Happy Never After (Callahan Garrity Series #4)by Kathy Hogan Trocheck
In this fourth installment of the widely acclaimed Callahan Garrity series, the South's favorite cleaning lady/sleuth immerses herself in the world of sixties girl groups and nineties rap groups to hunt the killer of a suave, self-serving record producer. The last thing Callahan needs is a new case. Her maid service is running above capacity and her boyfriend, Mac, is… See more details below
In this fourth installment of the widely acclaimed Callahan Garrity series, the South's favorite cleaning lady/sleuth immerses herself in the world of sixties girl groups and nineties rap groups to hunt the killer of a suave, self-serving record producer. The last thing Callahan needs is a new case. Her maid service is running above capacity and her boyfriend, Mac, is heading to Birmingham to see his ex-wife for the first time in ten years. But she can't resist this case because it involves the VelvetTeens, her absolute favorite girl group from the sixties. The surviving VelvetTeens, Rita Fontaine and Vonette Hunsecker, are all set to make a comeback movie deal when their onetime producer, Stuart Hightower, prohibits them from using the VelvetTeen name or singing their old songs. Rita, whose years of alcoholism and dead-end jobs have dulled her judgment, threatens Stuart publicly the day before he's found shot to death by his swimming pool. Nearby lies Rita, unconscious, and everybody thinks it's an open-and-shut case except Vonette, who hires Callahan to prove Rita's innocence. Callahan learns that Hightower had made more enemies than records - from the disc jockey he'd blackmailed to the pop diva he'd scorned to the sullen teenager he'd transformed into a rap sensation to his icily efficient second-in-command at SkyHi Records. Even as Callahan trawls the underside of the music business she must strive to rein in her wayward boyfriend, control the eccentric troupe of "girls" she employs, and avoid the attentions of a killer.
Read an Excerpt
Is this Callahan Garrity?"
I'd probably heard that voice thousands of times over the years. Heard that high, gutsy contralto pining for lost love in the sixties girl group hits that made her a star. And later, after the songs ran out in the early seventies on those sappy BurgerTown radio jingles. But now, on the phone, she sounded like just another pain in the butt.
Of course, the two-pack-a-day Kools habit had laid the sandpaper to the vocal cords, and the hot-and-cold-running Dewar's had done the rest. So when she identified herself as Rita Fontaine, the name meant nothing. "Yes," I said impatiently. "What's this in reference to?"
What pays the bills around here is House Mouse, the cleaning business my mother and I run. We get a lot of women calling looking for work, but I already had all the mice I could handle. I just assumed Rita Fontaine was looking for a cleaning job.
"I'm Vonette Hunsecker's cousin," she said, as though that made everything okay. She obviously didn't know that Vonette was not on my hit parade. Vonette is the exwife of an old friend and the wife-in-law of the old friend's second wife, Linda Nickells, who is a good pal of mine.
"Vonette said you could help," Rita said. Her voice said she doubted it. "You're the private detective, right?"
"That's right," I said warily. "Just exactly what kind of help do you need?"
She let out a long wheezy sigh. "You never heard of me, of Rita Fontaine, have you?"
"Afraid not," I said. "Should I have?"
"That depends. Ever hear of the VelvetTeens?"
Who hadn't? I'd been a little kid the year when the VelvetTeens hit it big with"Happy Never After," but I can still remember watching their first early appearances on Platter Party, a locally produced teen dance show that ran on WSB-TV, and then later, of course, on The Ed Sullivan Show, and American Bandstand. Since they were from Atlanta, like me, the VelvetTeens were hotter than the Chiffons, the Shirelles, or any of those other mix-'n'-match Motown inventions as far as I was concerned.
Now it came back to me. She was the lead singer. Of course, that voice. Then I had a brief vision: long skinny legs, mile-high beehive, odd almond-shaped eyes fringed by inch-long fake eyelashes.
I said it before I could stop myself. "I thought you were dead."
"Me too," she said.
What do you say to something like that? "I didn't know Vonette had a famous cousin," was all I could think of.
"Vonette was famous too," she said. "You didn't know she was a VelvetTeen?"
All I knew about Vonette was that she was hell on wheels if you crossed her. Before she and C.W. split up, she'd cut out the crotch of every pair of pants the man owned. If Rita Fontaine was Vonette's cousin, famous or not, she probably meant trouble.
"Uh, no," I said. "Listen, what kind of help is it that you need? See, I don't know if Vonette mentioned it, but my real job is running a cleaning business. I just do the private investigation thing once in a while. And right now, I've got. . . "
"Forget it," she said. "I'll find someone else.- And she hung up.
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