Daisy Cates had absolutely no choice.
She had to leave Astro in the store, or she'd miss the meeting with Hannah and Toothless Louise. Five minutes after hanging up with Hannah, Kitty had called in a panic and asked her if she'd come into the store to clean up an enormous plumbing mess.
Kitty had assured Daisy it had nothing to do with shit, and Daisy agreed to help.
The PVC pipes had covered nearly every inch of the store when Daisy had arrived, but with a lot of work, and a little dancing, they'd gotten nearly half replaced by ten minutes before eleven o'clock.
Astro had been miraculously quiet, and Daisy could only imagine what the little bastard was cooking up. He was, without a doubt, the most ingenuous and deviant bird alive.
Five minutes later, Daisy faked a low blood sugar attack, which Stockwell totally bought, and she'd offered to do a food run. She texted Louise, asked for a dozen burgers and twice as many orders of fries, and told her she'd be at Bitsy's in a flash.
If everything went according to plan, she'd run to Bitsy's, get the skinny from Louise, grab a greasy sack of cholesterol, and head back. If everything went according to plan.
Which it never did.
Daisy let herself out through Receiving and walked through the dark to where she'd left her old truck. The truck turned over three times and sputtered to life.
She tore out of the parking lot like a bat out of hell and hit the road.
All went well for three minutes, then someone pulled out in front of her.
Daisy let out a string of profanities that would have paled a navy man.
"Watch out, Astro, you trucking stream of Schlitz," the bird screamed, and Daisy damn near ran the truck off the road.
"No way," she grumbled. The bird's enormous head filled the side mirror. The damn thing was in the bed of the truck, but at least he'd left the store.
"Astro, Astro, Astro!" the bird yelled, and Daisy rolled her eyes. She was an animal lover, a lover of all creatures, but she couldn't help but wish a piano would fall on that damn bird.
A few minutes later she arrived at Bitsy's. The parking lot was full, which she found odd. Didn't anybody work? Why was everybody in a bar at eleven o'clock at night? Didn't they have to get up early?
Daisy suddenly realized she didn't care. She had enough on her plate. She had a mystery to solve, and a bounty to collect. She had to get herself out of retail before it killed her.
She texted Hannah, and went around back as previously instructed, but not before suggesting to the bird he stay put.
Louise met her at the door. She was wearing a new set of ill-fitting dentures. She smiled like the Cheshire Cat.
"What the hell?" Daisy asked, recoiling.
"Won 'em in a hot game of hold 'em. I knew I had it when I got pocket aces," Louise said, as the teeth clacked wildly together.
"You look ridiculous," Hannah said, from behind them.
"They feel great!" Louise said with earnest, as the bottoms flew out of her mouth, hit the edge of the sink and fell to the floor.
"They don't fit," Daisy advised.
"I'll glue 'em," Louise said, shoving the bottoms back into her mouth without rinsing them, an act that made Daisy and Hannah shiver.
"How's that food coming? I have to get back before anyone suspects anything," Daisy said.
"You're gonna need to be back by midnight anyhow," Louise said, smiling the horrid grimace again.
"Says who?" Daisy asked.
"The putz with the designer jeans. He says everything is going down at midnight," Louise advised, as the top denture launched. "Shit, they really don't fit," she agreed, as she pulled the teeth from a pot of chili, and threw them in the sink.
Daisy made a mental note never to eat the chili at Bitsy's again.
"What did you hear?" Daisy asked, as she and Hannah sat on a couple of filthy stools.
"The putz called some guy, said 'Burger, if you hurt the girl I will kill you,'" Louise said. "Then he says he doesn't know anything about any guns or any money, but he thinks some cat lady is up to something strange, says something about her grandmother lurking around."
"That would be Kitty. She's a nut job but I don't suspect her of anything but loneliness and an obsession with shiny shit," Daisy explained. "I don't think she's in on this."
"He mentioned some Stockwell guy, in fact he called Burger "Stockwell," and then, "Miles," almost as if he was looking for a reaction," Louise went on.
Daisy was impressed and said so.
"I watch a lot of crime shows. When you look like I do, you don't go out much in the light," Toothless Louise said, and Hannah grimaced.
"You look fine," Hannah offered.
"You're a damn liar. I have no teeth, frizzy hair, no boobs, and a butt that looks like I sleep on a sheet of plywood. Don't lie. Society has no place for an old biker who never gave herself a thought, but if I can help you solve this, maybe my life will mean something," Louise offered with a sigh. "Here," Louise said, handing Daisy a small box.
"The rest of the bugs. I saved a fortune buying them in bulk. If nothing shakes out tonight, you can put them in the store. I'll monitor the whole thing. We'll solve this thing and we'll do it together," Louise said.
"You're damn right we will. Louise, you stay here and monitor the bugs. Hannah, you come with me," Daisy demanded. "We're gonna solve this thing, and we're going to do it tonight. We've got fifty minutes to get back, get some bugs planted, find you a place to take cover, and see if we can solve the crime of the century."
"I thought that Lingburgh shit was the crime of the century," Louise said.
"It was. It's a new century, and we're gonna make the news of this one!" Daisy declared, tucking the bugs under her arm, and grabbing two greasy sacks. "Let's go, Hannah!"
"Do good, girls!" Louise said, offering hugs to both, who took great care not to touch her apron.
"There's a makeover in this for you!" Hannah offered, and Louise smiled a toothless grin.