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 Something Wicked

Something Wicked takes Mex and Seraphim deep into their romance. Seraphim is cast as Madame Morrible in Wicked in Boston. When the actress playing Glinda disappears, the producers bring Mex in to find her, hopefully alive. Mex and Seraphim learn to show up for one another as true partners through Hawaiian relational technique, ho’oponopono.


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Something Wicked
The Mex Mysteries Book Seven

Chapter 1

“Hi, my name is Mex …,” I walked to the podium as I spoke, “… and I’m an alcoholic.”

“Hi, Mex,” the room responded.

A baker’s dozen of us attended a Monday, high noon, AA meeting in an unleased, raw office space on the third floor of 1500 Broadway, the theatrical office ghetto. I was in the room because of my new sponsor, Albert Poland. I’d known Albert for most of my life, childhood included. He used to be Mama’s manager years ago when she sang cabaret across the known world. At the time, he doubled as my fairy godfather. I suppose, as my sponsor, he still does.

Now, because of a Mickey Finn slipped to me when I’d had to go undercover as a stripper on the Gypsycase, I was once again dedicated to regular meeting attendance. Not that I’d fallen, not in reality, but the Peach (Albert’s nickname is Peaches La Tour … yes, there’s a story behind it, and no, I’m not at liberty to tell. You’ll have to ask him)—recognized how badly it scared me.

The drink hadn’t led to a drunk by any stretch but it had unsettled my perceptions of myself enough that when Albert recommended ninety meetings in ninety days, I willingly agreed. That day was Day Eighty-Eight, and I had been much restored to my eternal gratitude and immense relief. 

We had also arrived at New Year’s Eve—my least favorite holiday of all the holidays combined. I live at the north end of Times Square, and despite the fact that I can see the ball fall from my living room windows, I prefer to spend that hugely overrated eve at home. Best to follow that pithy AA saying and look for a way in, not for a way out. 

We planned a quiet dinner à quatre, Gareth, Thom, Seraphim and moiself, nowhere near Times Square. Xennie, my Gypsy, lately traveling, housekeeper, already stood in the barely finished kitchen in the Chelsea townhouse. It would be our maiden voyage in the still incompletely-finished house. 

The meeting ended. I gave the Peaches an extravagant, full-body hug which made him squeal and skipped uptown to the office on 49thStreet. I would see him the next day, and the day after that I hoped, at my last two of ninety meetings. Then, I planned to fly the coop for a bit. Angelo Caldo, my dear friend and ex-husband, Santa Fe, and a change of scene, beckoned.

Gareth B. Hawkins was one day away from his formal metamorphosis from stellar Assistant to Mex Stone into official Associate to Mex Stone, whatever that would mean, in the business of intuitive investigating. Simply put, we seek the truth to make sense of the facts. Very different approach from the regular tecs. 

Anyway, Gareth was head over heels in love with his new beau. Thom V. Magoun had taken his sweet ass time locating Gareth and since they’d connected, they were close to inseparable. Fortunately, everyone adored them both.

Oh, my name. Let’s get it over with. Mex isn’t the pleroma of my name, my name in all its fullness. Oh no, brace yourself. The whole thing is Mexicali Rose Stone. Go ahead. I can cachinnate because of it too, sometimes. For many years the mythology ran that Mexicali Rose, that deplorable cowboy lament made notorious by singing star Gene Autry, was my cabaret mama’s theme song. I’d also discovered in recent months that my parents had honeymooned in Mexicali, Mexico. Regardless, let’s be clear. Mex is plenty of name as far as I’m concerned. Just Mex.

Gareth was involved in his usual office juggling act when I got in. The girls, Prudence, a long white-haired cat, and Money, a short-haired black, are my longest-time companions. Feline goddesses both. They came running when I opened the door.

Lunch had arrived, and rare roast beef sandwiches are always of interest to my kitty angels. They think we order it in for them, and to be honest, I’ve never told them differently. So we four, Gareth, Prudence, Money and I, sat down for a nosh and a gab before I kicked Gareth out so he could have some time to himself, and so could I.

The Chelsea house wasn’t done by any means. Oh, that’s not fair. It was much less un-done than it had been, but only the kitchen, dining room and foyer approached completion. No matter, the house was far enough along for us to want to inaugurate it that night. Gareth would arrive eight-ish with expensive champagne and probably sumptuous flowers for Mademoiselle Mex. Seraphim, my dear friend and probable someday flame, would collect me in her petite blue car, Bouton, around seven. I sighed: I still missed Veronica.

Crime, interestingly, doesn’t necessarily ebb during the holidays, but the work that it engenders often does. We’d wound down most of our ongoing cases so we could have these few days off. Gareth would gear right up on Wednesday after I left for a week’s visit with Angelo. I never take holiday and I’d decided that never was too long so I made plans. I wanted to have long, uninterrupted, face-to-face talks with Angelo.

Naps were made for the likes of me. If I had my druthers, I’d take one every day. Close down the office and my life from two till four-thirty. Rise from my boudoir, have a cup of tea and go to work again. However, I live in Manhattan, not Barcelona. That day I didn’t care. I napped, and the girls curled around one another and we snoozed together. A happy family: two cats and their person.

I dressed carefully, feeling that the evening was important, a tone-setter, if you will. Seraphim and I had been friends for close to six months. Was it our time to take the step into being lovers? I loved her, I knew that. She loved me, too. But were we in love, or, ready to be in love? Who knew? I was still mourning Veronica, my formerly, now late, betrothed. Lately, the mourning had eased off a little but we all know how that works, right? It eases off, then roars back on with a vengeance, and we get no say as to when or what triggers it. 

My dress was formal. Clinging black velvet, a copy of a dress Rosemary Clooney wore in the movie of White Christmas, it made my fair redhead’s skin glow. I put my curly red mop up with rhinestone clips left over from my foray as a striptease artiste. I even dared a spritz of Angel, my favorite perfume, since Angelo chose it for me years ago. No, spritz wasn’t right. Seraphim had been oversensitive to perfume since menopause. What I did was spritz it in the air, take a beat, and walk through it.

I toyed with jewelry. Glitter for over my black, opera-length satin gloves, but I decided to leave my neck and shoulders bare. Less is, believe it or not, sometimes more. I gathered my cashmere-lined raw silk, emerald green evening cloak and antique jet-beaded bag, courtesy of my granny, as Charley, the doorman, buzzed to inform me of Seraphim’s arrival. 

Normally, I would have waited for her to ascend in the Otis prototypes that are the elevators in my building to escort me downstairs, but we’d specifically agreed that I would come down to meet her on that special night. We had a logical ratiocination. Traffic cops, out in full force on New Year’s Eve, would plaster a heavy ticket on her wee Bouton without so much as a by-your-leave if she left it unattended for even a nanomoment.

Because she had one and a half eyes on her car, I got a glimpse of Seraphim before her eyes glommed onto me. Had I been able to whistle, I would have. She wore a perfect, petite, elegant tuxedo. My womb contracted as her gaze fastened itself onto me. Seraphim can whistle. She shared a guy thing with Charley, my doorman. I blushed, pleased, as her arm wrapped itself around my waist.

“Your chariot, milady.”

At the bottom of the slate steps up to the Early Bordello lobby of my 49thStreet building sat a shimmery black stretch limousine, polished to within an inch of its life. Bouton was nowhere in sight. I again wished for whistling privileges.

“It’s only right to arrive at your new home for the first time in proper style,” said Seraphim by way of explanation. “Don’t you agree?”

We also had a police escort. Hector Wu, an NYPD Mounted Unit cop friend from the Chicagocase, sat astride his freshly-groomed partner-in-crime-prevention, guarding the car. The horse was new to Hector, named after one of the brave law enforcers who gave his life in the 9/11 travesty. That night’s transportation definitely would not include a parking ticket. 

Hector saluted us. “Ready, girls?”

I’m old enough to enjoy being referred to as a girl again. I sent him a dazzlingly delighted visage.

“Yes, sir!” 

Hector blew an unseen whistle. Two black-and-whites pulled away from a distant curb. Oh. A real police escort. Kelley had to have arranged it, that sweetie.

“Happy New Year, Hector!” I called.

He waved joyously. We disappeared into the slippery ebony leather.

“You’re a class act,” I teased Seraphim.

“No, you are, and Kelley is,” she said solemnly. “That’s the point.”

I was supremely at home in a stretch limousine, and if I had my fantasy, and I could have I suppose, this would have been a permanent feature of my reality. Excessive, to my way of thinking. There were plenty of other ways to spend the money Granny and Mama had left their only daughter and only granddaughter. Plenty.

Seraphim handed me a champagne flute of Diet Pepsi as the car veered down Tenth Avenue.

“Mex, you’re gorgeous.”

“Thank you, dear.”

Seraphim appeared slightly bemused to be riding in a fancy car with the Ur-femme and a police escort. She’d recently finished teaching a last-minute series of master classes in acting at NYU filling in for a colleague who’d gotten “real work” and was joyfully anticipating a brief downtime until her next gig arrived. She calls herself an itinerant arts worker.

We exited the car with the decorum it mandated, and rang the front bell since my keys didn’t fit in my bag.

Xennie wore what I could only describe as a French maid’s uniform. Rustly, starched, shiny, black fabric with a frilly, white organza apron. For real. I almost guffawed, but coughed instead, when she answered the bell in the Chelsea house. Thank God I kept my wits about me; she’d have been horribly offended.

My Gypsy housekeeper, Xennie, was in line for her own promotion the same as was wizard assistant Gareth. She was bored with keeping house solely, well … houses, and would be taking over as office Assistant when Gareth became Associate to Mex Stone, Intuitive Investigator. If this was Xennie’s idea of a costume for her promotion, who was I to complain? She normally wore soft, colorful, flowing Gypsy garments like my granny had, but far be it for me to question her sartorial judgment. I only hoped this wasn’t a permanent change, but instead a bow to the formality of this singular occasion.

She confiscated my wrap and invited us to ascend the glistening cherry wood, spiral staircase to the salon, parlor, living room, what have you. We hadn’t settled on the proper nouns yet. The only parts of the house that were done were the marble foyer, the staircase, a rudimentary version of the salon/dining room, one loo, and a state-of-the-art kitchen. Xennie and Gareth had worked it out with Susannah, my friend and interior designer. The kitchen had not ever been, nor is, nor would ever be, my milieu; I did, however, appreciate the mouth-watering smells that wafted from said command post.

The doorbell interrupted my olfactory investigations. Gareth’s and Thom’s voices ascended the staircase. Their joy in one another was unmistakable. I was so glad for Gareth. He’d been single a long time, and he deserved a mensch, Yiddish for good guy, like Thom Magoun. Who, it appeared, had arrived with champagne. Gareth, true to form, brought a cornucopia of flowers arranged by our favorite florist, Surroundings.

“It’s Krug, darling,” whispered Gareth into my hairline, “seven hundred and fifty bucks a bottle.”

“Thom, dear? Isn’t this a bit … dear … for our purposes?” I asked.

“Not at all,” came the smooth reply. “Tonight we christen both a new year and a new home. Only the best will do.”

As the boys made their journey into the kitchen, teasing Xennie over her costume, to decant or defrock or something, said bottle, Seraphim asked sotto voce, “Is it really that much?” Her midnight blue eyes were platters.

“Yes, darling.”

“Mex,” she began, “I can’t imagine . . . .”

“I know,” I said, “you don’t have to.”

“But think of what could be done with  . . . .”

“I know,” I said again. “Don’t.” I covered her lips with my French-manicured hand..

Seraphim was raised in a blue collar family, a different class from mine, one of the things I completely adored about her. She could ground me faster than anyone I’d known my whole life. I moved into her arms as Gareth and Thom successfully negotiated the new stereo system. 

Frank Sinatra crooned into Witchcraft, the song Angelo and I first danced together, and the one we’d chosen for the first dance at our wedding. I cackled aloud at the time, delighting my friends and thoroughly offending my new Messianic Jewish mother-in-law and her friends. They departed the ballroom of the Gramercy Hotel en masse and what a swell party it was after that.

Seraphim’s shock at the sticker price of the champagne waned as she led us in dance. I let myself go in her arms, trusting her lead, and released the unnamed tension I carried.

Thom and Gareth, newly learning how to dance with one another, made us appear like an old married couple. Admittedly, we both love to dance and we do it often. Compared to Kelley and Monica, my pseudo-parents, however, we were sheer amateurs, but they, my all-time favorite NYPD Blue and his helpmeet of many decades, had been dancing their partner dance since their high school days. I missed them.

The boys were quick studies, possibly making up for lost time. I met Xennie’s eye as she stood in the doorway to the kitchen, tapping her Gypsy foot, and beaming her approval at our two couples. 

Spirit, is there a dance partner in the offing for Xennie?


SELECTIONS FROM “Wicked”

Excerpts from the compositions “Thank Goodness,” “Dancing Through Life,” “Dear Old Shiz,” “No One Mourns the Wicked,” “One Short Day,” “Defying Gravity,” “No Good Deed,” “Wonderful,” “Something Bad,” “I’m Not That Girl,” “The Wizard and I,” “March of the Witch Hunters” and "For Good" from the Broadway musical Wicked
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
Copyright © 2003 Stephen Schwartz
All rights reserved. Used by permission of Grey Dog Music (ASCAP).

 Excerpts from the book of Wicked by Winnie Holzman
Copyright © 2003 All rights reserved.
Used by generous permission of the author. 

Excerpts from The Grimmerie by David Cote,
produced by Melcher Media, published by Hachette.
Copyright © 200XX All rights reserved.
Used by generous permission of the author, 
and WICKED LLC

 Tangled and Dark lyric by Bonnie Raitt © 1991 Open Secret Music
Used by generous permission of the author.

Note from the Universe 
© Mike Dooley www.tut.com
Used by generous permission of the author.

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The Something Wicked lapel pin is once again the magical computer witchery of the very gifted, and equally charming, Suzanne Rhodes. Don’t you just love it?

Something Wicked is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products 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. 

© 2019 Susan Corso
All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission of the publisher. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyright materials in violation of the author’s rights unless you know how to swashbuckle.