“Handbags and Hooligans” by Laina Turner
Blurb: Presley went to Vegas to watch her friend Anna get married and the event turned into solving the mystery of her brothers girlfriend disappearance. But Ashley wasn’t exactly the school teacher she appeared to be. Who was she and was she kidnapped?
“I called Morgan this morning when I was looking for Ashley,” Jesse explained to Jared and me. “Morgan, this is my sister, Presley, and her friend Jared. No. That’s why we’re here. We wanted to see if anyone here had heard from her.”
Morgan nodded hi to us. “No we haven’t, and she needs to call soon. Mr. Strong is livid Ashley didn’t show up and hasn’t called. She’s about to lose her job. Have you talked to Angela?”
“No. Why? Has Angela heard from Ashley?” Jesse asked.
“No, but she told me today during lunch that someone called the front office looking for Ashley and left a number. Maybe if you got the number you could call?”
“Thanks, Morgan. Have the cops been here yet?”
“No. Should I be expecting them? What’s going on?
Jesse looked at me, and I shook my head. I didn’t think we should be telling too much information.
“I just called them about Ashley and wondered if they had been by yet.”
“I understand. Listen call me the minute you hear from her. We’re all worried sick.”
“Will do. Thanks again, Morgan. C’mon guys, let’s go find Angela.” Jesse started off toward the building.
“This sure brings back memories,” Jared whispered to me as we walked into the elementary school. “Nothing has changed. This is exactly as I remember it from the school we went to. Just smaller. It even smells the same.”
I agreed, looking at the art–lined hallways and grabbing a view of the classrooms as we went in search of the office.
“Over there, guys,” Jesse said, pointing to the sign that said ‘office’ above it. “Angela is the assistant to the principal; she’ll be in there. Let’s just hope she hasn’t left already.” Crossing the hall in large strides, he pushed open the door and stepped in. I could see him start to panic a little, as he looked around not seeing Angela. “Is Angela still here?”
“She sure is,” a plump blonde woman in her mid–thirties replied. “She just walked back to the copy room. She will be back in a sec.”
“Thank goodness,” Jesse said with a sigh, turning to Jared and me. The blonde looked at us sort of strangely, but they were spared any other conversation by Angela strolling back into the waiting room.
“Jesse,” Angela said, surprised. “What brings you here?” She was a striking woman, probably late twenties, dressed in what one would consider a typical teacher’s outfit. Gray trousers and a pink sweater set. Conservative, yet attractive.
“I’m looking for Ashley. Morgan said someone called for her and left a number, and that you might be able to give it to me.”
“I take it you haven’t heard from her, then?” Angela said, looking concerned. She started to rifle through some papers and Post–its sitting on the counter.
“No. Neither has anyone else, it seems.”
“I can’t imagine where it would be. Now I know I had that number sitting right here.”
Presley looked at Jesse, who was getting more and more anxious as Angela looked for the number. He seemed about ready to jump out of his skin.
“Ah–ha. Here we go. It’s a seven–oh–two number, so it’s local.”
I could see Jesse’s surge of excitement. He seemed barely able to hold himself back from snatching the paper out of her hand. Hopefully this would be the key to finding where the hell Ashley was.
“Thanks, Angela,” he said as he turned and rushed out the door.
“Let me know when you hear from her,” Angela said to our backs as we followed him. “And tell her to call us here ASAP. She’s in hot water.”
“Slow down, Jesse,” I called. Jared and I were almost running to keep up with him. Jesse ignored me as he pulled his cell out of his pocket. “Jesse..,” I started to say.
“Shhhh,” he said, turning and giving me an irritated look.
By the time we made it to the parking lot, Jesse was leaning against the car with the phone to his ear. I could hear it ringing. The other end must have picked up because Jared and I watched as the blood drained from his face. Pulling the phone away, he just stared at it and disconnected.
“Jesse, what’s wrong?”
He just looked at me, his mouth opening and shutting with no words coming out.
“Dammit, Jesse. Who answered the phone?”
He shook his head as if to clear his thoughts. “It was the number to The Pink Pony.”
“That doesn’t sound so bad.” I glanced at Jared, eyebrows raised.
Jared looked back and just shook his head. “You are so naïve sometimes. That… sounds like what one would call a gentlemen’s club.”
“Jared’s right,” Jesse said. “The Pink Pony is an upscale gentlemen’s club on the Vegas strip. Why would someone from there be calling Ashley at work?”
I didn’t know the answer to that, but I guessed it might explain those skimpy clothes and costumes in Ashley’s apartment. I could tell Jesse had come to the same conclusion by the pained look in his face. But how could that be without Jesse’s knowledge? That seemed like a pretty big secret to hide. This whole situation was getting stranger and stranger.
“Get in the car,” Jesse said. “We’re going to find out who at The Pink Pony knows Ashley and why they are calling her.”
I wanted to argue because I wasn’t at all sure the answer Jesse got would be one he wanted. But there really wasn’t any other choice. I looked at Jared and could tell he was thinking the same thing. What could I do? Jesse was right on one front. We needed answers, and this would be one way to get them.
There were a fair number of cars in the parking lot of the strip club considering it was the middle of the day. Although, I hadn’t ever been to a strip club, much less in the middle of the day, so maybe this was normal. “I didn’t expect it to be so busy at this hour,” I whispered to Jared.
“People come here for lunch.”
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**About the author: As a child Laina thought she would either be a truck driver (thanks to Jerry Reed in Smokey and the Bandit) or work at Taco Bell (her favorite restaurant as a child).
As she grew older she realized her talents lay in academics and business and for the last several years has been a business consultant and college professor where she uses the analytical side of her brain and not the side that makes up stories.
Through all her career choices she has continued to have a passion for writing. This stemmed from childhood whereas an only child she developed a vivid imagination spending most of her time making things up and thinking the Incredible Hulk lived in her closet.
Proud of her vast experiences in life from barrel racing to being on the dance team for a semi pro basketball team to being a mom of 2 amazing kids, she tells her family and friends that no one is safe from their escapades slipping in to her books.
Taking the plunge to write books (cozy mysteries and chick lit) that she actually let people read in 2010, she has worked her way up to being a real author, having 5 fans (maybe 6 now). Her blog, Writing is a Lifestyle, was launched to share the daily fun in the life of a Real Housewife of the Midwest along with the musing of other fabulous ladies.
**Click HERE to see other stops on Laina’s Chick Lit Plus Blog Tour!