I was having a ball.
No really, I was in attendance at an actual, bonafide ball. I was wearing a fancy white tuxedo and everything.
Toward the front of the room, a conductor whirled his baton about, back and forth, leading strings, winds, and all manner of instruments in a breathtaking waltz.
Meanwhile, the second Mrs. Hatcher and I were cutting a rug on the large, luxurious floor.
“You dance divinely, mon cheri,” my partner whispered in my ear before nibbling ever so suggestively on my lobe.
“You’re not too shabby yourself, my little creme brulee.”
Muffelia “Muffy” Bordeaux. She was a sultry Cajun coquette, the type of woman who made men’s hearts overflow with passionate lust. Like the bayou she was born and bred on, she was mysterious, mischievous…and oh so dirty.
Sorry 3.5 readers. I didn’t mean to scandalize you.
I love it when a broad wears her hair up, mostly because I spend the whole evening in anticipation of when it comes down. And Muffy was the Queen when it came to finding out what made my blood pump.
Her lips were red, full, and so very kissable. Her hair was blacker than a coal miner’s boots and that night, she wore a silver gown with dangly earrings to match. Men aren’t that hard to please, ladies. We like shiny things.
For the first time in my life, I was on top of the world.
I’d left the LAPD and put up my own shingle. Hatcher Investigations was in full swing and in the City of Angels, there was no shortage of wealthy folk with problems that required a man with my special skill set.
My secretary, Connie Connors, who I swiped away from my former boss, Capt. Thaddeus Talbot, was back home holding down the fort. I owed my success to her. She kept the business running like a well oiled machine, did all the filing, filled out all the paperwork, and most importantly, played nicey nice with the clients
Thus, all I had to do was the sleuthing.
My bank roll was fat, my car was sporty, and best of all, I had the type of wife who, with just one look, could make a man pitch a tent faster than a master outdoorsman.
Today, at ninety-five, I realize that’s not the only quality a man should be looking for in a significant other, but forgive me, because back then I didn’t know any better.
In my defense, the Muffster excelled at switching off a man’s brain.
Her accent made me putty in her hands, and she never missed an opportunity to bend me any which way she wanted.
She insisted on calling me Jacob, but she pronounced it, “Zsa-Cob.” “Zsa,” like Zsa Zsa Gabor, the actress from Green Acres, and “cob” like what you hold when you’re eating corn.
“I want you to hold me in your arms forever, Jacob.”
“You don’t have to ask me twice, baby. You make me feel like a million bucks.”
SPOILER ALERT: I’d later learn that the “forever” Muffy had in store for me was a mere six months and coincidentally, she’d shoot me six times and leave me for dead over the same amount of money, not to mention run off with Roscoe, my lousy excuse for a kid brother, God rest his soul.
But put all of that out of your mind for now, 3.5. That night, I was convinced we were both happy.
And why wouldn’t we be?
We were on our honeymoon. A free honeymoon. A glorious fortnight in Monaco, the tiny European principality where all the beautiful people of the world gathered to hob knob, rub elbows, trade gossip and measure each other’s bank accounts.
We were the guests of Count Fabian Rickard, heir to a lavish Hungarian dynasty, and between you and me, a bit of a gullible old goose.
He’d managed to get nearly his entire fortune tied up in an elaborate real estate swindle and hired me to track down the fraudulent huckster who bilked him.
The nogoodnik was hiding out in LaLa Land and yours truly located him, put him behind bars, and most importantly, reunited the Count with his cabbage.
He was so grateful that when I mentioned I was about to tie the knot, he insisted that the new Mrs. Hatcher and I be his guests at his chateau, a vacation home he visited quite frequently.
The Waltz wrapped up and the band took a powder.
Our benefactor strolled up to us with a bubbly champagne flute in each hand. He offered them and we accepted them gladly.
“Ahhh, young love,” Count Rickard said. “What I wouldn’t give to return to the days when the Countess and I gazed at one another the way you two do.”
The Count had a devilish black beard that came down off of his chin in a point and a heavily waxed mustache that curled up on both ends.
“Come now, Fabes.”
Fabes. A little nickname I had for him.
“I bet whenever you’re gone, the little woman counts the seconds until you return and stir her goulash.”
Count Rickard looked at me, trying to figure out what I meant. Then he let the guffaws fly.
“Oh Mr. Hatcher, you are a card.”
“He is an ace!” Muffy added.
As jokes go, it wasn’t that funny, but Muffy was hotter than the surface of the sun, so we laughed anyway.
“Come my boy,” the Count said as he wrapped an arm around me. “You must try your luck in the casino. Are you a betting man, Mr. Hatcher?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” I replied. “Pa Hatcher always told me that games of chance are the devil’s work.”
Muffy looked at me with those dark, hypnotic eyes and straightened my bow tie.
“Come Jacob. It will be fun.”
Yep. All it took for me to ignore the sage advice of the wisest man I ever knew was a coy pout from a Southern belle.
Oh well. Men had done worse things for far less.
“Lead the way, Fabes. ”
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