash. She also adapted her novella, Greetings From Hell! (based on her three years living in Central Florida) to a stage play which was produced by The Naked Stage of Guild Hall, East Hampton, NY. Her novel, DEATH AT THE DRIVE-IN, is available on Amazon. You can also view some of her work at www.MaryVettel.com