Butterfly Fan

Butterfly Fan summons Mex to Kyoto, Japan, and to the healing of a deeply submerged secret in her own life:  the death of her only son. A one-shot production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly commissioned by the okasan of the oldest geisha house in existence entwines Mex with the Japanese Yakuza and a businessman’s murder turned hara kiri. While in Japan, her old friend and new love, Waverley, is astonished at the healing Mex receives through Reiki.


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Butterfly Fan
The Mex Mysteries Book Three

Chapter 1

That ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said wisely, “Change is the only constant in human life.” No arguments from me, he was right. Even though the dilemma I faced was very twenty-first century, those ancient Greeks knew a thing or two then, and still do today.

            So, first things first, just to be organized about this. I may as well get the true confessions out of the way. I am an Intuitive Investigator. Yes, that is what I said. I use my intuition to solve cases when the regular detectives cave. Those guys, and I do mean guys, use the facts to get to the truth. I seek the truth, and make the facts match that. It’s a different, heterodox method of getting to the same result. I love what I do. I’m called to it. That’s what gives it particular resonance for me.

            One more thing. You can call me Mex, and no, that’s not my whole name. Before she died, it used to be that Mama qualified as the only person on earth who could get away with using my whole name. Now, no one can. Except me. It’s Mexicali Rose Stone. Mama was a cabaret singer. For some unknown, and never to be known cause, she chose that awful Gene Autry song, Mexicali Rose, for her musical signature. On my birthday, that’s what the gods gave her for my name. I, like the chief of a certain belly-up multinational corporation, take the fifth. Just get this. You can call me Mex.

And I’m in love with a brilliant conductor, name of Waverley King, who also happens to be married to a man, name of Ferraro. Did I say things were complicated? They were.

One day at a time. That’s how we had to do it. One slow, frustrating, painful day at a time. Figuring out how to run a threesome—which is more accurately a twosome plus one, at least from my perspective, and from Ferraro’s as well—was agony some days. 

            After a challenging idyll in the remote Highlands of Scotland (you can see an account of our adventures in Brigadoon Moon), New York welcomed Waverley, Ferraro and me into her waiting arms, and everyday life, bless its heart, commandeered us. We had our work cut out for us. Functioning as one of two couples made Waverley crazed sometimes. Functioning as a member of a partial couple made Ferraro lonely sometimes. Functioning as a member of a part-time couple made my high femme self, completely bonkers sometimes. My ex-, Veronica, used to call me the ur-femme, and the ur-femme is not a part-time kind of girl.

            It didn’t matter. We were determined to make this arrangement work for the three of us. We accounted it this way. We were three educated, reasonably enlightened people desiring to create love in our lives in a different way than the world said it should be. Hard to do, but so is learning Russian when you’re not born to it. We worked at it. It came down to that irritating AA saying, One Day At A Time. Not yesterday. Not tomorrow. Not in twenty minutes, but one day, sometimes one instant, at a time. Some days we hated it. We did it regardless.

            We suffered slight technical complications. I lived in midtown. Wave and Ferraro lived on the Upper West Side. Wave worked nights, mostly. Ferraro and I worked whenever we wanted, and not when we didn’t. Since we were both self-employed, we basically worked most of the time. Figure that with who slept with whom and where, and for how long. Who would have dinner with whom. Who would get out of town with whom (and who would sleep with whom then!). An Air Traffic Control nightmare.

Made only slightly more difficult when Waverley and I went to Sunday brunch with some friends at that wonderful Italian bistro in Chelsea, Tello. I fell in love with the neighborhood. Midtown is a district in Manhattan, not a bona fide neighborhood. It’s eight blocks to the closest real grocery store, for God’s sake. As Wave and I walked across 20th Street to catch the train to go uptown that Sunday, a For Sale sign on a brownstone near Eighth Avenue grabbed me, and I fell in love. I wrote down the number, and called on Monday.

            Ferraro had two book commissions waiting for him when he returned from Scotland. Washington state wanted a bird book on their native species. So did Florida, the Everglades to be exact. Go figure. He couldn’t have been needed at two farther apart points in the continental United States. We drooled at his frequent flyer mile potential. We also fantasized where we three would go together when it ended.

            Waverley had two operas at the Met awaiting her attention. One of the standard repertoire, La Bohème, and another, more modern one, modern being a relative term in the opera world, in Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk by Shostakovich. She went into rehearsal the day after we returned from Scotland, one very tired sweetie. It didn’t matter though, because she could do Bohème with her hands tied behind her back, and so could the Met orchestra.—which is an interesting image for a conductor and musicians, who without exception need their hands to do what they do.

            As for me, a few possible cases awaited my attention. I am extremely choosy; The Pink House I had bought months ago in Upstate New York needed a General Contractor. I had to begin training Gareth B. Hawkins, the new personal and professional assistant to moiself. My kitty angels, Prudence and Money, had missed their mama terribly, not to mention me missing them, so quality time was in order for them and me.   

            It was a while before I got used to being in the City. Scotland had been so quiet, despite the drama, that New York overwhelmed me with its sights, sounds, smells, and the general, ubiquitous closeness of things and people one to the other. It’s no mistake that Citibank used to advertise New York as “the citi that never sleeps.” It doesn’t. If you want Indian food at three o’clock in the morning, Manhattan is where you can get it. Or Xerox paper. Or whatever. It can exhaust me. The pulse of New York City is compelling and relentless, and if you don’t figure out a way not to go at the City’s pace, it’s easy to burn out here.

            So I stopped crossing against Don’t Walk signs even when no cars are in sight. People stop and ask me what I’m doing. I say, I’m waiting for the Walk sign. Why? comes the reply. Because somebody smart created this system, and it’s against the law to cross against a light.

            Traffic cops used to give tickets to people who crossed against them, but the tide flooded so strongly that they quit. The word deficit wouldn’t be in a Manhattanite’s civic vocabulary if enough cops enforced this law. Now I wait, and cross when it says Walk. It’s my small triumph; a one-woman resistance movement against the driving pace of New York City. 

            Gareth had his own apartment on West 93rd Street that he’d renovated, and so he knew from General Contractors. I put him in charge of finding and hiring one up the Hudson. The Pink House is slightly north of the Hudson Valley, so he drove his own wheels up the river to get it done. I told him not to show his face till he had a contractor hired, and he knew I meant business. After Veronica’s (she’s an ex; it’s a long story) mishegas, I just wanted the house d-o-n-e. You know how you just sometimes know that there’s good karma between yourself and another human being? Gareth B. Hawkins was a lifesaver, a cherry one. The best kind.

            I accepted a couple of small research cases in the meantime. Missing persons, who, usually, aren’t genuinely missing, but have instead vacated wherever they’ve been because they want to do so. Also, one philandering husband and a very frustrated, read enraged (maybe outraged is better) Westchester stay-at-home wife. These are usually findable through simple computer searches if you know how to do them. I do my best to maintain my brakes-on position as a Luddite, but I am getting better at the computer despite myself. Whenever I’m in town, Kelley—that would be Detective Michael Ryan Kelley of the NYPD, technomentor and beloved father surrogate—insists that he continue my computer lessons. I’ve learned to do e-mail, albeit reluctantly.

            Good thing too. Gareth is a computer whiz. He uses e-mail constantly. This way I could stay in touch with him on his three-day jaunt to hire a contractor. His cellphone wouldn’t work north of the City. Not enough cells, I guess. After two or three frustrating conversations, we switched to e-mail. He got us a set of team contractors, two women; he loved the idea of women doing the traditional “Men Working” thing, so he hired them. I didn’t need to meet them to know they were on My Team, as The Peach, my fairy (and I do mean fairy) godfather, would say. It tickled me as it did him.

            I called about the brownstone as a lark. In terrible need of some T.L.C., their asking price was acceptable. I wangled them down and bought it in cash, then I urged Gareth to return so we could hire a contractor here as well. Having worked with a team in Scotland, I had assembled one of my own accord. I had more employees than I’d ever had in my life. Fun, and with Gareth to handle the details, I had created not one, but two permanent homes for myself. 

            I loved my apartment in midtown, and I planned to keep the rent-stabilized lease. Maybe I’d use it for an office, but since Mama died, some instinct told me that I needed roots, my own home, where I both could, and would, stay. Investing in real estate, a real estate for myself, made sense to me. The Pink House upstate and the brownstone in town were perfect. A dream come true, once they were done. I could never have guessed how long that would take, nor what the cost might be. No matter, I do well enough, and my granny’s legacy to me, and Mama’s, have left me financially comfortable for life.   

            Mexicali Rose Stone?

            That’s the energy that guides my life. I call her Spirit. She gets to use my full name too, but usually only when I’m in serious trouble.

            Yes, Spirit? 

            Never say never, darling girl.

            Uh-huh. And why is that, Spirit?

            There may come a day when you need to be called by your whole name.

            Uh-huh. And why is that, Spirit?

            Soon you will be called to take your true place. But there is work to do before that can happen.

            Yes, Spirit.

All lyrics from the opera Madama Butterfly are personal translations.

One Fine Day
Words and Music by Gerry Goffin and Carole King
© 1963 (Renewed 1991) SCREEN GEMS-EMI MUSIC INC
All Rights ReservedInternational Copyright SecuredUsed by Permission
Reprinted with Permission by Hal Leonard Corporation

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The lapel pin in Butterfly Fan is the brilliant work of Suzanne Rhodes.

Butterfly Fan is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental — if you believe in that sort of thing.

© 2017 Susan Corso
All rights reserved.

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