Light My Fire!

Light My Fire is coming! Book 4 in the Liberty Heights series. Here’s a peek
Copyright: Elle Druskin
Woody held the chairs at their own table for Kara and Phoebe to be seated. He couldn’t suppress his regret that this wasn’t a date. It felt like one, except for Phoebe. Tiny Wong slid a tray of appetizing snacks on the table, and all three pounced on them, savoring the perfect blend of spicy and sweet flavors. They were in the middle of placing their main course orders when Alice Finster marched in.
“Woodrow Wilson, how dare you!”
Alice’s bellow put an abrupt end to all conversation. Woody winced as the chief of police marched up to his table and glared at him. Just what he needed, Alice in a snit.
He searched his mind for any possible infraction that could have ignited her fuse. No police budget cuts nor outstanding crime. On the contrary, he’d approved a new part-time cop for the town. He shot a sideways glance at Kara and caught a sympathetic look on her face. Phoebe, thank goodness, was stuffing spring rolls into her cute little mouth and didn’t have the slightest interest in whatever had set off Hurricane Alice.
Woody took his time chewing his fried won-ton, hoping Alice might magically disappear along with this embarrassing situation. Fat chance. Everyone was staring at the confrontation.
“Got a problem, Alice?”
Alice sniffed. “Don’t try stalling. How dare you allow a sex store right on Main Street?”
“Sex store? I miss all the fun,” Grandma Baumgart grumbled.
“Sex store? Hot damn,” Gertie said. “Do you think they do coupons?”
Judge Finster shot a disgusted look at his aunt. “Can’t hear a thing, but that you heard loud and clear.”
Woody glanced around and noted Jake and Hayley Marx’s shocked expressions. Dana Axelrod’s jaw dropped, and Hank was doing his best and failing to hold back a snicker. Woody forced himself to meet Alice’s eyes. Her husband, the judge, he noted, had the sense to remain at the table and out of the range of fire.
“A sex store? In Liberty Heights? I wonder if they need a party planner for the grand opening,” Ellie Resnick commented.
Her husband Zach’s lips quirked. “Not getting enough?”
“Sex or parties?” Ellie answered with a grin and jiggled the baby carriage next to their table.
“Why didn’t they hire me for promotion,” Hayley complained.
Jake shot her an exasperated look. “Three kids, a full time job, and you’re looking for more work. What the heck do you need with a sex store?”
Alice tapped her foot. Woody rose from his seat. Nearly a foot taller than the stocky police chief. Not that his height intimidated the woman. Nothing cowed Alice Finster.
“I don’t know anything about a sex store,” he said. Slow. Calm. Defuse Alice’s anger.
Alice shoved a flyer in his face. “What’s this supposed to mean?”
Woody scanned the bright red script. Coming soon! Ignite your burning desire.
He raked his fingers through his hair and read again. “This doesn’t say anything about a sex store.”
Alice snatched the flyer back, crumpled the paper and stomped on it. “It sounds like a bordello. Right on Main Street,” Alice snapped.
“What’s a bordello?” Phoebe asked.
Woody shot a glance at Kara. Help me out here, he mouthed. He hoped she had some sort of explanation for her daughter because he sure didn’t have one.
“An Italian buffet,” Kara answered.
“Do they have pizza? Can we go there when it opens?”
A visible shiver ran up Kara’s spine. “It’s for adults only,” she said.
Phoebe wasn’t giving up. “That’s not fair. I like pizza.”
A bordello would be serving up a lot more than pizza, but Phoebe was too young to require detailed explanations.
Alice wasn’t deterred from the topic either. “My daughter walks past that spot every day. All our kids do. It’s your civic duty to investigate. Burning desire, my foot. It’s a massage parlor. Who bought the place? What paperwork did they file? Did they violate the fire codes? Why didn’t you prevent this?”
By now, everyone at the Wok and Woll leaned closer, anxious for the answer. Not a single person pretended disinterest other than Phoebe.
“Somebody named Ripple bought out that hole in the wall video rental place. I think the first name was Wayne. Nobody rents videos much anymore. Too easy to get them direct online. The paperwork didn’t specify the business, but be realistic, Alice. Nothing said sex store or anything vaguely related, and frankly, I can’t believe anyone would try to open that sort of business in Liberty Heights.”
“Hmmph. We’ll see. I can see you’ve been derelict in your duty as mayor, and there’s an election coming.” Without another word, Alice marched out the door.
“If the correct permits were issued, and there’s no breach of fire codes, there may not be anything Alice can do as an officer of the law,” Judge Finster said. “You should have investigated the business before signing the permits. Who is this Wayne Ripple? Where does he come from? Does he have a criminal background? If Alice is right about this sex business, you’ll have to find a way to get rid of them.”
Woody shot a glance around the restaurant. Tiny Wong’s face bleached of color. Doris looked like she was about to faint. Nearly everyone had a distinct look of disapproval other than Grandma Baumgart.
“Hot damn! I hope they give seniors’ discounts. Can’t wait for the grand opening,” she said.