Grace wasn’t a moment too soon. Her special friend, Ted Dickerson, was hefting his rucksack overflowing with condoms and Rohypnol into the bus’s luggage hold.
“Oh, Ted, I hope you have a wonderful time in Mexico!” Grace had led the fund-raising committee for the football team’s trip to Tijuana after their record-setting season. “Enjoy los burros, and write me a postcard, won’t you, Ted?” she called.
“I sure will, Grace,” Ted twinkled as he stepped aboard. “You’re my number one girl!”
Grace waved as the long silver bus pulled out, feeling at once bereft and relieved, just like she did when Ted removed his penis from her. Despite her resolution to keep a brave face, she blinked back a few tears.
“Are you all right, Grace?”
“Oh, Tessie, I didn’t think you’d be here!” exclaimed Grace.
“Well, I don’t have a friend on the team, but there was a breakfast table,” her plump, brown-eyed friend explained, taking another bite of a chocolate granola bar.
“Tessie, you should eat softer food. That’s going to hurt coming back up!”
“I guess,” mumbled Tessie. “But Grace, why are you crying?”
“I’m just worried about Ted,” Grace confessed. “Last time he went on that church mission to Manila, he came back with syphilis, and I had an awful time getting rid of it!”
“I know!” Tessie sparkled, “Let’s go see Mrs. Megs!”
“Why, I’d forgotten all about her and the Springbrookvalleyhavendale STD Clinic! That’s just the thing!” said Grace cheerfully.
As they motored to the clinic, Tessie confided that her cousin Terry had been volunteering there part-time. “I bet Terry can help us out, she knows Mrs. Megs well.”
Grace drove into the clinic parking lot, dodging plastic fetus dolls and bags of fake blood with a skill born of long practice.
“Gosh, Grace,” said Tessie admiringly, “It’s like you’ve been here a hundred times before!”
The two girls saw Terry right away. The slim, boyish girl was with the other clinic escorts, holding back a row of protesters. Just then, a scruffy man waving a “FETAL MEAT IS MURDER” sign crossed into the buffer zone. Terry’s eyes flashed, and she grabbed the protester’s wrist, flipping him upside-down with a swift motion. His wrist made a loud crack! as he landed on his back on the asphalt. The protestor crawled back into the mob as Terry smoothed her platinum crew-cut and straightened the pink triangle pin on her collar.
“Oh, Terry,” laughed Grace, “You’re such a tomboy!”
Terry grinned wryly. “I guess you could put it that way.”
“How are your goats doing?” Grace admired Terry’s animal husbandry, and often consulted her when her own goat, Buttercup, was ailing from Ted’s violations.
“They’re terrific, thanks, Grace! My youngest three won gold, silver and bronze at the county fair last week!” beamed Terry.
Tessie chimed in, “And the loser was delicious!”
Mrs. Megs greeted the three chums pleasantly as they entered the clinic. “Grace! I haven’t seen you since your chlamydia cleared up! And Tessie, do you need more flavored condoms?”
“It’s the only way to get me downtown!” giggled Tessie.
“Thanks for your hard work today, Terry,” Mrs. Megs went on. “I appreciate it, especially since you’re taking time away from your prize-winning herd.”
“State Fair here we come!” Terry said staunchly. “I’m training them to come when I whistle, too.”
Grace explained her worries about Ted to Mrs. Megs while the older woman listened sympathetically. When she concluded, Mrs. Megs spoke up.
“I have just the thing! These new powdered antibiotics are very strong. Just sprinkle them into Ted’s food when he gets back.”
“Thank you so much,” Grace said gratefully. “Please let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.”
Mrs. Megs’ face clouded. “Well…we have been getting some threatening anonymous letters.”
“I’d be happy to take a look,” said Grace quietly. “It’s so important to the teens in Springbrookvalleyhavendale to have a good STD clinic in town.”
Mrs. Megs bustled into an inner office, returning with a dirty, torn envelope. “This one came this morning.”
Grace spread out the note. It read:
I HATE YOU AND WANT THE INHERITANCE HIDDEN UNDER THE STAIRS SO GET OUT OF SPRINGBROOKVALLEYHAVENDALE.
ONE WHO WISHES YOU ILL
PS I MEAN IT
“My goodness!” exclaimed Grace.
Mrs. Megs frowned, “I didn’t even know I had an inheritance, and the clinic doesn’t have any stairs!”
“Think hard,” urged Grace. “Do you know anyone who recently died?”
Mrs. Megs slowly said, “Well, Daddy was looking poorly this morning, but I had three back-to-back D&C’s, so I tucked him up with a hot water bottle and came right here. We do have a nice staircase at home, though.”
“I have a hunch,” said Grace determinedly. “We’d better go check on him right now.”
“Be careful!” called Mrs. Megs after them.
“Don’t worry,” Grace called back gaily, “We’ll be as careful as a new hooker in Harlem!”
Still laughing, the girls climbed into Grace’s roadster. She turned the key, but the engine remained silent.
“We’ve been sabotaged!” said Grace grimly. “Terry, give me your hairpin.”
Terry gestured to her smooth buzzcut and said, “Girl sleuth…yeah…Grace, do you notice anything?”
“Of course she does! She’s the number one girl detective in Springbrookvalleyhavendale!” retorted Tessie loyally. “Here, Grace, take my special spoon.”
Grace looked at Tessie aghast. “But Tessie, you need that spoon for your cycle of binging and purging!”
Tessie said determinedly, “I know you’ll help me out, Grace.”
Grace wiggled her index finger and laughed merrily, then bent to work on the engine, which soon roared to life. The girls rode with the top down, enjoying the fresh spring breeze.
Grace pulled into Mrs. Megs’ father’s house’s driveway’s gravel with a skill born of long practice. The girls looked worriedly at the front door—it hung askew!
“I have a hunch,” whispered Grace. “Let’s go in right away.”
In the front room, the girls stopped short. The room had been ransacked!
“And I thought my little goats were messy!” exclaimed Terry.
“Wow, Grace!” teased Tessie, “I thought you had a lot of brains, but Mr. Megs’ are all over the place!”
“Shh!” hissed Grace. “The killer may still be here!”
Grace leaned over the body of the unfortunate Mr. Megs and pulled a hatchet from his cloven skull. Just as it came free, she heard Terry call from the hallway.
“Hullo, what’s this?”
Grace and Tessie joined Terry, crowding around the staircase to the second floor—or where the staircase should be. The stairwell was empty! Only the long walnut banister remained.
Grace’s face clouded as she blinked back tears. “I used to count those stairs as a baby!”
Terry looked puzzled. “What?”
Tessie looked baffled, and mumbled.
“Tessie, spit those brains out!” Grace said sharply. “I guess it’s time to tell you, I was born in this very house. My father the noted corporate bond trader adopted me when his wife died in childbirth. He hired our housekeeper, Sarah Croon, to raise me, and they vowed never to tell the world. On my seventh birthday, we cut our femoral arteries and pressed them together in a solemn promise. And I’ve always kept that promise, until now!
“But if Mrs. Megs is really your mother…” said Terry slowly, “That means…he is your grandfather!”
“I’m so sorry, Grace!” said Tessie kindly. “Can we have the funeral catered? And maybe a potluck at the viewing?”
“Was my grandfather, Terry,” said Grace grimly. “Now he’s dead and mother and I will inherit! I never wanted to be a perfect redhead with a blue convertible, successful father and great clothes. I want to join my mother at the clinic and help girls solve their ‘little problems’! But now you two know my secret, so I guess it’s time to solve my ‘little problem.’”
Hatchet in hand, Grace advanced towards the two cousins. Tessie clutched Terry tightly, but Terry put two fingers in her mouth made a piercing whistle.
“Really, Terry,” said Tessie disgustedly, “Do you have to be such a tomboy?”
“Lesbian!” yelled Terry. “I’m a lesbian! A muff-diving, bull-dyke, carpet-munching butch! The only one in Springbrookvalleyhavendale, and boy is it hard to get a date around here!”
Grace laughed an evil laugh, but her voice was quickly drowned out by the sound of little hooves. A flock of baby goats, white and black and brown and spotted, ran in through the still-awry front door. Grace swung the hatchet wildly, missing the nimble creatures but slicing open her own leg. Bleating and butting, the goats knocked Grace’s feet from under her, their county fair badges still on ribbons around their necks.
The girl detective lay bleeding on the floor. Tessie began to tie up Grace while Terry whistled off her cunning goats.
Grace had only enough strength left to moan weakly, “And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for you and your medaling kids.”
whipchick enjoyed re-reading a fair number of girl detective stories!