Happy New Year Dana Burke
Love, the Dragons
Dana sat quietly in her office. It was the week between Christmas and New Years and her phone wasn’t ringing at all. That was why she was so reluctant to go home. It was so quiet here, and her chair was sooo comfy. As Dana’s eyes began to close, she slid further down into the plush upholstery in the teddy bear brown reclining lounger she had bought against all of her stylish business partner’s protests last winter. When things got too crazy at home, she needed something to curl up and sleep in at the office. Like now.
Just as she slid into a sensuous dream, and into the arms of her dream date Martin Bowers, chief of detectives, her cell phone buzzed insistently from her jacket pocket. Dana pressed her eyes tightly closed and pulled her hand-knitted cashmere afghan over her shoulder with one hand. The phone buzzed for a minute and stopped. Only to be followed by the loud ringing of her desk phone. Dana reached across the space between her chair and desk, not a lot of space in her little office, and lifted the receiver. She cleared her throat discreetly and answered, “Burke and Williams, this is Dana.”
“Dana, it’s Mom. Are you coming home soon?”
“Oh, it’s really awfully busy here, Mom.” Dana darted her eyes guiltily around the office. “A total zoo!”
“It’s just that I need a few things from the store, if you don’t mind. We’ve decided to have a New Year’s Eve party here tonight, and, well, you don’t seem to have any food here to speak of. Or scotch.”
“A party?” Dana stifled a groan. “Isn’t it awfully last minute?”
“Well, dear, since we’re all here until the day after tomorrow, it seemed like the perfect time. And,” Dana’s mother sounded way too cheerful, “We invited some of your friends!”
Dana held the phone away from her ear and stared at it. “Mom, you don’t know any of my friends. How did you happen to ummm invite them?”
“Oh, I knew you’d be thrilled! I looked at your phone list, the one on your computer.”
“On my computer?”
“Yes, Dana, on your computer.” Her mother sounded a little impatient now, as though she thought Dana was being a trifle dense. “Now, dear, we don’t have much time, so take down what I need you to pick up.”
As Dana took down the list for her mother’s party, she fought not to panic. There were a couple of address lists on the computer. One was indeed her friends, and the other was, for lack of a better word, a hit list. Dana Burke, private eye, was also Dana Burke, Dragon Slayer. She struggled to write down the list of fancy cheeses and try to think of a way to find out which list her mother had used. With her entire family descended en masse, without any warning, Dana had a lot to worry about.
“Mom, do you remember any of the names of the friends you invited?” Dana tried to keep her voice even and not squeak, as she had a tendency to do in the most stressful of situations.
“Oh, no, dear. You know I don’t know anything about computers. Your sister found it and invited them.”
“Can I talk to Dierdre then?”
“She’s not here. One of your friends insisted upon picking her up right away and taking her shopping to find a dress for the party. You know Dierdre never travels with anything fancy, just jeans. That girl has no sense of style.”
“Right, Mom. Can you tell me one thing? Did you notice what car they took? I’m wondering who it was...after all, it might not be one of my more stylish friends and Dierdre might not get a nice dress for tonight.”
“It was some kind of black car, and I think it was your friend Stacey or Susie, something with an ess I think.”
Dana was even more at a loss than before. She didn’t have any friends by those names, and dragons rarely went by names like Stacey or Susie. “Mom, I’ll be right there, don’t go anywhere.” She flung the phone into the cradle and grabbed her purse and jacket, flying to her car. At least at home, she could try to figure out what was going on. As she slammed the Land Cruiser door shut, her cell buzzed.
“You won’t forget the cream cheese, will you Dana? I can’t make the pinwheel appetizers without them. And the little colored toothpicks. I don’t know if I mentioned them. Maybe I should go over the whole list again.”
“No time, Mom.” Dana knew she had to stop at the store, even if it could be that her house, her safe haven, was about to be descended on by murderous dragons. It wasn’t a situation she could explain to her family, who had no idea what she did as a side job. Braking with a squeal, she leaped out of the car and grabbed an empty shopping basket. She had to do this, but it would have to be fast. Unfortunately, most of the ingredients her mother wanted were not what Dana could find easily in her corner market, and it took nearly an hour. She was sweating under the jacket by the time she tossed the last bag in her trunk and started for home again.
Her mother came out to meet her at the curb, followed by the one person Dana wanted to see less than the aforementioned murderous dragons.
“Look who stopped by, dear. You remember Sammy. Mrs. Albertson’s nephew on her husband’s side? He called to wish you a happy new year and I told him to come right over. He’s been the biggest help!”
Sammy smiled gleamingly over her mother’s shoulder. It couldn’t have been Martin who just happened to call, oh, no. It had to be Sammy, who was not only one step short of a stalker where she was concerned, but also a dragon. He lived just a step on the right side of the law, so Dana couldn’t slay him, but it didn’t mean she didn’t dream of doing just that.
“Hi, Dana, I’ve been spending the day with your mom. Carol and I have been having a great time, sharing Dana stories, haven’t we, Mom?”
“Do not call my mother Mom, Sammy. And I’m sure you have somewhere else to be? Don’t let us stop you from going to all the parties I’m sure a wild bachelor like you has lined up for tonight?”
“Dana, don’t be rude! Sammy is coming to our party tonight. He’s been helping me get ready all afternoon.”
Dana muttered something about a restraining order under her breath and went around to open her trunk. When Sammy offered to help, she stalked into the house and left him to unload her mother’s party food. This day was going downhill fast. She walked into her office and looked to see if her computer was still booted up. Maybe she could find out which guest list to expect, friend or foe. No luck, though, Dierdre had shut it down after her interfering behavior. There was only one thing to do, arm herself to the teeth, and wait. She went upstairs to take a shower, put on a party dress, and stash all the weapons she could manage about her person.
The afternoon passed slowly while Dana waited to see if they would all be massacred. She tried to stay in her room, but her mother called her to help arrange the bar on a low table in the living room. One thing led to the next and the house looked gaily festive, unlike its usual dusty blandness.
Finally, it was dark and time for guests to arrive. Dana stationed herself at the front door to greet the guests, shoot the villains, whichever came first. Amazingly, the first guest was a former client, as was the second. There had been a third mailing list she hadn’t thought of, her business Christmas card list. They were all thrilled to be invited to her actual home and sat around sharing the details of their cases with one another, each trying to have been her biggest case ever. The evening was actually going great, even her cousins and sister were not completely embarrassing themselves and Dana for once.
Dana stood in a corner of the living room, watching everyone have a good time, eating, drinking and bragging. He mother was very proud, once she was convinced that Dana wasn’t angry about the list being business and not social. If only she knew what might have happened!
The high point of the evening occurred when Sammy followed Dana as she made her way out to the garage freezer for more ice. He made a pass and she got to jab him in a most uncomfortable area with her knee. And to top things off, Sammy’s bad behavior was noticed by Detective Bowers, who had also been on the business contact list, and who had stopped by to make a polite appearance. He grabbed Sammy by the collar and took him outside to discuss polite behavior around ladies.
Dana sighed as she watched Martin force-march Sammy behind the garage. She was a dragon-slayer, but just this once it was nice to be a lady in distress. And detective Martin Bowers might not be her boyfriend, he was, just for tonight, her knight in shining armor. Dana walked back into her very successful party, a little skip in her step. And just think....she could write off the whole thing as a business expense too!