We’re back for part two of the blog tour for Swell Time for a Swing Dance by Cindy Vincent. Part one is back here. Today we just have an excerpt to share from this cool historical fiction/mystery, but be sure to check that first post for details on the giveaway, the rest of the tour, etc.
Excerpt from Swell Time for a Swing Dance
He pointed to a desk where a young woman was pounding furiously on the keys of a black Underwood, with her fingers flying so fast she was a regular tornado on that typewriter. She had a pencil clenched between her teeth like a dog chomping down on a bone. And with her dark hair and perfectly arched eyebrows, she was doing a pretty good impression of Rosalind Russell in the movie His Girl Friday, which featured one of my favorite movie stars, Cary Grant.
I sauntered straight over and stood smack dab in front of her desk. And sure, I knew I was supposed to be here in a professional capacity as an Apprentice P.I., but as soon as I saw her, my professionalism went out the window to make room for the anger that basically took over my mind and body.
Which truly surprised me.
Especially since I consider myself to be a pretty levelheaded girl, one who is very good at keeping her emotions in check. But when I thought about the way P.J. had upset Pete, and how she’d done her level best to publicly ruin his good reputation, I could have gone about ten rounds in a boxing ring with her.
And with all the fury swirling around inside me, I figured I would’ve delivered a knockout punch on the very first swing.
I didn’t even wait for her to acknowledge me. “How dare you write such a libelous article,” I said in a staccato beat. I could practically feel my eyes burning holes into her, with Superman-like heat vision.
She glanced up and the pencil dropped from her mouth. “Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. If this ain’t my lucky day. A cold-blooded killer has come to confess. It’ll be the scoop of the century. Here I’ve only been on the job three days, and I’ll be more famous than Brenda Starr. She may be just a comic-book gal but she’s set the bar pretty high for the rest of us.”
“Do you always accuse people of horrendous crimes without a shred of proof?” I shot back. “I hate to burst your bubble, but I didn’t kill anyone. Now I’d like a full apology as well as a written retraction.”
She leaned back in her chair, with a giant grin on her face. “No can do, sister. I’m not about to let this story go. Not when it’s my ticket to the big time.”
“Even if you hurt a lot of other people in the process? Innocent people?”
“Ha! Innocent, my eye! I know a guilty person when I see one. Though just to clarify, I know you didn’t act alone. You had your fella with you. I’m guessing he did the dirty work and you went along for the ride. Am I right? You two are a regular Bonnie and Clyde.”
I crossed my arms and glared at this young woman who was about my age. “I’m afraid you may be in the wrong line of work. Clearly you do a better job of writing fiction, rather than real news.”
“Honey, the more papers I sell, the more my boss wants to keep me around. And considering I’m now in a job that used to be held by a man, I’ve got to prove myself. And so far, I’m on a roll. Thanks to my article, we’re selling almost as many papers as we did the day Japan blew our ships to smithereens at Pearl Harbor. Not too shabby for a girl straight out of journalism school.”
She glanced to the far corner of the room. “I can see the billing now. Small-town girl rises from the steno pool to take the top spot at the City Desk.”
“I thought you said you were fresh out of journalism school.”
“All right, fine. So I’m a little stale, like day-old doughnuts. But it’s close enough. And I’m also close enough to having a regular Maltese Falcon on my hands, when it comes to reporting this story.”
“So, that’s your motto? ‘Close enough’?”
“I don’t know what you’re so sore about. After all, I’m making you famous, too. Did you see your picture in the paper? You looked gorgeous, like a regular Betty Grable.”
“Betty Grable is a movie star. But you’re accusing me of being an accomplice in a murder. There’s a huge difference.”
She shrugged. “Fame is fame.”
“And lying is lying. So where did you get your information? As near as I can tell, Ethel Barton was your only source. Did you even do any background research on her? Her motives for accusing Pete were personal—she’s got a beef with my grandmother.”
“Give the old broad a break, would ya? From what I’ve been told, Ethel has been trying to get her name in the paper for decades. And she was pretty excited when it finally happened. She only wants some fame for herself. Why not make her happy?”
Apparently, I’d been right about Ethel. She wasn’t as upset about the missing statue as she’d let on. She was mostly just enjoying her moment in the spotlight. And the woman sitting behind the desk before me had placed Ethel right in the center of that very spotlight. Which left me once again fighting the urge to take a swing at Miss P.J. Montgomery. “So you made Ethel famous by printing a story that ruins someone else’s reputation. Pete may lose his job. And on top of it all, he’s ready to enlist and go fight for Uncle Sam. Now he’ll probably be denied entry.”
She waved her hand in the air. “Oh, pishposh. I’m making Pete famous, too. And that guy comes from money, just like you do. So he doesn’t even need to work. And why would he want to go off and fight in some silly war when he’ll have women falling all over him here? Because there’s nothing that attracts dames faster than a good-looking bad boy. Why, soon Pete will be more popular with the ladies than Howard Hughes.”
A gasp escaped from my lips. “But he’s my guy!”
She leaned forward, resting her elbows on her desk. “Oh, yeah? The two of you aren’t married, are you? Are you even engaged?”
“Well . . . no . . . we haven’t been dating that long,” I sort of muttered, stumbling over the words, while I wondered why I was even explaining this to her.
She chuckled. “Then get in line, toots. Every single gal in the city of Houston is about to go after him. Heck, I might even take a shot at the guy myself,” she finished with another huge grin.
Copyright © 2018 Cindy W. Vincent